Diamond Dawgs keep post season hopes alive

Needing a victory to keep both their Pac-10 title and postseason hopes alive, the Huskies rode the strong pitching of junior right hander Sean White to defeat Arizona 8-3 in the middle game of the season-ending series at Husky Ballpark on Saturday afternoon.

White pitched eight innings, allowing only a run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, to win his fifth consecutive decision and improve to 6-2. Joe Little started for Arizona and suffered the loss to drop to 6-6. He lasted only five and two thirds innings, allowing six runs on six hits. After not walking more than three batters in a single game prior to Saturday afternoon, Little hurt himself tremendously with a season high five walks, as all five Huskies to reach via the free pass came around to score.

As they did on Friday night against Husky ace Shawn Kohn, Arizona got on the board first with a run in the top of the third inning. John Hardy blooped a single just out of the reach of third baseman Michael Done in shallow left field, stole second and scored on a single to center by Brad Hassey.

The Huskies answered with two runs in the bottom of the third. Little pitched himself into trouble, issuing one out walks to Tila Reynolds and Tyler Davidson and then threw a wild pitch to Kyle Larsen, allowing the runners to move up a base. Larsen then lined a single into left center field to score both runners and give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth, the Huskies used three walks and three doubles to bat around and score six runs, all with two outs. Little retired the first two batters, getting both Jay Garthwaite and Michael Done to fly out to center fielder Brian Anderson, but then issued back to back walks to John Otness and Greg Isaacson, the eighth and ninth batters in the Husky order. After Otness advanced to third on a passed ball, Mike Wagner smacked a double under the glove of diving third baseman Hardy down the left field line to score Otness and the Huskies plated another run when Little threw his second wild pitch of the game, allowing Isaacson to score and Wagner to move to third. Little then walked Reynolds, prompting Arizona coach Andy Lopez to finally yank Little in favor of right hander Wes Zlotoff. Davidson greeted Zlotoff with a line double down the left field line to score Wagner and Reynolds, and Larsen followed with another double, beneath the glove of first baseman Pat Reilly, down the right field line, to score Davidson and make it 7-1 Huskies. Aaron Hathaway plated the Huskies' final run with a soft line drive single into shallow left field to score Larsen.

After yielding a run to Arizona in the third, White did not face another major scoring threat until the seventh, as the Wildcats loaded the bases. White managed to escape unscathed due in large part to a tremendous defensive play by shortstop Reynolds. Richard Mercado and Reilly hit back to back singles to right field. After retiring Hardy on a ground ball and Chris Marini on a pop up, White hit pinch hitter Kevin Anderson to load the bases. Brad Hassey then hit what looked like a run scoring base hit into the hole between second and third. Reynolds ranged to his right to glove the ball and fired it to Isaacson at second, just in time to force Anderson.

Husky coach Ken Knutson brought in closer Tyler Shepple to give him some mop up duty in relief. Shepple struck out Mercado swinging before allowing two harmless runs on a single by Reilly and a home run to left by Hardy, his fifth of the season.

With the win, the Huskies improved to 30-24-1 and 15-8 in the Pac-10. They remain tied with eighth ranked Stanford for second place as the Cardinal hammered Washington State 11-3 at Sunken Diamond in Palo Alto. Both the Huskies and Cardinal remain a game behind USC for first place in the conference, as the Trojans improved to 16-7 in the league, and clinched no worse than a tie for the Pac-10 title, with a 16-10 pounding of UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Huskies go for the sweep of Arizona when they host the Wildcats in the regular season finale for both teams at Husky Ballpark on Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. Probable starting pitchers are sophomore right hander Clay Johnson (2-1,7.06) for the Huskies, and freshman right hander Jason Snyder (1-1,3.24) for Arizona.

NOTES: Should the Huskies win on Sunday while Stanford and USC both lose, the Huskies will tie USC for the Pac-10 title, their first since the conference scrapped divisions following the 1998 season. However, by virtue of winning the season series with Washington 2 games to 1, USC will get the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament that goes to the Pac-10 champion.

With the victory over Arizona on Saturday, the Huskies clinched the season series with Arizona and assured themselves six series wins against Pac-10 competition this season. They defeated Arizona, California, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington State, while losing only to Arizona State and USC.

The Huskies will salute both their fans and their seniors on Fan Appreciation and Senior Day at the Ballpark on Sunday.

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