March 14, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. (www.TheSunDevils.com) -- Reggie Willits scored on a controversial fielder's choice in the top of the ninth inning to break a 5-5 tie and give the No. 30 Oklahoma Sooners a 6-5 victory over the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils Friday night in front of a season-high crowd of 4,155 at Packard Stadium.
Arizona State dropped to 28-2 on the year and had their 19-game win streak come to an end with the loss. ASU also lost at Packard Stadium for the first time since the end of the 2001 season, a streak spanning 21 games. Oklahoma improved to 11-3 with the victory. ASU had not lost since an 11-5 setback to nationally ranked Long Beach State on Jan. 31.
"It was just one of those days where things didn't go our way," said ASU head coach Pat Murphy. "We had three balls caught at the fence, we didn't play good defense and we had a tough play at the plate in the ninth. We will just have to bounce back tomorrow and take care of business."
The Devils faced a pair of three-run deficits in the game, but pulled to within one run in the seventh and then tied the game on a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Nick Walsh in the eighth. After Willits scored on the fielder's choice to first base, ASU could only muster an infield single in the ninth as reliever Jarod McAuliff (1-0) picked up the win by throwing two scoreless innings. OU starter Mark Roberts took the no-decision giving up nine hits and four runs in 6.1 innings (106 pitches).
ASU reliever Mark Sopko recorded the loss giving up the double to Willits and a wild pitch to move him to third that eventually resulted in the game-winning run. Senior starter Ben Thurmond struck out six in five and a third innings, but gave up three runs and six hits. Relievers Beau Vaughan, Brett Bordes and Robbie McClellan pitched well out of the bullpen before Sopko gave up the double to lead off the ninth. ASU closer Ryan Schroyer also contributed two-thirds of an inning of scoreless ball.
The Sooners built an early 3-0 lead behind two home runs. Junior catcher Spencer Wyman belted a solo homer in the third and Gilbert native Jay Yaconetti connected on a three-run shot off Thurmond in the fourth to stake the Sooners to the three-run lead.
ASU pulled to within one in the fourth with a two-run home run from West. Sophomore first baseman Jeff Larish started the rally with a double to the left field gap and came into score on West's ninth homer of the year. The Devils nearly pulled even, but OU first baseman Matt Bose made a diving play on a Steve Garrabrants line drive to strand the tying run in scoring position.
The Devils threatened in the sixth putting two runners on base, but second baseman Steve Garrabrants flied out to the base of the center field fence to end keep OU ahead 3-2. The Sooners then tacked on to their lead with two runs in the top of the seventh despite not hitting a ball out of the infield. Two Sun Devil errors and two OU infield singles accounted for the scoring. Cornejo and Willits each recorded RBI singles in the frame.
Facing a three-run deficit for the second time in the game, ASU battled back to pull to within one with two runs in the seventh. After a leadoff double from sophomore catcher Joel Bocchi, junior left fielder Rod Allen drilled his fourth home run of the year to cut OU's lead to 5-4. Travis Buck then drew a one-out walk and ASU nearly pulled ahead, but pinch-hitter Mike Guerrero flied out to the left field wall.
West led ASU at the plate going 3-for-5. Sophomore third baseman Frank Mesa was 2-for-4 as ASU's only other player to record a multi-hit game. Oklahoma was led by the 4-for-5 performance from shortstop Eddie Cornejo. Yaconetti plated the winning run on the fielder's choice and finished with three RBI and hit his team-leading sixth home run of the year.
The Sun Devils and Sooners continue their three-game non-conference series Saturday and Sunday with both games starting at 7 p.m. ASU senior right-hander Jered Liebeck (5-0, 2.28 ERA) is scheduled to start against Oklahoma junior left-hander Buddy Blair (2-1, 1.71 ERA).
Game Notes: Former Sun Devil and major leaguer Ken Phelps threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game... West's home run in the fourth was his ninth of the year and 28th of his career... ASU extended its NCAA record consecutive games scoring 463 games with the two-run fourth inning... Jeff Larish was pinch hit for in the seventh by Mike Guerrero because of Larish's back spasms... the two home runs given up by ASU's pitchers tied season high for pitchers... Bocchi's two errors also tied a season-high by one Sun Devil this year... ASU now has 40 home runs this year, already two more than the 2002 team had in 58 total games.
Hitting Streaks: Jeremy West extended his hitting streak to four games with a leadoff single in the second... Jeff Larish extended his streak to six games with a double in the fourth inning... Dustin Pedroia has his 17-game hitting streak come to an end going 0-for-5... Pedroia had recorded a hit in 28 of ASU's first 29 games and 39 of last 40 dating back to the end of his freshman season.
Oklahoma 6, Arizona State 5 (Mar 14, 2003 at Tempe, Ariz.) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Oklahoma............ 001 200 201 - 6 9 2 (11-3) Arizona State....... 000 200 210 - 5 11 3 (28-2) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Pitchers: Oklahoma - Roberts, M.; Purcey, D.(7); McAuliff, J.(8). Arizona State - Thurmond; Vaughan(6); Bordes(7); McClellan(8); Sopko(8); Schroyer(9). Win-McAuliff, J.(1-0) Loss-Sopko(3-1) T-3:19 A-4155 HR OKLA - Yaconetti, J (6); Wyman, S. (4). HR ASU - West (9); Allen (4).