Devils Hold Off Pesky Hawks in NCAA Opener

Arizona State came into the first round of the Tempe Regional with a boatload of expectations. Monmouth came into the match up looking to slay the number five national seed. Neither team quite lived up to the expectations laid before them and in a game undecided until the final pitch, the Devils (44-13) sent Monmouth (36-23-1) into the losers bracket, via a 5-3 victory.

After cruising through eight innings having only allowed two hits and one run, both feats brought upon him in the fourth inning, left hander Brian Flores began to tire and his 5-1 lead going into the final frame started to evaporate. In the ninth inning alone, Flores allowed four hits and one run before going to a three-ball and no strike count against Monmouth catcher, John Dennis. At that point, ASU coach Pat Murphy opted to go with his freshman stopper, Jason Jarvis, to finish out the game – yet Jarvis did not get the memo.

"Sometimes you need to get out there and wake [Jarvis] up." Murphy said after the game. "When you do that and he kicks in to another gear – it's special."

Jarvis eventually found his extra gear, but not before he surrendered three hits of his own which allowed two runners to cross the plate. With runners on first and second base, Jarvis balked the tying run into scoring position. Jarvis The freshman worked the strike zone that Murphy called "a six-inch in and six-inch out" zone – referring to the liberal zone employed by home plate umpire Darrel Arnold – inducing a swinging strikeout to end the chances of a stunned Monmouth team.

"The game went down to the last pitch and I could not be prouder of our guys," Monmouth coach Dean Ehehalt said. "Every pitch had us on eggshells."

Unfortunately for Ehehalt and his Hawks, three of those pitches ended up on Rural Road as Kiel Rolling (14th of the year,) Ike Davis (7) and CJ Retherford all hit home runs, the latter being a pinch hit and wind-aided shot.

"We played not to lose and they played to win," Murphy said. "You've got to give Monmouth a lot of credit – that pitcher [Monmouth starter, Brad Brauch] was outstanding."

Brauch, despite acknowledging that he only had command of one pitch – his fastball, held the normally potent bats of ASU quiet for much of the game. However, in the middle of the sixth inning, the crowd of much larger size than the announced 4,118 began to get loud. Flores had just struck out the final batter of the inning and the Devil faithful were antsy to break the then 1-1 tie and right fielder Ike Davis was all too happy to oblige. "Earlier in the game [Brauch] blew me up inside with a fastball and I figure he would go back in there again." Davis said, and when he did – Davis was ready.

The outfielder took the Brauch fastball over the right field fence for his only hit of the night, scoring Kiel Roling who had singled in front of him, to give the maroon and gold their second lead of the night, 3-1. Joe Persichina added an RBI-single in the seventh to push the Devil lead to 4-1 before the Retherford eighth inning blast tallied one final run for ASU.

With the win, ASU moves up into the winner's bracket and one step closer to a berth in the Super Regionals while Monmouth drops to the loser's bracket where one more loss eliminates them from the Road to Omaha. In the early game of the day, the Nebraska Cornhuskers lost to Big West champions, UC-Riverside, 10-5. With Flores making his 21st start of the season on Friday, and the Highlanders of UC-Riverside using their ace, ASU has a large advantage as they face Riverside as the designated visiting team on Saturday afternoon.

Which starter – Josh Satow or Mike Leake – will be on the mound Saturday?

"Either one." said a coy Pat Murphy.

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