It was a pitchers' duel that is so rarely seen in Tempe. ASU sophomore Jake Borup and Cal sophomore Dixon Anderson were matching each other, pitch for pitch, tossing zeros up onto the scoreboard.
The Golden Bears (12-10, 0-3 Pac-10) got a run off of Borup before he settled in and that almost was the difference in the ballgame.
Brian Guinn led off the game with a soft-hit double that was just fair down the first base line. Guinn moved up to third on a wild pitch, and eventually scored on a groundout by Mark Canha.
"The first inning I was trying to be too spotty," Borup said. "I settled in and I just trusted my stuff. My slider was really good today and just tried to get ahead of hitters."
With two on and one out in the first inning, Borup eventually found his groove and got out of the inning with just one run allowed.
"Jake came out of the gates and I think he did a great job of minimizing that first inning," Esmay said. "To get out of that thing only giving up one is tremendous."
To say he settled in after that may be an understatement. After the double by Guinn and a walk to the next batter, Borup retired 21 straight Cal batters, striking out 13.
He had both his fastball and his slider working, but it was his slider that had Cal off balanced all afternoon long.
"Why Borup was so successful today was that he was throwing (his slider) close enough into the zone to make the hitters have to make a decision," Esmay said. "It makes it a tough day, because it looks like a fastball and all of a sudden there is a late break."
Normally a dominating pitching performance like Borup's would mean that ASU would win easily, but Anderson was dealing for the Golden Bears, as well.
The Sun Devils (23-0, 3-0) kept getting runners on base, but just couldn't push a run across.
"Just seeing that guy battle on the mound, we were trying like hell to get runs across," Maggi said of Borup. "We got guys on and we couldn't get a bunt down. It was tough. He kept battling and he kept us in it."
In the meantime, Borup didn't allow a base runner until the 8th inning when Jimmy Bosco led off with a base hit and was sacrificed to second. Borup got Marcus Semien to groundout, but then was pulled for Mitchell Lambson.
Lambson got Austin Booker to pop out to end the frame and strand a very important insurance run for Cal.
ASU finally got to Anderson in the 8th inning. Maggi led off the inning with a base hit and came around to score on a double into the left field corner by Kole Calhoun.
The relay throw to the plate by Semien got away, allowing Calhoun to scamper to third. That brought the Golden Bears' infield in and Riccio Torrez snuck a base hit past the drawn in infield to score Calhoun and put ASU in front 2-1.
"We were having good at bats, hitting balls right at them," Maggi said. "We knew something was going to come up sooner than later and it did."
Esmay then turned the ball over to closer Jordan Swagerty, who got the first out of the ninth, but an error by Zack MacPhee allowed Oh to reach.
Canha made the error hurt by sending a double to left that scored Oh and tied the game at 2-2. Swagerty recovered to strand Canha at second and keep the game tied.
Cal reliever Brian Diemer got the first two outs of the ninth, before Raoul Torrez sent a base hit into left field.
Esmay gave Torrez the green light to steal and he took off on the first pitch, easily swiping second.
"We felt there was a pretty good matchup. We got a senior out at first base who knows how to steal," Esmay said. "We knew the matchup on the mound was going to allow us to do that, so we green lighted him. What was great about him, there was no doubt, he hit it the first pitch. That is quality of him. That was big."
The steal proved to be crucial when Maggi singled back up the middle, letting Torrez come around to plate the winning run.
"I was trying to win a game. (With a) base open, I looked for a strike," Maggi said. "The guy put it over and I put it up the middle. (Raoul) did a hell of a job getting over. I wouldn't be here talking to you if he didn't."
While he didn't get the win, Borup struck out a career high 13 in 7.2 innings, while allowing just one run.
"There will be times where I don't pitch well and I do get wins," Borup said. " I am not out there thinking I have to get a win, I just want to keep my team in the ballgame. If I get the win great, if not, so what."