TEMPE, Ariz. - The 15th-ranked Arizona State University baseball team shook off two late rallies from visiting Arizona by scoring three times in the bottom of the eighth inning en route to a 6-3 victory to even the three-game Pac-12 Conference series on Saturday night at Packard Stadium.
Kasey Coffman, who scored twice, opened the decisive bottom of the eighth with a single against Wildcat reliever Augey Bill, who was then lifted in favor of right-hander Mathew Troupe.
After striking out the first batter he faced, Troupe surrendered a single to James McDonald and issued a walk to Max Rossiter to load the bases. Troupe then walked Nathaniel Causey to force in the go-ahead run, giving the Sun Devils a 4-3 lead.
Trevor Allen, who finished 3-for-4 with a run scored, gave Arizona State some breathing room with a two-run single to left field, which pushed the lead to 6-3.
Arizona State (34-16-1, 15-11 Pac-12) capitalized on its scoring opportunities all evening. Allen was 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position and drove in three runs to lead the way in a 6-for-9 combined effort in RBI opportunities.
Arizona (30-21, 11-15 Pac-12) mounted a pair of late rallies to tie the game, but was never able to get a breakthrough hit to gain a lead. The Wildcats struggled to a 2-for-8 clip with runners in scoring position, and were not able to register a two-out RBI as they left five runners on base.
The late offense for each side spoiled outstanding performances by the starting pitchers - neither of whom factored into the decisions.
Arizona State's Ryan Kellogg turned in 6.2 innings of work and allowed only one unearned run on six hits. He struck outs three and walked none.
His counterpart, James Farris, tossed 6.1 strong innings and surrendered just three runs on six hits. The junior struck out seven and issued only one walk.
The Sun Devils opened the scoring in the third inning when Farris issued his lone walk of the game to Coffman with two outs. Coffman stole second and later scored on Michael Benjamin's RBI single up the middle to claim a 1-0 lead.
Arizona was held scoreless until the seventh inning when Trent Gilbert led off with a single into right field. One out later, Riley Moore singled to put a pair of runners on base for Kevin Newman, who followed with a sharp single to left field.
Gilbert was waved around third on the play, but he stumbled midway to home plate and he was tagged out by the catcher, Rossiter, who grabbed a strong throw from left fielder Jake Peevyhouse.
That left runners on first and second with two down when Zach Gibbons chopped a ball to Benjamin at third base. Benjamin briefly bobbled the ball and threw low over to first base, which allowed Gibbons to reach safely, and Moore raced around third and beat the throw home to score the tying run.
The Sun Devils quickly answered in the home half of the seventh. After Farris had retired 11 batters in a row, Causey hit a one-out single to spark a two-run rally.
A wild pitch allowed Causey to move into scoring position, and Allen followed with a single to left. After Drew Stankiewicz singled and runners were left on the corners, Dalton Dinatale singled home a second run to push the Sun Devils' lead to 3-1.
Arizona State threatened to add more in the inning, but Bill (L, 4-1), a left-hander, took over for Farris and coaxed an inning-ending double play.
The Wildcats bounced right back to tie the game in the eighth off reliever Brett Lilek. Joseph Maggi was hit by a pitch to lead off and Johnny Field, who was 3-for-4, singled to right-center.
The right fielder, Allen, booted the ball in the gap, which allowed Maggi to score from first and advanced Field to third base. One out later, Brandon Dixon's run-scoring single to left tied the game, 3-3.
A sacrifice bunt by Moore pushed Dixon into scoring position, and the Sun Devils called on closer Ryan Burr to face Newman. The righty induced an inning-ending groundout to keep the go-ahead run from scoring.
Arizona State gained control in the bottom of the inning and Burr (W, 4-2) struck out the side in the ninth to prevent any chance of another Wildcat rally.
The rubber match of three-game series is set for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at Packard Stadium. Arizona will send sophomore left-hander Tyler Crawford (5-2, 3.96) to the mound to oppose junior right-hander Zak Miller (4-0, 4.28).
(Courtesy: Arizona Athletics)