Calhoun's Blast Sends Devils Past UNC

An error often leads to a big and decisive inning for the opposing team. That is exactly what helped Arizona State break a tie game open with four runs in the top of the 10th inning to knock off North Carolina 5-2 in front of 24,273 in an opening round game of the 2009 College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.

With Drew Maggi already aboard after reaching on a one out single, Jason Kipnis lifted a fly ball to about the warning track in right field, where it appeared that Tar Heel right fielder Garrett Gore had an easy catch for the second out. Since Maggi was running on the play, Gore might have even had an inning ending double play, but the senior dropped the ball allowing the Devils to have runners at first and second with one away.

After that everything was earned by the bats of ASU. Carlos Ramirez broke the 1-1 tie with a base hit back up the middle that brought around Maggi and made it 2-1. However, the big blow came next from Kole Calhoun. Calhoun sent a pitch from Brian Moran the opposite way and over the left centerfield fence for his 10th home run and what was the eventual decisive blow in ASU's 5-2 win.

"We hung in there. White and UNC competed and turned it up a notch," said ASU Head Coach Pat Murphy, "It was pretty special. I'm proud of our guys, we hung in there and it wasn't pretty.

"I'm proud of Kole (Calhoun). He is the definition of competition, he's a great competitor. It was a different game and I'm proud of our guys."

Calhoun said that he got the ball up in the air and the wind at Rosenblatt Stadium did the rest to carry the ball out.

"I got the 1-1 pitch up in the wind, and the wind took over," said Calhoun, "I was trying to have a better at-bat than my one before, and it wasn't hard. Coach Murphy told me to take what he gives me, and I did and hit it into left center. Fortunately it got up in the air."

Murphy said that he remembers that the sun is always bad in right field in Omaha and that is what got Garrett Gore on the dropped fly ball.

"I think it was lost in the sun. In my notes from 2005, I have a note about the sun being rough in right field and second base."

Murphy took a risk on Sunday and decided to start Josh Spence over Pac 10 Pitcher of the Year and All-American Mike Leake. The main reason Spence was on the hill was the fact that North Carolina features a lefty heavy lineup. The southpaw Spence certainly didn't disappoint.

Spence worked seven strong innings and only allowed one earned run while striking out eight. ASU's pitchers had to be sharp because first round pick Alex White was very sharp for the Heels. The Omaha veteran worked nine innings and allowed just one run while striking out 12.

"It was a good move," said Murphy, "Spence had been going for us on Friday during the year before he got hurt. He was magnificent today."

ASU (50-12) got their run off of White in the second inning with two out offense from a pair of freshman. Johnny Ruettiger doubled down the left field line to start things and then following a walk to Raoul Torrez, Zack MacPhee made it 1-0 Devils with a double to left field.

UNC (47-17) threatened to tie the game, if not take the lead off of Spence in the fourth inning, but the Australian made what turned out to be a huge pitch in the ballgame. Spence walked Mark Fleury with one out and then allowed a single back up the middle by Gore. Michael Cavasinni then struck out for the second out, but Spence hit Jacob Stallings with a pitch to load the bases for the top of the Carolina order.

That meant Spence had to face Ben Bunting, with the best hitter in college baseball on deck. The sophomore ran the count full, but Spence got Bunting swinging on a slider to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

The Devils had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth inning after Raoul Torrez led off with a single and Zack MacPhee appeared to get hit by a pitch while trying to bunt Torrez over. Home plate umpire Jeff Henrichs ruled that MacPhee was over the plate and ruled it a strike.

MacPhee eventually struck out, but Torrez took second anyway on a throwing error by the catcher Fleury. Torrez then moved up to third base on a wild pitch with only one out, but Alex White got Drew Maggi to strike out for the second out. UNC head coach Mike Fox elected to intentionally walk Jason Kipnis and Carlos Ramirez flew out to end the frame.

Carolina eventually got a run on the board and tied the game in the sixth inning. Levi Michael led off with a nine pitch walk and was bunted over to second by Fleury. Garrett Gore then followed with a single to center to score Michael and tie the game at 1-1.

The game stayed that way all the way to the ninth inning because White and Spence were dealing. When Spence exited after seven innings, freshman Mitchell Lambson picked up right where he left off. Lambson worked three innings and struck out five, none bigger than getting Dustin Ackley looking to end the bottom of the ninth.

After ASU's four run 10th, Lambson was back out to try and slam the door. Kyle Seager led off with a double to left center and moved up to third on a groundout. Zack MacPhee then booted a ball hit by Michael to let Seager score, but Lambson struck out both Fleury and Gore to end the game and pick up his ninth win of the season.

Much of the talk coming into Sunday was how experienced the Tar Heels were and how inexperienced ASU was. That certainly wasn't on display when the teams actually took the field, especially the performance of Lambson and Calhoun, both new to Omaha.

"We've talked all year about how we're not going to let (our youth) affect how we play on the diamond," said Lambson, "Yeah, at first you're a little jittery, but we've had a chance to settle in over the last couple days and we have."

Calhoun agreed with his pitcher and said that they just went out and played ASU baseball.

"We've been saying this all along, it's just our way of playing baseball: We try not to take in the circumstances and the atmosphere and stuff like that," said Calhoun, "We do have a lot of young guys and the excuse can be made that it's been our crutch all year, but it hasn't."

Carolina Head Coach Mike Fox said that you can throw the inexperienced card out the window now for the Devils.

"I don't know if I buy the inexperience. They've played 60 plus games this year already," said Fox, "They were ready to play. They pitched well and played defense well.

"It was a terrific game. Two outstanding pitchers went head-to-head. Alex did a great job. It all comes down to a big hit and we didn't get it done. We got to give hats off to Arizona State. They played better than us today."

With Spence going in game one, that means Mike Leake will take the mound for the second game of the World Series on Tuesday evening. The Golden Spikes Award finalist will face the winner of the Texas and Southern Mississippi opening round game that is later on Sunday. The first pitch on Tuesday is at 4PM in Arizona and can be seen on ESPN2.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories