Devils Exorcise Demons, Advance to World Series

Omaha here we come! Pat Murphy's Sun Devils finally got the monkey off their back, so to speak, as they eliminated the defending national champion Cal State Fullerton Titans in a thrilling 9-8 come-from-behind victory. The Devils now advance to Omaha with the victory, something that has eluded Murphy and the Devils since 1998 when they lost to the USC Trojans in the title game.

Throughout the season and the postseason the Devils showed a ton of heart to overcome all sorts of odds and difficult circumstances. Today's game was no different, as the Devils found themselves trailing 7-2 after four innings of play.

Things looked good early on for the Devils as they took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Junior third baseman Travis Buck got the inning started after being hit by a pitch. Sophomore Colin Curtis followed then reached base on an error by Titan first baseman Brett Pill and Buck advanced to second. Senior Tuffy Gosewisch moved both runners up 90 feet with a single to left. Sun Devil starting Pitcher Zechry Zinicola then came to the plate an helped his own cause by ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield to give the Devils the early lead.

Zinicola would hold the lead through two innings, as he looked solid early on for the Devils. However things would take a turn for the worst for Zinicola in the bottom half of the third. Zinicola hit Titan catcher John Curtis to begin the inning followed with by a single by centerfielder Bobby Andrews. After a strikeout and another hit batsman, Zinicola walked right fielder Sergio Pedroza to bring home the first Titan run. The next batter up Brett Pill, then hit a groundball to Sun Devil shortstop Andrew Romine that looked like a sure double play. However the ball found its way between Romine's legs to score two more runs and give the Titans their first lead of the game at 3-2.

Zinicola's day on the mound then came to an end as he hit the next batter to load the bases with just one out. Sun Devil head coach Pat Murphy, called sophomore Pat Bresnehan out of the bullpen to get the Devils out of the jam. Bresnehan did so by striking out the next batter followed by a groundout to end the threat.

The fourth inning would be more of the same for the Devils, as another costly error would extend the inning for the Titans. Andrews got the scoring started by drawing a one-out walk from Bresnehan. Titan shortstop Blake Davis followed with a grounder to second that once again looked as if it would turn into an inning-ending double play, but Seth Dhaenens misplayed the ball and both runners ended up being safe on the play. The next batter, second baseman Justin Turner drove in Andrews with a single up the middle to extend the lead to 4-2. Titan slugger Pedroza then stepped to the plate and absolutely crushed a Bresnehan fastball deep over the right field wall to give the Titans the 7-2 advantage. Pedroza had been struggling against the Devils pitching prior to the big three-run homerun, as he was a combined 0-for-7 in the Super Regional up to that point.

The Devils didn't let the five run lead get their hopes down, as they fought back in the top of the fifth to score two runs and cut the lead to 7-4. Senior Tuffy Gosewisch would drive in the first run of the inning with a clutch two-out double down the left field line that scored Senior first baseman Jeff Larish, who had started the inning off with a walk. Gosewisch then scored on a single to center by Zinicola, who remained in the game as the designated hitter.

Senior right-hander Jason Urquidez took over for Bresnehan in the bottom of the fifth and would pitch brilliantly as he did in game one. With Urquidez quieting the Titan bats, the Devils began to heat up at the plate. With two down in the top of the sixth, Freshman Andrew Romine laced a 0-1 pitch over the left field fence off Titan starter Scott Sarver. The homerun was Romine's first of his collegiate career and couldn't have come at a better time. After Larish followed up with a single and the Devils down just two runs, Titan head coach George Horton made his first call to the bullpen. Right-handed freshman Wes Roemer took the mound and allowed a single to Buck followed by a walk to Curtis. With the bases now loaded and two men out the Devils senior leader and team MVP Tuffy Gosewisch stepped up to the plate. As he's done all year long for the Devils, Gosewisch came through with a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at seven all.

The Devils regained the lead in the seventh, as second baseman Joe Persichina ripped a 3-2 pitch by Titan reliever Vinnie Pestano over the right-center field fence. At first it looked as if Persichina had got under the ball too much, but the ball kept carrying for Persichina second homerun of the year. Persichina was brought into the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth for Dhaenens and came through big for the Devils.

Urquidez got into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth and with two down and a man on third Murphy called left-hander Brett Bordes into the game to face left-handed slugger Pedroza. Bordes answered the call by striking Pedroza out to end the Titan threat.

The Devils were able to add on an insurance run in the top of the ninth as freshman centerfielder J.J. Sferra drove home senior infielder Joey Hooft on an RBI groundout. The run would prove to be a very important one for the Devils who now led 9-7.

With the Devils just three outs away from Omaha, Brett Pill stepped to the plate to lead of the ninth. Bordes left a pitch high in the zone for Pill who took advantage of it and led of the inning with a solo homerun to make it a one run game at 9-8. Bordes didn't let pressure get to him, as he struck the next two Titan batters out before getting a groundball out to end the game and to send the Devils to Omaha for the first time in seven years. Urquidez earned the win to improve to 10-4 on the year, while Bordes picked up his fourth save of the season. Urquidez was a combined 2-0 with a .090 ERA in the series in 11.1 innings of work.

The Devils will have their work cut out for them next Friday as they open up the College World Series playing the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The game will take place on Friday, June 17th at 11 A.M. PT or 4 P.M. PT.

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