The score was 0-0. One out. Bottom of the ninth. Both schools’ aces (Arizona’s Kurt Heyer and ASU’s Brady Rodgers) had thrown brilliant games. Robert Refsnyder sent one up the middle for a single. That’s when Arizona State head coach Tim Esmay made a decision he will never forget.
He took Rodgers out of the game.
Under most circumstances, this would have been the right call. In the last few innings, the Wildcats were beginning to make sense of Rodgers’ pitches, putting him in a few dicey situations that he had barely gotten out of (he had, however, escaped them). ASU’s closer Jake Barrett throws a 98mph fastball and is headed to the major leagues next year. The switch seemed logical, but Esmay may have pulled the trigger one batter too soon.
Seth Mejias-Brean was 0-3 against Rodgers. Mejias-Brean, who hails from Cienega High School (Tucson), was now going to face Barrett, who hails from Desert Ridge (Mesa), in front of a home crowd of over 5,000. This was a rivalry match made in college baseball heaven.
It took only two pitches for Mejias-Brean to make his point, ripping a 98mph fastball down the left field line towards the the wall. The crowd erupted. Refsnyder rounded second and had a decision to make: obey his third base coach, who was holding his hands up and motioning Refsnyder to hold up at third, or ignore the stop sign.
This game was too big for following the rules. Refsnyder blew through the sign as if stopping was never an option he ever came close to considering. The expression on his face indicated he was going to run through a freight train head on if he had to.
He didn’t have to. Refsnyder dove head first into home, but the throw was wide.
1-0 Arizona Wildcats. Game over. Fireworks to follow–literally.
If Arizona had not already clinched hosting a regional playoff before Friday, last night’s win did it. A half hour after Arizona’s victory, Oregon lost to Oregon State, setting up a tie between Arizona and Oregon for the Pac-12 Conference crown with only two games left. No matter what the result is, last night’s game at Hi-Corbett will go down as one of the most memorable wins in Arizona baseball history.