Tied at 8.5 to 8.5, the battle between the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils for the Territorial Cup (a competition between the schools consisting of 18 different sporting events) was as close as it could ever possibly be, coming down to one final baseball game between the two schools in Tempe yesterday afternoon. The game itself was also as close as it could ever possibly be. Down 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth, Arizona State (34-17, 15-12) had bases loaded (the winning run on second base) and only one out. Any ball out of the infield would have tied the game or potentially wwon it for the Sun Devils. Instead, ASU’s Nate Causey did the worst thing he could possibly do, hitting a grounder straight to pitcher Augie Bill, who smartly threw the ball to catcher Riley Moore at home plate. Riley then proceeded to throw a bullet to first base for out number three.
Double play. Game over. Game, set (the series) and match (the Territorial Cup) for the Arizona Wildcats (31-21, 12-15) against Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ own home turf. Arizona will now have the Cup for the fourth straight year out of the four years the Cup has been in existence.The game will go down as a top 10 moment of 2013.
Taking two out of a three game series against ASU also has big implications for the baseball team. While losing yesterday’s game would have likely taken the defending National Champions out of the running for an NCAA Tournament appearance, the win keeps them alive with three remaining games against USC at home this weekend. Arizona will likely need to sweep the Trojans to go .500 in Pac-12 play and earn a tournament bid, although it is not unheard of for a team to make it with a losing record in a powerful conference.
Yesterday’s game was like watching a tennis match, the lead consistently changing for five straight innings. Arizona took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Arizona State tied the game in the second, Arizona regained the lead 2-1 in the top of the third, ASU took the lead 4-2 in the bottom of the third, Arizona regained the lead 5-4 in the top of the fourth, ASU retook the lead 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth, and Arizona tied the game 6-6 in the top of the fifth. Arizona’s Brandon Dixon drove in what would be the 7-6 winning RBI in the top of the eighth.
Joseph Maggi, who went 2 for 3 and hit a crucial three run triple in the fourth inning, is one of three brothers, the other two of which chose to play baseball for Arizona State. For the second straight year, Maggi has had the last laugh within a house divided.
Arizona’s bullpen, which has been shaky as of late, found a way–albeit an ugly one–to keep ASU from reaching home plate. The Wildcats held the Devils to five scoreless innings, though Arizona State certainly had their chances. In the bottom of the eighth inning, relief pitcher Matthew Troupe, who has been struggling tremendously lately, struggled again, forcing two outs but also walking three batters to load the bases. Luckily, Bill would come in to relieve Troupe and immediately issue the third out on the next batter. In the bottom of the ninth, Bill would give up two singles and a walk to load the bases with only one out.
With only one run needed to tie the game and with three outs to give, Arizona State left the most runners a team could ever leave on base (6) in the final two and most crucial innings of the game.
The grounder to Bill and resulting double play in the bottom of the ninth was crazy enough to make you wonder if God is a Wildcat fan.