Late miscue costs Wildcats as Sun Devils take opener

TUCSON, Ariz. — Sometimes in rivalry games it’s best to expect the unexpected.

Friday night was a perfect example as the Arizona State baseball team capitalized on a bizarre defensive miscue by Arizona to escape with a 2-1 victory in the opening game of a three-game conference series between the in-state rivals.

Leading 1-0 in the seventh, the Wildcats brought in closer Bobby Dalbec, the starting designated hitter, to try and limit the damage in a one-out, bases-loaded jam. RJ Ybarra, the first batter Dalbec faced, lined out to left field allowing Johnny Sewald to tag up from third and score the tying run.

Third baseman Willie Calhoun called for Dalbec to appeal the tag-up at third base, but the pitcher threw wildly. The ball rolled toward the third base dugout, and Drew Stankiewicz advanced to third on the throwing error and was awarded home when the ball went out of play into the camera well.

Arizona (17-24, 6-13 Pac-12) threatened in each of its three trips to the plate after losing the lead, but the Sun Devil pitchers thwarted each attempt to escape with the victory in front a season-high crowd of 5,188 at Hi Corbett Field.

In the bottom of the seventh, starter Brett Lilek hit Calhoun with a pitch to open the inning. But the lefty bounced back strike out Dalbec, induce a flyout from Riley Moore and strike out Joseph Maggi.

Reliever Jordan Aboites wiggled out of even more trouble in the eighth. Zach Gibbons led off with a single, but was erased on a fielder’s choice groundout by Trent Gilbert. Scott Kingery then drew a walk, and Kevin Newman reached on an error to load the bases.

After a visit at the mound, Aboites settled in an coaxed a 1-2-3 groundball double play to end the Wildcats’ rally.

In the ninth, closer Ryan Burr surrendered a leadoff single to Cody Ramer, who had pinch-run for Calhoun in the seventh. Burr bounced back to strike out Dalbec, who was unable to get down two bunt attempts, before Moore hit into the game-ending double play. Burr earned his ninth save.

Arizona State (22-16, 11-8 Pac-12) turned four crucial double plays to turn away potential Arizona scoring threats. Despite the twin-killings, the Wildcats stranded seven runners and batted a combined 3-for-18 with runners on base.

The Sun Devils squandered some chances early in the game against Wildcat starter James Farris, who breezed through three innings before running into trouble in the fourth.

Known for his strike-throwing, Farris lost track of the zone and walked the bases loaded in the top of the fourth. But he battled back and got Tucker Esmay to fly out to strand three runners.

The Sun Devils again loaded the bases against Farris in the fifth, following a pair of one-out hits and a walk. Reliever Cody Moffett took over for Farris, and quickly induced an inning-ending double play.

It seemed to be good momentum for the Wildcats, who were staked to a 1-0 lead following an unearned run in the home half of the fourth.

In that inning, Newman reached on an error by Esmay at second base. Krause followed with a single, and Calhoun bunted the runners into scoring position. Dalbec then drove in the Wildcats’ only run with a sacrifice fly.

Lilek (4-2) earned the win with seven complete innings of work. The lefty allowed only three hits and one unearned run, while collecting six strikeouts.

Moffett (1-2) took the loss after giving up the two runs, including one unearned, in 2.2 innings. He allowed one hit and a walk.