Baseball Rallies For Three Runs In Ninth Inning To Defeat Cal 4-2 In Exciting Fashion

March 17, 2001

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Pinch-hitter Nick Walsh delivered a two-out, two-strike single to right field to score two runs, capping a three-run ninth inning rally, as the No. 4/6 Arizona State Sun Devil baseball team earned a come-from-behind 4-2 Pac-10 win over the California Golden Bears Saturday afternoon at Evans Diamond.

With the come-from-behind win, ASU improves to 19-4-1 on the year and have now won six straight games. With a 2-0 record to open Pac-10 play, the defending conference champions will go for its fifth series sweep of the year tomorrow. Cal dropped to 13-11 on the year and 0-2 in Pac-10 play.

It couldn't have been written any better if it was a fairy tale. Hometown kid Walsh, a native of nearby Alamo, Calif., comes up with the game-winning hit with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Walsh, who grew up watching games as a kid at Evans Diamond, earned his second game-winning hit of the year, relishing in the role as ASU's go-to-guy off the bench. The left-handed swinger also tabbed a two-run single in ASU's 5-3 win over Cal State Fullerton (2/23).

'I don't know if it gets any better than this right here,' said Walsh after the game. 'My whole family is here and this is where I used to watch games when I was a kid. This is just awesome. For our team it is even bigger. We have the motto of 'All 9', and our coach (Murphy) always instills in us to never give up and play until the end. We fought to the end today and came up with a big win. This is what Sun Devil baseball is all about.'

Down one in the top of the ninth, ASU started the inning with a base hit from shortstop Brooks Conrad. With pinch-hitter Ryan McKenna at the plate, Conrad was erased on a controversial pickoff call in which Conrad appeared to slide safely back to first base. Regardless, Conrad was out and McKenna grounded out to third base to put Cal to within one out of the upset of No. 4/6 ASU. Down to their last out and down by one, the Sun Devils mounted what proved to be the game-winning rally. Mike Lopez was hit by a pitch and freshman Steve Garrabrants, who entered the at-bat 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, slapped a base hit through the left side to keep the rally alive. Junior center fielder Chris Duffy then followed with a sharp single to left field to score Lopez and knot the game at 2-2. Walsh, ASU's top pinch hitter, then stepped to the plate and delivered a clutch, two-run single that bounced over first baseman Clint Hoover, giving ASU the 4-2 lead.

After a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth, the Sun Devils turned a nifty 5-4-3 double play with an excellent turn from Garrabrants at second base to end the game and seal ASU's 19th victory of 2001. Reliever Franco Pezely recorded the win to improve to 2-0 on the season with two shutout innings of relief.

In another great story for the Sun Devils, starting pitcher Mike Esposito was phenomenal in his third start back from Tommy John surgery. Only 11 months since having the major surgery, the hard-throwing right-hander scattered four hits in a career high seven innings, allowing only two runs. The redshirt freshman struck out six and did not walk a batter while recording the no-decision.

'What you saw today was one of the gutsiest performances I have ever seen from a kid,' said ASU head coach Pat Murphy. 'Espo went out there and pitched great, not walking a batter and was just flat out in control of the game. I am so happy for the kid because of all the hard work he put in to get back after the surgery. Our trainer, Kenny McCarty, also deserves a lot of credit for this.'

With a pitchers' duel between Esposito and Cal starter Ryan Atkinson taking center stage for most of the game, the Golden Bears broke up the 0-0 tie in the bottom of the fourth when junior second baseman Carson White hit a first-pitch home run off Esposito over the left field fence for his second round-tripper of the year.

With Atkinson in cruise control, ASU finally got to the tall right-hander in the top of the sixth. ASU loaded the bases with no outs, but managed to score only one run to knot the game at 1-1. Freshman relief pitcher Brian Montalbo coaxed Casey Myers to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, but Duffy scored on the play to tie the game. Montalbo got Jeremy West to fly out to deep right field end the threat with the go-ahead run 90 feet away at third base.

Cal jumped ahead in the bottom of the seventh by manufacturing a run. Freshman Brian Horwitz led the inning off with a single to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. After Horwitz stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch by Esposito, freshman third baseman Connor Jackson knocked him home with a sharp single to left field.

Offensively, the Sun Devils were limited to seven hits, but with three very big ones in their last at-bat. Duffy went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Freshman Rod Allen continues to be a force at the plate with a 1-for-2 game and now has a 16-game hitting streak.

The Sun Devils and the Golden Bears will wrap up their three-game Pac-10 season opening series with a 1 p.m. game Sunday at Evans Diamond. Andy Torres (7-1, 3.54) will start for Arizona State, while Jason Dennis (1-1, 4.00) will try to prevent ASU from opening the Pac-10 season with a sweep.

Arizona State 4, California 2 (Mar 17, 2001 at Berkeley, Calif.)----------------------------------------------------------------------Arizona State....... 000 001 003  -  4  7  2      (19-4-1, 2-0 PAC-10)California.......... 000 100 100  -  2  6  1      (13-11, 0-2 PAC-10)----------------------------------------------------------------------Pitchers: Arizona State - Esposito, Pezely(8).California - Atkinson, Montalbo(6), Brown(7).Win-Pezely(2-0)  Loss-Brown(1-3)  T-2:33  A-523HR CAL - C. White (2).Game notes:ASU mounts comeback win with three runs in the top of the ninth.Walsh comes up with game-winning hit in hometown.Esposito strong in third start back from Tommy John surgery.

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