Resilient Devils Oust Huskers in a Thriller

The ASU Sun Devils (41-24) battled back like they've done so many times this season, and survived to play another day in the 59th College World Series with a thrilling 8-7 extra inning come from behind victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (57-15). The game was an exciting contest and instant classic, as both teams battled back and forth just to stay alive. In the end, senior first baseman Jeff Larish's CWS record-tying three homeruns were just too much for the Cornhuskers to overcome.

Leadoff hitter Jeff Larish didn't waste any time to get the scoring started for the Devils, as he hit the first of his three homeruns to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Larish fell behind in the count 0-2, but battled back before blasting the opposite field shot to left to put the Devils up 1-0. Just two innings later Larish ripped his second homer of the game to right field to extend the Devils lead, 2-0. The second homerun was Larish's 22nd of the year and came with two outs in the inning.

Nebraska fought back in the top of the fourth, scoring three runs to take their first lead of the game. All three runs came off Sun Devil starter Jason Urquidez, who ran into some trouble after a couple of hits, a hit batter, and a balk. Urquidez didn't have his best stuff today, as he allowed three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three in four innings of work. Urquidez was pulled in the fifth for left-handed junior Brett Bordes. Fortunately for the Devils, Bordes did have his pitches working for him today. Bordes pitched three great innings of relief for the Devils, allowing just two hits and no runs while striking out four.

While Bordes shutdown the Husker bats on the mound, the Devils were able to tie the game up in the fifth before regaining the lead in the seventh. Sophomore left fielder Colin Curtis drove in tying run in the fifth with a two out single that scored shortstop Joe Persichina. Persichina came into the game to pinch-run for starting Sun Devil shortstop Andrew Romine who had to leave the game after being hit by a pitch under the eye. Romine, who was visibly shaken and injured by the pitch, later returned to the dugout sporting an ice pack and a swollen cheek but seemed to be in good spirits. The Devils regained the lead in the seventh, as Curtis came through once again with another two-out single up the middle that scored Larish from third and junior Travis Buck from first after a throwing error.

Larish started the two-out rally by drawing a walk, followed by a single by Buck that advanced Larish to third. Before the big single, it looked as if the Huskers would get out of the inning, after Curtis hit a foul popup to the first base side. However miscommunication between the Husker first and second baseman gave Curtis new life and he made them pay.

The Huskers threatened in the eighth, as the first two batters of the inning reached base after a leadoff single followed by a hit batter. Sun Devil head coach Pat Murphy then made his call to the bullpen in favor of hard-throwing right-hander Pat Bresnehan. With two on and nobody out, Bresnehan helped the Devils out of the jam by striking out the first two batters he faced and ending the inning with a routine fly-out.

The Devils went down one, two, and three in the bottom half of the eighth inning and were just three outs away from sending the Huskers home. Murphy elected to stick with Bresnehan in the ninth, although closer Zechry Zinicola was warmed up and ready to go. Bresnehan had looked great in the eighth inning and in his previous outing against Tennessee in closing out the Vols, but the Huskers still had some fight left in them and weren't ready to call it a season quite yet. The first two Husker batters reached base after a leadoff single followed by a walk.

With two men on and no outs, Nebraska third baseman and NCAA player of the year Alex Gordon stepped to the plate and drove a single to left field that scored Husker outfielder Jesse Boyer to cut the Sun Devil lead to just one run. After a failed bunt attempt that led to the lead runner being thrown out at third, Husker right fielder Andy Gerch stepped t the plate and quickly fell behind in the count at 0-2. Bresnehan made a mistake with the third pitch to Gerch, as he left the ball over the plate and Gerch made him pay by connecting for a three run shot that put the Huskers back in the lead by a score of 7-5. The home state crowd was going absolutely crazy after the go-ahead shot and Rosenblatt Stadium was rocking with the thought that their Huskers had just come back to win the game. However that's why they play the game to the very last out, because the Devils still had plenty of fight left as well!

The Devils received a break to lead off the bottom of the ninth, as Husker second baseman Jake Opitz booted a groundball off the bat of Sun Devil sophomore Seth Dhaenens. Dhaenens then stole second before freshman J.J. Sferra laid down a bunt hit that put runners on the corners with no outs. Dhaenens scored one batter later, as he tagged up on a pop fly by Persichina to shallow centerfield. Husker centerfielder Daniel Bruce made a great diving catch on the play and doubled up Sferra who thought the ball might fall in for a hit. The Devils were now down to their final out and were still down 7-6, but the man coming to the plate was no other than senior slugger Jeff Larish.

Larish came to the plate hacking, as he connected on a first pitch fastball and drove it over the centerfield wall. The homerun was Larish's 23rd of the season, tying former Sun Devils Barry Bonds (1985) and Oddibe McDowell (1984) for third all-time on the Sun Devils single season homerun list. The homerun was also Larish's 51st in a Sun Devil uniform, just five behind Sun Devil record holder Bob Horner (1976-78), however this homerun had to be the biggest in his Sun Devil career. The Huskers were able to get out of the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

In extra innings, Sun Devil right-hander Zechry Zinicola was virtually untouchable, allowing just one hit in two innings while striking out four. In the bottom of the 11th, Senior Joey Hooft showed his experience and leadership once again, as he came through with a huge leadoff single. Hooft then moved into scoring position after a perfectly executed bunt by Dhaenens. True freshman J.J. Sferra then stepped to the plate and swung the bat like he had been here before, as he blooped the game winning single into right field to keep the Devils CWS title hopes alive. The home-state Husker crowd proved to be a graceful loser, as they applauded both teams for their valiant effort, in what some are saying was the best college baseball game they've ever seen.

Zinicola picked up the win in relief for the Devils, to improve his record to 4-4. Larish finished the day 3-for-3 with four runs scored and three RBI, including the three homeruns and two walks. Curtis ended up 3-for-5 with two RBI and Sferra went 2-for-5 including the game winning RBI.

The Devils will try to keep their post-season hopes alive as they battle the Florida Gators (47-20) tomorrow afternoon in another 11 a.m. PT start. The Devils are still on the brink of elimination, while the Gators enter tomorrow's game 2-0 in CWS play. This means the Devils will have to beat the Gators twice to advance to the CWS title series.

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