FULLERTON, Calif. - The Arizona State University Sun Devils defeated Cal State Fullerton in Game 3, winning 9-8 to secure a trip to the College World Series.
The Devils stayed alive in the series yesterday. It took a heady play by a senior catcher, a two-run double by a rarely used freshman and even a balk call that went its way, but the Arizona State baseball team finally struck back at its Fullerton demons.
With a third season-ending loss on Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field in as many years staring them in the face, the 17th-ranked Sun Devils avoided elimination by posting a 6-2 win over the fourth-ranked Titans before 3,654 fans Saturday night. Senior catcher Tuffy Gosewisch lifted his team out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth inning and ASU, playing as the home team, piled on four runs in the bottom half of the frame before cruising to a super regional-tying victory.
The teams will play a deciding third game at 3 p.m. today. The winner will advance to the College World Series, as the Titans did when they defeated ASU, 6-2, in the third game of a 2002 super regional in Fullerton. Whether ASU (38-23) has enough pitching left to completely exorcise its demons has yet to be seen.
"We’ve got a few guys who can toss it in there," ASU coach Pat Murphy said of his starting pitching options, which include Tony Barnette, Seth Garrison and a handful of others.
Starting for the third time in a postseason game against Fullerton, Erik Averill (10-4) had a three-hit shutout and 2-0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning. Fullerton (46-17) cut the deficit to one run on a Justin Turner single that got by third baseman Joey Hooft, and the Titans threatened to tie or take the lead with two outs and the bases loaded.
Rather than allowing RBI-leader Brett Pill to work his way back from a 1-2 count against reliever Pat Bresnehan, Fullerton attempted a delayed steal home. Gosewisch ignored Turner’s slip between second and third and threw to Hooft to pick off pinch-runner Brandon Tripp at third.
"They outsmarted us," Fullerton coach George Horton said. "We went for it and if it works we look smart and if it doesn’t we look stupid. Tuffy’s a pretty smart little catcher."
Andrew Romine led off the next inning with a triple and scored on Larish’s double to push the lead back to two runs. ASU sacrificed just one out in loading the bases and freshman Eric Sogard, who was 3-for-20 with two RBIs going into the game, smacked a pinch-hit double to the leftcenter field gap to score two runs.
ASU pushed its lead to five runs when reliever John Estes was called for a balk with Gosewisch on third base.
The Titans got one run back in the ninth and when Fullerton brought leading home run-hitter Sergio Pedroza to the plate with two men on and nobody out, another collapse seemed almost a likelihood. But Pedroza grounded into a double play and Evan McArthur popped out to center to end the game.
"To come back this morning after swallowing what they had to swallow last night, I’m just proud of them," said Murphy, referring to Friday night’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Titans. "It showed great character."
The Sun Devils got on top early when Gosewisch drove in Travis Buck on an RBI single in the first inning. They extended their lead to two runs on Jeff Larish’s solo home run in the seventh.
In between those two hits, Fullerton’s Ryan Schreppel (6-1) retired 14 straight Sun Devils. For the second night in a row, an ASU starter matched his better-recognized Fullerton counterpart as Averill retired 12 straight in the middle innings and earned his first win over the Titans despite being off his game.
"I wouldn’t say I had my A-plus stuff, especially early," Averill said.
"But I had the defense behind me and I tried to make pitches and go as deep as I could into the game."
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