TUCSON - Focus and intensity are usually an issue when a baseball team takes the field the day after winning a championship.
With a second straight Pac-10 title in hand, fourth-ranked Arizona State fought off its hangover for as long as possible on Friday, but finally fell to Arizona, 4-3 in 11 innings, at Sancet Stadium.
“You can’t leave guys in scoring position. You can’t strike out 11 times in a game against the kind of pitching they have,” said ASU coach Pat Murphy, whose team fell to 45-10 overall, 16-7 in the Pac-10.
“(Focus) was a factor. We have to sit down and talk about that. That’s not us. But this is a good Arizona ballclub. There was good pitching at the end, and that’s when you have to scratch something together.”
The Wildcats (37-17, 11-12) did just that in the 11th, as right fielder Jon Gaston reached on an infield single, stole second, went to third on an error and scored the winning run when pinch-hitter Rafael Valenzuela’s shot to left-center field landed out of the reach of a diving Jason Kipnis.
The losing pitcher was Sun Devils ace Mike Leake, who pitched the last 42/3 innings in relief. He allowed three hits and struck out four while showing what Murphy called perhaps his best stuff.
“Every game, I’m trying to win,” said Leake, whose season record is 9-2. “I just made a bad pitch at the end.”
Ike Davis, who in this series is playing first base for the first time since his return from a rib muscle strain, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He has one hit in 10 at-bats during the series.
“It’s in his head,” Murphy said. “I don’t think he’s hurt. He’s trying to be something he’s not after three weeks off. He’s trying to do too much, hoping the ball goes to the fence. He just has to make contact.… He’s a young kid not in a good frame of mind.”
True freshman outfielder Matt Newman made his second start on the mound. The left-hander allowed four runs and two hits in five innings.
“He reminded me of a young Josh Satow,” Murphy said.