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The Gomez Files: Oklahoma Sidebar
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 05/01/2003
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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May 1, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Despite playing only three games in as many years at SBC Bricktown Ballpark, Sun Devil junior Rod Allen feels as if he's in his own backyard here.

A year after smacking a three-run, bases-loaded double that drew Arizona State even with Oklahoma, Allen again made the Sooners pay Wednesday night, this time as a pinch-hitter. Allen's seventh-inning grand slam opened the flood gates, and like they did last season, the No. 4-ranked Sun Devils came from behind en route to a 9-4 victory, their fourth straight in Oklahoma City.

"I was just looking to see something early and get it to the outfield," said Allen about his bases-clearing blast off junior right-hander Mike Swindell that landed in the Sun Devil bullpen beyond the left-field fence. "He just so happened to throw me a first-pitch curveball. I saw it real good, I put a good swing on it and it happened to go out to the deepest part of the field."

ASU's 12th grand slam tied the NCAA record for the most in a single season. Oklahoma State also hit a dozen grand slams in 1996.

It wasn't the first time that Allen has gone yard with the bases loaded this year. Earlier this month, he hit a pinch-hit grand slam in part of a seven-run fourth inning that paved the way for ASU's 11-3 rout over California at Evans Diamond in Berkeley.

"It's just something about when I get around my family," said Allen, who was playing in front of six relatives Wednesday. "I'm just happy that I got an opportunity to do well in front of them. It felt good."

Allen is slowly adjusting to a different role this season a year after batting .278 in 53 starts. Through 44 games, he is hitting .307 with 40 RBIs and 58 total bases.

"I just take whatever the game gives me," Allen said. "If coach (Pat Murphy) puts my name in the lineup, I'm grateful. If he doesn't, then it's his choice. He's the head coach.

"I basically just try to be a good teammate. I try to come through in clutch situations and just show the team that I'm ready when they need me."

Murphy thinks the change will make Allen a better player in the long run.

"He's not happy about it, but that's life in the big city," Murphy said. "We're not here to make him happy. We're here to help him get better and learn. That's the way it is."

AVERILL CHASED EARLY:
Failing to overcome early control problems, Sun Devil freshman southpaw Erik Averill was chased after three innings Wednesday. He relinquished two runs on four hits while walking a pair of batters and striking out two.

"Erik is a freshman and he's going to make freshman mistakes," Murphy said.

Averill appeared to have settled down after a shaky first inning in which he gave up a triple down the line and a single to left field. He also issued a balk in the first before retiring the side in order in the second and getting the first two batters out in the third.

But Averill walked senior second baseman Eddie Cornejo, who advanced to second on sophomore infielder Jeff Larish's fielding error. Sophomore outfielder Greg Kish then ripped an RBI single to left field and sophomore second baseman Matt Bose blasted a double to the left-field corner. Averill got out of the third inning having given up only one run when freshman infielder Russell Raley grounded out to third base.

VAUGHAN SOLID IN RELIEF:
ASU senior right-hander Beau Vaughan continued his run toward the top of the Pac-10 strikeout charts Wednesday during an impressive relief effort. He relinquished only one hit and fanned five of the 11 batters he faced in three innings to earn his eighth win of the season, before giving way to a host of other relievers.

"I did a real good job locating the fastball," said Vaughan, whose 88 strikeouts are six off the pace of Stanford junior right-hander John Hudgins. "That's what it all works off of. If I can do that, I can do a lot of other things."

Murphy didn't mind burning through his bullpen, especially since ASU plays only one game (7 p.m. May 6 vs. UC Irvine) in the next 11 days. Senior relief pitchers Carlos Arguello, Robbie McClellan and Bryce Kartler combined to give up two runs on six hits over the final three innings.

DEVIL GEMS:
Although sophomore third baseman Frank Mesa turned in a pair of impressive defensive plays Wednesday, Pedroia made the game's biggest stop.

With two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth inning, Vaughan needed some help to escape a jam. Pedroia came to the rescue with Bose at the plate. He sprawled to his left to corral Bose's sharply-hit ground ball, before firing across the diamond to Larish, who laid out at first base just before Bose touched the bag.

In the fourth, Mesa stabbed sophomore outfielder Brandon Jones' shot down the left-field line, gathered the ball in foul territory and threw to Larish at first for the inning's final out. During the following frame, Mesa collected Kish's slow roller and gunned to Larish on the run for the second out. Pedroia then made his spectacular stop to bail Vaughan out of trouble.

PEDRO AT THE PLATE:
Pedroia also got the job done at the dish, going 1-for-4 with a career-high-tying three RBIs. He drove home runs on the strength of a fielder's choice in the third, a sacrifice fly to right field in the fifth and a bases-loaded single to left-center field in the seventh.

DID YOU KNOW?: Oklahoma head coach Larry Cochell graduated from ASU in 1964. He played for the legendary Bobby Winkles in 1963 on a team that finished the season 34-13.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@asu.edu.

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