Devils Edge Wildcats in Duel in Desert

If you didn't look at a calendar before you witnessed the Duel in the Desert Tuesday night you would have thought it was a post-season game played in May, not in mid-March. The atmosphere at Packard Stadium certainly felt like a super regional game as the #1 Arizona State Sun Devils held on to top the #2 Arizona Wildcats 6-5 thanks to their bullpen in front of a sold out crowd of 4,235.

"I talked to the players about it. I said guys, don't avoid it, and embrace it. You are part of college baseball in the desert, there are how many pro sports in this town, there's a basketball game in town and we have a sold out baseball game," said ASU Head Coach Pat Murphy on the electric atmosphere, "I think it was a great, great college atmosphere. It had the feeling of a Super Regional game for me."

"It was great. The fans were awesome, it was very exciting," said ASU junior Ike Davis, "Here we get the best fans this side of the Mississippi. It's great. Tonight was amazing; we should do it more often."

The Devils didn't waste much time getting on the scoreboard, striking for three runs in the bottom of the first inning against Arizona starter Mike Colla. Jason Kipnis led off the game with a scorching double to the left centerfield gap. After a Marcel Champagnie strikeout, Brett Wallace and Petey Paramore followed with walks to load the bases for Ike Davis.

Davis, who was named the national player of the week and Pac 10 player of the week for the second straight week, drove in the first runs of the game with a double to left center to put ASU up 2-0.

Rocky Laguna tried to lay down a safety squeeze, but it wasn't affective as Paramore was gunned down at the plate. Laguna made up for his poor bunt when he got in a rundown trying to steal second and allowed Ike Davis to cross the plate with the third run.

The Wildcats struck back in the second against ASU starter Josh Satow. Satow hit Dillion Baird with the first pitch of the second inning and Brad Glenn followed with a single. Mike Weldon would single to plate Baird and Bryce Ortega would lay down a squeeze bunt to cut ASU's lead to 3-2.

ASU would rebuild their lead in the bottom half of the second inning. Raoul Torrez led off with a single and Kiel Roling reached on an error by Glenn. Matt Newman would sacrifice the runners to second and third setting up Kipnis. Kipnis would strike out and it appeared that Colla would escape with no damage.

But then Colla committed a cardinal sin, walking Marcel Champagnie setting up Brett Wallace with the bases loaded. Wallace responded with a clutch two out single to right scoring two and giving ASU a 5-2 advantage.

Arizona would rally to tie the game in the fourth inning off of Satow. Glenn led off with a double and advanced to third on a groundout. Weldon followed with his second RBI single of the day and Ortega reached on an error by Champagnie. Light hitting catcher Dwight Childs ripped a Satow pitch down the left field line that scored both Weldon and Ortega and tied the game at 5-5.

Satow would exit the game following the fourth. He finished with five strikeouts, allowing four earned runs on six hits.

"Satow really threw the ball good, he did some good things," said ASU Head Coach Pat Murphy, "A couple mistakes and they really made him pay, but he threw the ball as good as he did the other day. The few mistakes he made, they made him pay."

It looked like it would be a game filled with offense after the two teams combined for ten runs in the first 3 ½ innings of the game, but then things slowed down mainly due to great performances from both teams bullpens.

The Devils would score what would turn out to be the game winning run by playing small ball in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Kiel Roling would start the rally with a lead-off single and would head to second on a Matt Newman walk. Jason Kipnis would drop down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and Champagnie followed with a sacrifice fly to center to score Roling.

That was all the offense the Devils would need. The Arizona State Sun Devil bullpen was phenomenal on Tuesday, pitching five shutout innings to seal the victory.

"Both bullpens are amazing, on both sides. I don't see it being that crazy of scores anymore with us versus them," said Davis

Arizona's bullpen was also outstanding, as Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth dominated ASU batters. Perry topped at 100 MPH on the radar gun.

"I've never seen our guys look so bad; Schlereth was 95-96, dropping that hammer at any time. Those kids don't look like they belong in college," said Murphy.

Stephen Sauer pitched two of those innings to pick up his third victory of the season. Reyes Dorado also pitched two innings and was sensational, striking out five of the six outs he recorded.

Murphy handed the ball to Ike Davis, who appeared to earn the closers job vacated by the suspension of Jason Jarvis, for the ninth inning.

"Dorado and Ike, that was ballgame," said Murphy.

"I'll be a late inning guy. I don't know if it is considered a closer. Seventh, eighth or ninth, whenever they need me," said Davis.

It wasn't easy coasting for Davis in the ninth, but he got out of trouble to pick up his first save of the year. Ortega led off the ninth ripping a single up the middle. Childs advanced him to second and Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez made an interesting decision by pinch hitting for leading hitter Diallo Fon (.450 batting average) with seldom used Matt Presley, who had just three at bats coming into the game.

Ortega would advance to third on a wild pitch that squirted away from Paramore making Lopez's decision even more critical. Arizona fans will question his decision further when Davis struck out Presley for the second out.

Jon Gaston followed with an intense eight pitch battle before Davis got the Wildcat right fielder to hit one on the ground to Raoul Torrez. Torrez made a beautiful play on the tough hop to secure the victory for the Devils.

"I was just trying to make pitches and get outs," said Davis, "The kid led off with a laser up the middle, it was a good pitch. They bunted him over, what are you going to do, and Petey blocked the ball for me and it just got away a little bit and the guy got to third."

The Devils now need just four more wins to set the school record for the best start in school history.

ASU looks to achieve that mark when they host the Bob Schafer Memorial Tournament starting on Thursday when they play host to Northern Colorado at 6:30.

Davis doesn't think the start is getting to the Devils heads.

"It's college baseball. You can't even think about that really. Every team is so good and our schedule is so good, that would be awesome. We're actually not even playing that well, but we're working right now."

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