ASU ties School Record with 21st Straight Win

The Arizona State Sun Devils didn't even know that they were approaching history, but on Friday night at Packard Stadium they did just that. ASU tied the program record for the best start to a season with a 12-5 victory over California.

"To be honest with you, we just realized this two or three days ago," junior Matt Newman said. "For anyone to win 21 straight games in baseball that is almost unheard of. We are just taking it one game at a time and we'll see how far we can go."

While the players may not know how historic Friday's win was, their head coach certainly does.

"To even be mentioned in the same breath as a Bobby Winkles team, it is pretty amazing," ASU coach Tim Esmay said. "That is the ground floor of this program. It is an amazing thing to be able and go out and win just one game. Trust me I'm not taking it lightly."

The players aren't oblivious to history, it's just their personality.

"What I love about this team is I don't think they really know," Esmay said. "They just go ‘OK', what time do we have to be here tomorrow and who are we facing? That is the greatest statement of this club that is how they play."

Last season, Cal starter Erik Johnson was very successful in his start against the Sun Devils, this time around, ASU (21-0, 1-0 Pac-10) knocked him around early.

With one out in the first inning, ASU loaded the bases for junior Matt Newman, who started his big day at the plate with a two-run single. Sophomore Zach Wilson followed with an RBI single of his own to put ASU up 3-0 after the first.

Cal (12-8, 0-1) cut into that lead in the third inning off of ASU starter Seth Blair. Marcus Semien led off the inning with a double and moved up to third on a wild pitch. The wild pitch would end up hurting Blair, as Semien scored on a groundout by Brian Guinn.

The Sun Devils had an answer in the bottom of the third, thanks to some shaky Golden Bears' defense. With two outs and two runners on, senior Raoul Torrez hit one on the ground to the shortstop Semien, who booted the ball allowing Torrez to reach and load the bases.

Cal's defense continued to let them down, as a lazy play by Semien allowed two runs to score on an infield single by sophomore Drew Maggi and ASU grabbed a 5-1 lead.

The game looked to be well in control of the ballgame after they grabbed a 7-1 lead in the fifth on an RBI triple by MacPhee and an RBI single by Newman.

But the Golden Bears fought back.

Blair walked Danny Oh to lead off the fifth and a wild pitch moved him up to second. That allowed him to score on a base hit by Mike Canha. Chadd Krist made it 7-3 by sending an RBI double down the left field line, scoring Canha.

Jimmy Bosco made it a ballgame again by launching a home run that just stayed fair down the right field line. Just like that, the game was 7-5 and Blair's day was done.

"They hit some pretty good pitches and even the home run was a breaking ball down. I thought the kid did a nice job of keeping it fair," Esmay said. "I thought (Blair) pitched well that inning and Cal did a nice job of battling him and actually taking some swings and not giving away AB's."

ASU needed an answer to grab the momentum back and they got those four runs back and more in the bottom of the sixth.

It has become something that the Sun Devils have gotten really good at, answering an opponent's big inning with one of its own.

"We have never talked about it," Newman said. "It is just the personnel we have on this team. That is just the way everyone acts. When we get punched in the face, we are still in the fight."

Sophomore Johnny Ruettiger reached on a leadoff walk and moved up to second on a groundout by sophomore Austin Barnes. After Raoul Torrez, Cal's defense fell apart again.

Maggi reached on an error by Semien that allowed Ruettiger to score and Torrez to advance to third. After a walk to MacPhee, Calhoun laced a single to left that scored two and another error by the Golden Bears on the relay throw allowed the runners to move up to second and third.

After Riccio Torrez struck out for the second out, Newman capped his big day with a two-run single back up the middle to make it 12-5.

Newman finished 3-5 at the plate and drove in five runs. It was a big night for the left fielder, who was going through a bit of a rough patch at the plate.

"I just didn't feel real comfortable at the plate (the last few weeks)," Newman said. "This week in practice I said I was going to start my season over and it paid off tonight."

Blair worked 5.1 innings and allowed five runs on eight hits and improved his record to 4-0 on the season.

After Blair left the game, the ASU bullpen was strong yet again. Mitchell Lambson, Jake Barrett and Brady Rodgers combined for 3.2 scoreless innings.

"It is nice to shorten the game," Esmay said of his bullpen's success. "If you can shorten the game up as much as possible and have those guys on the back end, it does wonders not only for your pitching staff but for the offense. It puts both sides in a pretty good spot."

While Esmay was happy to reach a historic milestone, he was happier to start conference play with a victory.

"I think that you kind of want to divide your season up into three areas," Esmay said. "We just started the second grouping. I thought the kids played pretty energized and focused. You saw how tough the Pac-10 is going to be."

Merrill Kelly will get the ball tomorrow for game two of the series against the Golden Bears. Freshman lefty Justin Jones is the likely starter for Cal. First pitch is at 6:30PM at Packard Stadium.


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