April 2, 2004
That's the Jason Urquidez we know.
Coming off back-to-back losses in rocky starts against California and Washington, Urquidez returned to his early-season form Friday against Southern California, pitching a gem that reaffirmed his competence as Arizona State's ace.
The junior transfer from Central Arizona College relinquished three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in 8 1/3 innings in what was, perhaps, his best start since Feb. 22, when he went the distance against defending national champion Rice.
Even on a brisk night at Packard Stadium in which the clouds overhead didn't hold, Urquidez remained in control long enough to last 141 pitches, partly because he got great support from the defense behind him.
Urquidez issued six walks, but allowed just four base runners over the first five innings, showing enough poise to work out of potential jams by hitting his spots and locating his fastball.
"I finally found my groove, and hopefully I can keep it like that," said Urquidez, who improved to 7-2 on the season. "I definitely felt like my mechanics were coming together today. I had been working on it all week, and it was about time for them to come together."
Making his ninth start, Urquidez fell behind nine of the first 16 batters he faced, including six straight out of the shoot, although gave up only one hit over the first five frames.
Urquidez helped his own cause in the second by picking off junior infielder Joey Metropoulos, who drew three walks, yet never advanced past first base. He got senior infielder Michael Moon to fly out to center to end the third, and he escaped possible trouble in the fourth by fanning outfielders Daniel Perales and Baron Frost.
"Jason stayed within himself," said Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy, who earned his 700th win at the Division I level. "We weren't great, but we were relentless, and we played great defense, and Urquidez was alive."
In the bottom of the fifth, Urquidez got a big boost when junior catcher Tuffy Gosewisch rifled a double down the left field line, bringing home three runs against USC freshman fireballer Ian Kennedy.
Urquidez allowed two runners in the sixth and two more in the seventh, but walked away unscathed both times. Junior shortstop Dustin Pedroia threw out Metropoulos at second to end the sixth, and freshman right fielder Cyle Hankerd grounded out to Urquidez for the final out in the seventh after Gosewisch caught senior designated hitter Jon Brewster trying to steal.
Entering the eighth, Urquidez's pitch count had almost reached 120, however, he maintained the same amount of control and accuracy that he had earlier in the game. Leadoff hitter Blake Sharp reached with a single to left field, but Urquidez retired the next three batters, including Metropoulos on a strikeout to end the inning.
Urquidez allowed the first three runners to reach in the ninth before Hankerd slammed a two-run double to the right field gap, forcing pitching coach Chris Sinacori to head to the mound. He received a standing ovation - from what fans were left in attendance - upon being pulled with one out.
"I wanted the ninth, and I just wanted to go out there and give it my all, but they got the best of me," Urquidez said.
The much-needed win put No. 10-ranked ASU ahead in a Pac-10 series for the first time this season, and it also showed that Urquidez is the real deal, not merely a flash in the pan.
Then again, was there ever any doubt?
"I've had all the confidence in the world, and my team has had all the confidence in the world in me," Urquidez said. "You can't have doubt when you're trying to pitch in the Pac-10. If they see you give up, they're going to eat you up, and I'm not that kind of person. I'm not going to give up."
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