Another Comeback Leads to UCLA Series Sweep

It is amazing what just a couple of innings can do to swing a game either way. It worked on Friday with a large scale comeback. It worked Saturday, when ASU came back in the ninth inning. Nothing new on Sunday as the Devils trailed big early just to wake up the bats in time to steal a 11-10 victory and earn a series sweep over UCLA, and a comfortable two-game lead in the Pac-10 race.

UCLA starting pitcher, Gavin Brooks used his offset, sidewinder throwing motion to keep the Sun Devil offense in check for much of the beginning of the game, allowing just one hit through the first four innings. Meanwhile on offense, the Bruins jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the hometown nine, capitalizing on struggling Sun Devil hurler Brian Flores.

Bruin shortstop, Brandon Crawford, tallied the first two runs of the afternoon in the first inning when he launched a Flores offering over the right field fence, scoring Alden Carrithers who reached on a walk. The Bruins offense was not done using the long ball however. Flores allowed the first two runners of the second inning to reach base on a hit-by-pitch and a single before Justin Uribe hit a sacrifice fly, moving the runners to second and third with only one out in the inning. Flores immediately balked in a run, moving the Bruin advantage to 3-0.

Things would not get any easier for Flores after that. Leadoff hitter Jermaine Curtis took another Flores offering over the fence for another Bruin two run homerun and UCLA jumped further out in the lead, 5-0. Two more runs were plated by the Bruins in the fourth and just like on Friday ASU was on the outside looking in at seven-run deficit.

If the first two games were any indication, everyone at the Packard stadium knew something special was on the horizon as the Devils took the field in the bottom of the fifth inning. When Matt Spencer reached base on a hard hit ball up the middle to lead off the inning, the crowd stirred. The dugout chirped. The winds started blowing and the Devils smelled blood.

Catcher Petey Paramore walked up to the plate next and drilled a pitch out of the park and onto Rural Road, cutting the Bruin lead to five runs. Another recurring trend of the series showed itself again as Tim Smith was hit with the first pitch after the Paramore home run, prompting a warning to both dugouts and allowing ASU another base runner in the inning. ASU made Brooks pay for the indiscretion by moving Smith to third on a sacrifice and a groundout. Brett Wallace stepped to the plate and the slugger laced a groundball into the hole at shortstop, scoring the run from third as Wallace hustled in to first base, just beating out the Crawford throw. The inning came to an end as Eric Sogard got caught in a rundown and got tagged out – but the damage had been done and the Devil offense heated up to degrees that would make the sun blush as the triple digit temperature was beating down on the field.

The sixth inning saw UCLA tack on two more runs, moving their lead to 9-3 before ASU stepped to the plate again in the bottom of the inning. Three hits and three runs later, the Devils trailed UCLA by only three and still had runners on with Sogard stepping to the plate. With Brooks obviously tiring, and the Bruin bullpen stirring, Brooks was able to face one more batter – Sogard – with two runners aboard. Sogard drove the first pitch of the at-bat onto Rural Road and once again, ASU had clawed its way back in to a game after being down by an Everest-like margin.

The Bruins took the lead for the final time of the series by scoring a run with the help of an Andrew Romine throwing error, but were held to just a single run after Wallace hosed down Will Penniall trying to score from third on a grounder up the first baseline.

With the momentum switching back to UCLA, it was up to the middle of the Devil order to earn the series sweep and once again, they came through with flying colors. Back-to-back doubles from the first two hitters of the inning, Ike Davis and Spencer, moved the tying run across the plate and two sacrifices later Spencer was able to touch home plate with the go-ahead run. Spencer's run held up as Davis and Jason Jarvis worked the final two innings allowing only one hit to sew up the Devil sweep.

Going in to the series, the weekend was being billed as one of the more important series to be played in recent Sun Devil history and as the two teams battled back and forth for much of the weekend, a sense of maroon and gold pride popped up in the "never say die" attitude. The fans, the team, the attitude – they all added up to a huge series sweep that moved ASU to a comfortable two game lead in the Pac-10 standings with only six conference games left.

Four Sun Devil hitters tallied multiple hits, with Sogard leading the way with a trio of hits, including the game-tying home run in the sixth. Paramore, Smith and Romine joined in the multiple hit fun, each tallying two.

The Devils take the field on Wednesday evening for a final out of conference tune-up against Utah Valley State. This weekend the maroon and gold will embark on the final road trip of the regular season venturing to Oregon State with a chance to gain even more ground in the conference race.

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