UA head coach Andy Lopez said he was unaware of the rule, but assistant coach Mark Wasikowski, who meets with the umpires at home plate prior to every game, said he knew the rule was in place and about to be invoked.
"It's the first year for the rule," Wasikowski said. "It was talked about before every game of this series (during the meeting) at home plate."
Unfortunately for the fans and media in attendance, they don't get to attend those meetings. Prior to an official announcement, the general thought was that ASU head coach Pat Murphy had pulled his team off the field after a controversial end to the top of the eighth inning. Wasikowski said that was not the case at all.
"Coach Murphy had no objection to the rule," Wasikowski said.
Trailing 13-3 going to the eighth, the Sun Devils plated four runs, but their bid for more was thwarted by umpire Dwayne Finley. With the bases loaded and two outs, Sun Devil shortstop Dustin Pedroia grounded a ball deep in the hole at short. Jason Donald made a diving play and threw to second to try and cut down Joe Persichina. Finley called Persichina out even though it was clear he had beaten the throw by a good two feet.
"I think it's safe to say he missed that one," Murphy said.
The Sun Devil coach argued during the entire inning break and was still on the field when crew chief Dave Perez ended the game.
Prior to the controversy, it was a day for the Cat bats to come alive. After being held to just four hits Saturday night, the Wildcats matched that total in the first inning Sunday and scored six runs off Brett Bordes and Pat Bresnahan. Bordes retired just one of the first seven Wildcat hitters before giving way to Bresnahan, who finished the first inning. Jordan Brown, Jason Donald, Richard Mercado, Nick Hundley and Trevor Crowe all had RBIs against the Sun Devils duo with Crowe capping the inning with a two-run single. It was the first time all year Crowe was placed in the leadoff position and he responded with three hits and a walk as well as three stolen bases and three runs scored. His on-base percentage, which stood at .399 before the game, is now over the .400 mark.
"I love the leadoff spot," Crowe said. "I've hit all over the lineup, but I feel comfortable in that spot."
Two of Crowe's three runs were scored on base hits from Mo Duran. The senior from Sunnyside made his final game against the Sun Devils a memorable one with a pair of two-run singles and four RBI. He also drew a walk and scored as part of the Wildcats' (28-23-1, 10-11) six-run first.
"It was big," Duran said of Arizona's early offense. "It gave us momentum for the whole game and we kept swinging it. They're a potent offense, but it's hard to come back when you're down (big)."
The Sun Devils (39-14, 12-9) had several chances to rally, but Wildcat starter John Meloan had the magic touch to keep getting out of trouble. Meloan allowed 12 hits in his 6 1/3 innings of work, but stranded 12 ASU base runners despite suffering from flu-like symptoms all day.
"I don't know if it was bad food or what," Meloan said, "but I couldn't fall asleep last night and I threw up during the game a few times. I didn't have much energy and didn't feel good, but I just had to go out and take it one hitter at a time."
Two of Meloan's three runs allowed came on solo home runs by Jeff Larish. The ASU left fielder finished with three hits and four RBI and could have easily had a three-homer day. His drive to center in the fifth was destined for the batter's eye until Derek Decater leaped high in the air and brought it back for the defensive play of the game.
With the win, Arizona retains slim hopes for a return trip to the postseason. The UA will probably need at least a series win, if not a sweep, over USC next weekend in Los Angeles to receive a regional bid. The Sun Devils should already be a lock for the postseason, but can further strengthen their resume when they head to Palo Alto to face Stanford for three games at Sunken Diamond. ASU trails the first place Cardinal by two games and second place Washington by a game and a half in the conference race.