Aplin Helps ASU Take Series from UA

Some people will argue that every game during the course of a college baseball season is equally important to win. However, you would be hard pressed to find an ASU fan that didn't feel Monday's game against UA wasn't at least a little bit more important than the rest. There were a few things riding on the outcome, starting with settling the rivalry.

Monday was the rubber game of not only the Pac-10 weekend series, but the season series between the two schools.

There was also the conference title race aspect, with the game meaning the difference in a two or three game lead for ASU.

The actual game lived up to the hype.

Freshman designated hitter Andrew Aplin broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning with a two-out RBI single to right and No. 3 ASU added insurance and held on for a 4-2 victory over UA.

The win pushed the Sun Devils (43-6, 16-5 Pac-10) lead over second-place UCLA to three games with six to play, meaning ASU's magic number to clinch a fourth straight conference championship is down to four.

Sophomore Jake Borup made his first start in over two weeks and allowed just one hit into the sixth inning.

The Sun Devils were kept off balance yet again by UA junior Daniel Workman. The righty allowed just one earned run in his six innings of work, lowering his season ERA against ASU to 2.19.

For some reason Workman loves facing the Sun Devils, because his ERA against every other team this season is 9.47.

ASU broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning, plating an unearned run off of Workman without the help of a base hit. Austin Barnes drew a leadoff walk, but Workman got the next two outs of the inning on fly outs.

With Kole Calhoun at the plate, Barnes stole second and moved up to third on a bad toss down to second by UA catcher Jett Bandy.

Calhoun then drew a free pass from Workman and ASU got creative to get its offense going, executing a double steal that allowed Barnes to swipe home and make it 1-0.

UA (31-18, 10-11) got the run back in the bottom of the sixth with a big two-out double. Borup walked Rafael Valenzuela to start the inning, but then struck out the top two hitters in the Wildcats' lineup, before giving way to Mitchell Lambson.

Valenzuela stole second base on the second strikeout, which allowed him to score on a base hit by Cole Frenzel, who was the first batter Lambson faced.

Johnny Ruettiger singled to start the seventh against Workman, who then was pulled in favor of reliever Bryce Bandilla.

Ruettiger advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Bandilla struck out Raoul Torrez and got Deven Marrero to pop out, leaving it up to Aplin to pick up Ruettiger.

The freshman did just that, coming through in the clutch with a base hit that put ASU up in front for good.

Lambson kept the Wildcats off of the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings and then the Sun Devils added some insurance in the ninth.

ASU loaded the bases with nobody out on a pair of singles and a hit batsman. UA reliever Nick Cunningham then walked Aplin to force in a run and reliever Stephen Manthei plunked Barnes to force in another run to make it 4-1.

Those insurance runs would prove to be important, because UA got a run off of ASU closer Jordan Swagerty in the ninth on an RBI single by Seth Mejias-Brean.

Swagerty eventually sealed the victory and picked up his 11th save of the season by getting Alex Mejia to bounce into a double play. Lambson picked up his sixth win of the season, tossing two scoreless innings of relief.

Aplin finished 2-3 at the plate and drove the two deciding runs of the ballgame. Riccio Torrez also had two hits for ASU.

The Sun Devils will now return home and open up a three game set with Oregon St. starting on Friday at 6:30 PM. Seth Blair (9-0, 3.04 ERA) is the likely starter for the Sun Devils, while the Beavers will likely counter with junior Greg Peavey (4-2, 3.30).

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