Devils Lose on Questionable 9th Inning Call

The Arizona State Sun Devils were just three outs away from possibly beating the defending national champs and sixth seeded Cal State Fullerton Titans and taking a one game lead in their Super Regional, when the wheels just came off! The Devils blew a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth to lose game one, 3-2. However all the blame can't be placed on the Devils, as the Titans winning-run crossed the plate after one of the most bizarre and atrocious calls in baseball history!

Senior starter Jason Urquidez was brilliant on the mound for the Devils. Urquidez kept the Titan hitters off-balance all night long, as he struck out six batters while allowing just one run on two hits in 7.2 innings of work. The only run Urquidez allowed came off a solo homerun, in the bottom of the second inning, courtesy of Titan third baseman Ronnie Prettyman. Prettyman's homerun helped the Titans jump out to an early 1-0 lead.

The Devils battled back in the top of the fourth, after a two-run homer by junior Travis Buck gave the Devils a 2-1 lead. Senior Jeff Larish started off the inning by reaching first after being hit by a pitch. Buck then stepped up and ripped a high fastball over the right field fence. Prior to Buck's homerun, the Devils had yet to record a hit off Titan ace Ricky Romero. Romero, who was the sixth overall pick in this week's MLB draft, was also very good on the mound as he went the distance to earn the win. Romero allowed just three hits while striking out seven to improve his record to 13-5 on the season.

Urquidez left the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on second base and two men out. Urquidez was starting to labor a bit and was struggling to throw strikes. Sun Devil head coach Pat Murphy, called left-handed reliever Brett Bordes out of the pen to get the Devils out of the jam. Bordes did just that, by striking out Titan slugger Sergio Pedroza to end the threat. However the ninth inning would be a different story for Bordes and the Devils.

Titan first baseman Brett Pill, led of the bottom of the ninth with a double down the line that Buck was unable to knock down at third base. The next batter up, left fielder Danny Dorn, then laid down a would be sac-bunt that turned into a single after some miscommunication by the Devil defense. With runners at the corners and no outs, Murphy decided to bring in right-handed reliever Zechry Zinicola. Zinicola gave up the tying run on a failed pick-off attempt that ended up in right field and saw Dorn end up on third. With the winning run just 90 feet away, Murphy decided to intentionally walk the next two Titan batters to set up the possible double play or force-out at home. After successfully walking the first batter, Zinicola was just a pitch away (3-0) from giving Titan centerfielder Bobby Andrews his free pass.

On the fourth pitch-out, third base umpire Jack Cox decided to take the game into his own hands and call a balk on Zinicola to bring in the game-winning run. Cox apparently said Zinicola failed to come set during his wind-up, which by official NCAA rules is a balk. However, after video replay Zinicola looked as if he clearly came set? Plain and simple it was horrendous call. Both teams fought hard all night, yet Cox thought he would take matters into his own hands and decide the game himself.

Sun Devil coach Pat Murphy was visibly upset (although he remained very calm throughout the process) by the call as he ran out to the field to get a possible explanation. Murphy spoke with each of the umpires, but at this point it was an argument he couldn't win. The Devils were in quite the predicament regardless of the call, although teams have found ways out of the same jam they would have been in if not for the called balk. In a game of this significance the outcome has to be decided out on the field by the players. Bordes was charged with both runs in the ninth and the loss to fall to 5-6 on the year.

The Devils look to even things up tomorrow when they face-off against the Titans at 4 p.m. at Goodwin Field. The Devils will be sending out left-hander Erik Averill (9-4, 3.77 ERA) to the mound against Titan lefty Ryan Schreppel (6-0, 1.83 ERA).

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