Three-Run Ninth Sinks Baseball
May 17, 2002
TUCSON, Ariz.- The Washington State baseball team rallied to score three runs in the ninth inning at Frank Sancet Field on Friday night, defeating Arizona 6-5 in the series opener of the three-game set. The loss is the third straight conference defeat for the Wildcats who fell to 29-21 overall for the season and to 7-12 in the Pac-10. The Cougars improved to 20-29 overall and 5-14 in conference play with the victory.
The Wildcats scored one run apiece in the first three innings to take a 3-1 lead on the Cougars. Moises Duran and Chris Cunningham each launched solo home runs, their eighth and 13th of the season, respectively, and Jeff Van Houten scored from third on a double play ball off the bat of Richard Mercado to give Arizona the early lead.
Washington State, which had scored one run in the top of the second on Derek Bruce's 11th home run of the season, tied the score at 3-3 with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Bruce finished the game 3 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Arizona answered with an unearned run in the sixth when WSU starter Eddie Bonine's pick off attempt eluded the first baseman and allowed Pat Reilly to circle the bases and score from first.
The two-run advantage appeared to be enough as Wildcat starter Sean Rierson worked his way into the ninth inning. The right-hander had surrendered just three runs on seven hits through the first eight innings.
WSU's Wes Faulkenborg led off the top of the ninth with a ground ball to shortstop that took a wicked hop on Brad Hassey, allowing the designated hitter to reach with an infield single. Bruce followed with a single through the left side of the infield to place runners on first and second with no outs.
Rierson, who threw 109 pitches on the evening, saw his final pitch of the night to Steve Mortimer sail over the head of center fielder Brian Anderson for a two-run double, tying the game at 5-5.
The Arizona coaching staff then called on senior Wes Zlotoff to come in relief. The right-hander gave up a single to Tyson Boston, advancing Mortimer third. Zlotoff struck out pinch hitter Bruce Jacobson for the first out of the inning, but uncorked his fifth wild pitch of the season to Evan Hacker, allowing the go-ahead run to score from third.
Rierson was tagged for his fourth loss of the season, giving up six runs, four earned, on nine hits. He struck out six and walked two. Bonine raised his record to 8-7 for the season. The Cougar starter surrendered five runs on 11 hits in eight innings of work. He struck out nine and walked three on 131 pitches. Zach Fisher worked the ninth for his third save of the season.
The Wildcats and Cougars will meet for game two of the series on Saturday at 7 p.m. Arizona will send lefty Joe Little to mound in hopes of ending its three-game slide.