On a day that NCAA tournament regional hosts Wichita State and Long Beach State lost and national top seed Vanderbilt was given a scare, it should have been no surprise that little Monmouth hung in with Arizona State.
But the Sun Devils’ trademark big bats were there when they needed them, Brian Flores was stellar, and ASU withstood some ninth-inning turbulence in a 5-3 victory in the Tempe Regional on Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 4,118 at Packard Stadium.
“When you have a high seed and have to (justify) that, there’s everything to lose, and that can be a tough situation,” ASU coach Pat Murphy said. “You just have to look at the list of final scores (on Friday) to realize that. …
“You have to give Monmouth credit. We didn’t string the hits together that we needed to, we didn’t do the things that we usually do.”
The Sun Devils (44-13), the regional’s top seed and No. 5 national seed, advanced to tonight’s winners’ bracket game against UC-Riverside. ASU will be the designated visiting team after losing a coin flip after Friday’s contest.
Fourth-seeded Monmouth (36-23-1), which had the tying runs on second and third in the ninth inning against the Sun Devils, plays an elimination contest against Nebraska this afternoon.
“It went down to the last pitch,” Hawks coach Dean Ehehalt said. “I don’t know if anyone else expected that, but we felt that’s how it would go. That was a talented team we faced, and it came down to the wire. I don’t know what else you could ask for.”
With ASU leading 5-1, closer Jason Jarvis was summoned after starter Brian Flores — who cruised through the first eight innings — allowed a base hit and went to a 3-0 count on the first two Monmouth hitters of the ninth.
The right-hander allowed three straight singles, plating two runs, then balked runners to second and third with no outs. But Jarvis, a true freshman, got tough, registering a strikeout, flyout and strikeout to end the game and record his 11th save of the year.
“You need to wake Jarvis up sometimes,” Murphy said. “You saw it after the balk. He woke up and shifted it into another gear.”
Flores — who fired 106 pitches, 70 for strikes — won his 10th game of the season, giving the Sun Devils three pitchers with double-digit victories (Mike Leake and Josh Satow are the others) for the first time since 1990.
“I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and got in front of the hitters, and that helped a lot,” said Flores, who allowed three hits and two runs (one earned) with two walks and eight strikeouts. “But I was tired in the ninth.”
Monmouth pitcher Brad Brach fought through adversity, having to navigate the unforgiving ASU lineup with just one working pitch, a fastball. He allowed nine hits and four runs in seven innings.
“I usually have a fastball and change-up,” Brach said. “Not this time.”
Designated hitter Kiel Roling hit a solo homer in the second, and right fielder Ike Davis broke a 1-1 tie with a long two-run blast in the sixth. After an unsuccessful attempt at a short-swinged “slash” hit, Davis went with a full swing, and it paid off handsomely.
“I had two earlier at-bats against (Brach), and he was blowing me inside with a fastball,” Davis said. “That’s what I went up there looking for, that he would leave one (over the plate).”
In the seventh, Brach intentionally walked Davis to pitch to catcher Preston Paramore, who delivered an RBI single. Pinch-hitter C.J. Retherford gave ASU a valuable insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth.
Right-hander Matt Montgomery (5-0, 2.50 ERA) is UC Riverside’s scheduled starter today.
Leake and Satow are the Sun Devils’ starting pitching options today, but Murphy would not tip his hand.
“It will be one of those guys,” Murphy said, smiling.
Tempe Regional Friday’s games
UC-Riverside 10, Nebraska 5
Arizona State 5, Monmouth 3
Nebraska vs. Monmouth, 2 p.m. (elimination game)
UC-Riverside vs. Arizona State, 7 p.m.