No. 4 ASU Holds Off Cats, 7-3

March 21, 2009

Final Box | Arizona Overall Stats

TEMPE, Ariz. – The pitching of No. 4 Arizona State was once again too much for visiting Arizona as the Wildcats dropped their second straight to the host Sun Devils before a crowd of 4,317 fans at Winkles Field – Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark on Saturday evening.

The Sun Devil pitching staff picked up where it left off on Friday, puzzling the UA hitters early. One night after striking out 15 times, the Wildcats struck out 11 times on Saturday, including two of three to lead off the game.

Leading the way for Arizona State (16-3, 2-0) was starter Josh Spence, who kept the UA hitters off balance all game long, tossing 7 1/3 innings of five-hit ball, allowing only three runs.

Arizona starter Matt Veltmann was inconsistent in his first Pac-10 start, limiting the Sun Devils to only four hits over 3 2/3 innings, but issued four walks and hit two batters while giving up five earned runs.

Arizona State scratched a run across in the bottom of the second to stake a 1-0 lead. With one out and runners at the corners, Veltmann struck out Raoul Torrez, but the pitch skipped in the dirt and to the backstop allowing Carlos Ramirez to score from third.

Arizona’s first scoring threat came in the top of the fourth, but Spence was able to turn away the Wildcats. Rafael Valenzuela broke up a perfect game through three innings and moved to second on a single to center by Steve Selsky.

But with no outs, Spence buckled down and struck out Brad Glenn on three consecutive pitches. After the runners advanced on a groundout to first by Dillon Baird, Spence struck out Jett Bandy to in the inning and preserve the 1-0 lead for the Sun Devils.

Sitting on a 1-0 lead, the Sun Devils opened things up in the fourth, touching up Veltmann for four runs and forcing the UA right hander from the game.

With one out in the inning, Veltmann walked Carlos Ramirez and Zack Wilson to start the Arizona State rally. The sophomore hurler then induced a potential double play ball off the bat of Jared McDonald. But shortstop Bryce Ortega, who was moving swiftly to his left, was unable to cleanly field the ball but picked it up in time to record a force out at second base.

That left runners on first and third with two outs, but Veltmann, who had allowed only one previous hit, gave up three consecutive hits, including a two-run double by Raoul Torrez.

Veltmann was lifted after the Sun Devils pushed their lead to 5-0 in the inning, having pitched 3 2/3 innings.

Arizona was finally able to break the shutout bid by Spence. With one out in the top of the sixth, Selsky, who had UA’s only prior hit, blasted a solo home run to right center field.

The Wildcats continued to try to mount a rally in the top of the eighth, finally stringing a set of hits together. Daniel Butler singled to left, then advanced to third on a double to left field by pinch hitter Shaun Cooper, who collected his first career hit.

With two runners in scoring position, Ortega crushed an apparent home run down the left field line, but the ball was ruled foul by third base umpire Jim Garman. Two pitches later, Ortega singled up the middle to score Butler from third.

Spence helped the Wildcats’ cause with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at first. The miscue allowed Cooper to score and pushed Ortega to third base.

That was all the closer Arizona would get, as the Sun Devils turned the game over to their bullpen. Jason Franzblau retired Valenzuela with a fly out before Mitchell Lambson came on to get Brad Glenn to fly out.

The Sun Devils added insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. The latter extended the ASU lead to 7-3 after the Wildcats had mounted the min-rally in the top half of the inning.

That capped the scoring on the evening, but a pair of bizarre plays prevented potential scoring threats for each team early in the game.

Leading off the second inning. UA first baseman Dillon Baird was hit by a 3-2 pitch. But home plate umpire Billy Haze ruled that Baird lowered his arm into the strike zone as he was hit by the pitch from Spence. Instead of having their leadoff batter on, the Wildcats went down in order for the second consecutive inning.

In the home half of the third, Zack McPhee attempted to steal second base with a full count on Jason Kipnis. But, Kipnis swung through the pitch from Veltmann and UA catcher Daniel Butler was interfered with by Kipnis. McPhee, who otherwise would have advanced to third on a wild throw down to second base, was ruled out on the interference call.

Arizona (11-9, 0-2) will take on the Sun Devils in the third game of the three game series on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Winkles Field – Brock Stadium.

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