Sun Devils Stave Off Elimination With Dramatic Extra Innings Victory

June 21, 2005

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Jeff Larish matched a College World Series record withthree homers, and J.J. Sferra drove in the game-winning run with a bloop singlein the 11th inning as Arizona State rallied for an 8-7 victory Tuesday andeliminated hometown favorite Nebraska.

Larish's record-tying third homer tied it in the bottom of the ninth, andSferra's single in the 11th punctuated the 4-hour, 7-minute game, sending theSun Devils (41-24) against No. 7 Florida on Wednesday. Arizona State needs tobeat the Gators twice to reach the championship round.

Larish's two-out, ninth-inning drive over the center-field wall off BrettJensen made him only the third player in CWS history to hit three homes,matching the record set by Florida State's J.D. Drew in 1995 and tied byStanford's Edmund Muth in 2000.

The homer also negated Andy Gerch's three-run blast for Nebraska (57-15) inthe top of the ninth which gave the Huskers a 7-5 lead.

Larish, who bats left-handed, led off the game with an opposite-field shotand homered to right in the third. He now has 23 homers.

But it was a blooper in the 11th that won the game for the Sun Devils.

Joey Hooft led off the 11th with a single and moved to second on SethDhaenens' sacrifice. Sferra, a 150-pound freshman who was the bat boy when ASUlast appeared in Omaha in 1998, then popped a Tony Watson pitch into shortright center to score Hooft.

Zechry Zinicola (4-4), who was held out of the starting lineup as designatedhitter because of a bloody nose, came on in the 10th and earned the win.

Jensen (3-5) took the loss after the Sun Devils rallied to force extrainnings.

Dhaenens reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the ninth and scoredon Joe Persichnia's sacrifice fly. Center fielder Daniel Bruce made a greatcatch on the play and was able to double off Sferra for the second out,clearing the bases.

Then, Larish teed off again to tie the game.

Down 5-3 in the top of the ninth against ASU reliever Pat Bresnehan, JesseBoyer singled and Joe Simokaitis walked for the fourth time. Alex Gordon madeit 5-4 with a hard grounder that shortstop Persichnia couldn't handle.

Gerch then drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers, barely clearingthe wall for his fourth home run and Nebraska's first three-run homer sinceMarch 23.

The Sun Devils scored twice in the bottom of the seventh after Nebraskamisplayed a foul pop by Colin Curtis that could have ended the inning. Firstbaseman Curtis Ledbetter, who had two errors in Sunday's loss to Florida,backed away to let second baseman Ryan Wehrle make the catch, but the balldropped between them near the coach's box.

Curtis sent the next pitch up the middle to break a 3-3 tie, and another runscored when center fielder Daniel Bruce made a bad throw back to the infield.

The Huskers used three singles, a hit batter, a Jason Urquidez bases-loadedbalk and a suicide squeeze to manufacture a 3-2 lead in the fourth.

Urquidez hit Bruce to load the bases, then he balked while making a pickoffmove to first, allowing Brandon Buckman to trot home from third.

The play was reminiscent of the Sun Devils' super-regional loss to Cal StateFullerton, in which Zinicola's bases-loaded balk in the bottom of the ninthinning forced in the winning run.

After Urquidez's balk, Andy Gerch charged home from third for the tying runas Ryan Wehrle dropped a bunt down the first-base line. Jeff Christy broke thetie with a hit up the middle.

Urquidez, working on three days' rest after going two innings Friday as thestarter in a 5-3 first-round loss to Nebraska, left Tuesday's game afterwalking Joe Simokaitis starting the fifth.

ASU tied it in a bottom half that started painfully for ASU's Andrew Romine.Romine left with a cut under his right eye after a Kroenke pitch deflected offhis hands into his face. Persichnia ran for Romine and scored on Colin Curtis'two-out single.

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