Barnes, ASU Tag Arizona's Ace to Take Opener

Not many freshmen have had as big of an impact on the mound as UA ace Kurt Heyer. The right hander has been hard to hit all season long, leading the Pac-10 weekend starters in ERA at 2.22. However, the ASU lineup wasn't as kind. The Sun Devils tagged Heyer, who hadn't given up more than two earned runs in a Pac-10 start all season, for seven runs and took the series opener 12-4 in Tucson.

With the victory, ASU maintained a 3.5 game lead over second place UCLA and lowered its magic number to clinch the conference championship to five.

Leading the offensive attack for the Sun Devils was sophomore catcher Austin Barnes. He finished 2-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles and drove in two key runs.

It was a welcome break out for Barnes, who first was trying to focus on improving behind the plate in just his second year as a catcher, before he focused on his offense.

"I have been working on some things and I feel that my hitting is there now, I feel comfortable at the plate," Barnes said. "I have been taking better AB's, that is all you can do right now is take quality AB's and hope for the best."

Despite some ups and downs at the plate, Barnes never lost confidence from his teammates.

"Barnes is a really good hitter, I have always known he is a good hitter," MacPhee said. "It was only a matter of time before he comes around and tonight it looks like he was back on it."

UA (30-17, 9-10 Pac-10) struck first, scoring two runs against ASU starter Seth Blair in the second inning. Cole Frenzel led off the frame with a base hit to center and moved up to second on an errant pickoff throw from Blair.

Robert Refsnyder followed with a triple to center that scored Frenzel and Josh Garcia brought in Refsnyder with a groundout.

The Sun Devils (42-5, 15-4) answered back in the third inning with a pair of runs to even the score. Deven Marrero led off with a double down the right field line and Matt Newman followed with a double to left that scored Marrero and cut the deficit to 2-1.

Newman moved up to third on a fly out and scored on a groundout by Drew Maggi. ASU then took the lead in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by Raoul Torrez.

"We get down and we come back, we are pretty much relentless, this whole team," ASU second baseman Zack MacPhee said of falling behind early but answering right back. "We never feel like we are out of it. Keep fighting and keep putting good at bats together."

The Sun Devils added on to their lead in the fifth, thanks to a few more doubles. Austin Barnes led off with a double to left centerfield and scored on a double by MacPhee.

MacPhee would eventually come in to score on a Riccio Torrez double to left with two outs in the inning to put ASU up 5-2.

UA cut into the lead in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run home run to right off the bat of Rafael Valenzuela.

That would be as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way, as ASU used the next three innings to put the game out of reach.

It was Barnes who did the damage again in the sixth, sending a two-out double to left center, scoring Newman and Johnny Ruettiger to put the Sun Devils up 7-4.

"It felt great to get a couple doubles for the team tonight," Barnes said. "I was just looking for my pitch and I got it and I was thankful enough to get it into the gap."

Kole Calhoun launched his 10th home run of the season in the seventh inning to increase the lead and he also drew a bases loaded walk in the eighth to increase the lead to 10-4. One batter later, Riccio Torrez singled to right, scoring two more runs for the Sun Devils.

Blair worked six innings and allowed four runs to improve to 9-0 for the season. Mitchell Lambson worked two scoreless innings of relief and Jake Barrett pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the victory.

Riccio Torrez and Marrero each had three hits for ASU and Calhoun drove in three. MacPhee hit his 13th triple of the season on Saturday night, which tied the school record set in 1971.

ASU and UA will continue its series on Sunday evening at 6PM in Tucson. Merrill Kelly (9-0, 3.39 ERA) will get the start for the Sun Devils, while sophomore Kyle Simon (7-4, 3.66) is the likely starter for the Wildcats.

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