Devils Drop Road Series to Cal

Heartbreaking, valiant, exhausting, emotional – the whole gamut of words can be run for the 13-9 Arizona State loss to the California Golden Bears and yet, not many words can describe the type of defeat that the Devils faced on Sunday afternoon in Berkeley.

California (23-21 overall, 7-8 in the Pac-10) faced a quick deficit as ASU (33-12, 11-4) capitalized on two Cal errors to send seven batters to the plate and jump to a fast 2-0 lead on a laundry list of problems by Cal and singles by ASU hitters. The small lead held firm as the pitching of junior Brian Flores kept the Bear offense in check for the first third of the game.

The middle third of the game, however, changed the face of the game drastically as Cal took no prisoners and threw crooked numbers on the scoreboard in three successive innings to grow a large 9-3 gap over the Devils, capped off with a five-run sixth inning where the Bears sent eight batters the plate including sophomore shortstop Michael Brady who stepped in as the first batter Jason Jarvis was asked to face in relief of Flores. With two men on and two out, Jarvis threw a pitch that caught too much of the plate and Brady took the pitch over the left field wall to tally the final three runs of the inning.

There have not been more than a handful of times this season where the Devils have faced such a large deficit and if the tilt on Sunday is to be used as an indicator – ASU will be just fine - maybe. In the top of the seventh inning, just after they fell behind, the Devils flew over the bases, matching the five runs put up by the Bears in the previous inning, and drawing ever closer, dropping the lead back to just one run. Runs in the inning scored left and right – ASU plated runs on a bases loaded walk by sophomore Brett Wallace, a two-run double by Jason Jarvis, a double play ground ball off the bat of Petey Paramore and another double – this one off the bat of junior, Matt Spencer. The Devils came in to the inning shell-shocked and left with a burst of confidence which led them to tie the game just one inning later when Eric Sogard drove home Tim Smith who scored his third of three runs in the game to draw the Devils even with the Bears at 9-all.

The Devils, exhausted and momentum charged, moved into the bottom of the eighth inning all tied up, needing three quick outs to get the red-hot offense back onto the field with a chance to put the squad back in the lead – something they had not enjoyed since the fourth inning. Even the best laid plans, however, fall apart at times and unfortunately for ASU, Sunday afternoon was one of those times.

The eighth inning started off with Cal playing small ball, looking to bring just one run across the take back the lead. Pinch-hitter Jordan Karnofsky led off the inning with a single and was removed for pinch-runner, Brett Jackson, who proceeded to move to scoring position after a sacrifice by another pinch-hitter, Rich Gorman.

Jackson then stole third and Brady once again stepped to the plate and made all the small ball irrelevant as he launched his second home run of the game, a two-run shot this time and was backed up by a Jeff Kobernus solo home run to push the Bear lead back to three and by the time the inning, and Jarvis' night was over, the lead was up to 13-9 and the Devils failed to bring themselves back from the dead as that score held up. Silver lining on the crushing defeat – UCLA fell to the Wildcats of Arizona 5-3, enabling the Devils, even with the loss, to remain just a half game behind the Bruins for first place in the Pac-10 standings. The loss clinched the first series loss in Pac-10 play this season for the Devils. The Bruins visit Tempe in two weeks with the winner of the series having the inside track to the Pac-10 championship, something the Devils have not won outright in over a decade.

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