Devils Outslug Pirates in Post-Season Opener

The Arizona State Sun Devils got off to a great start in the NCAA Tournament, with a 9-6 victory over the East Carolina Pirates. The win was the fifth straight for the Devils and improved their overall record to 35-22.

The Pirates came out swinging in the first inning scoring two runs off Sun Devil starter Jason Urquidez. Pirate second baseman Dale Mollenhauer got the scoring started with a solo homerun that sailed over the right field fence. The Pirates added one more in the inning after two straight hits and found themselves with an early 2-0 lead.

The lead wouldn't last long, as senior first baseman Jeff Larish set the tone for the Devils in the bottom of the inning, by taking Pirate starter T.J. Hose's very first pitch over the left field fence. Junior right fielder Travis Buck, sophomore left fielder Colin Curtis, and freshman designated hitter Will Fox, followed Larish's homer with three straight singles to tie the game at 2-2.

The Devils broke the two all tie in the bottom of the second, as they added four more runs to take a 6-2 lead. Freshman centerfielder J.J. Sferra led off the inning with an infield single and would later come around to score on a throwing error after Buck singled to the shortstop. With two outs in the inning and runners on second and third, senior catcher Tuffy Gosewisch came through with a big two-run double down the left field line.

The Devils added one more in the fourth, as Larish scored his third run of the game on a wild pitch after being plunked with a pitch to get on base. Larish moved to second on a deep fly ball by Buck and stole third to advance 90 ft before the wild pitch brought him in to score. Larish wasn't done quite yet, as he added his 19th homerun of the year in the sixth inning, with a two-run shot that put the Devils in front 9-2. The multi-homer day helped Larish move into second place on the Sun Devil all-time homerun list with 47 long balls. Larish was 2-for-3 on the day, including the two homeruns, four runs scored, and three RBI. Third-team All-American Travis Buck, finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored and now has 32 multi hit games for the season. Freshman J.J. Sferra and Willy Fox also had big game sin their NCAA Tournament debuts. Sferra went 2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base. Sferra also made a game saving catch in the right-center field gap that saved the Devils a run and helped get the Devils out of a possible jam. Fox was 1-for-4 with two RBI hitting in the four spot for the Devils.

Urquidez went on to settle down after the two-run first and didn't allow a run over the next five innings in picking up his ninth victory of the year. Urquidez also struck out eight Pirate batters as he had them guessing at the plate. Left-hander Brett Bordes and right-hander Ty Marotz were a little shaky out of the pen, allowing four runs in three innings of work. The Pirates scored two in the ninth to make things close after a leadoff triple and a solo homerun two batters later. The tying run was waiting on deck before Marotz was able to strike out Pirate DH Mike Grace to end the game.

The Devils will now face top seeded Coastal Carolina (49-14), who defeated the Rebels of UNLV in game one by a score of 12-8. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Packard Stadium in Tempe.

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