Video by Stefan Modrich | Sports Reporter
Wednesday night’s Territorial Cup Series matchup between ASU and UA was billed as a showdown between two highly-touted right-handed freshman starting pitchers, Seth Martinez for the Sun Devils, and Morgan Earman for the Wildcats.
In a wild, high-scoring contest, the last ever between the two teams at Packard Stadium, UA edged ASU 10-9.
In what was a test for the two young guns under the lights in primetime, both made early exits, forcing their respective squads to get the bullpen up and running.
Earman was stellar early, striking out the first three Sun Devils he faced and retiring six in a row in the first two innings. He also had the benefit of a four-run lead after UA freshman third baseman Willie Calhoun capped a three-run third inning with a two-out RBI single.
However, ASU answered in the bottom half when back-to-back home runs from Sun Devil middle infielders junior Drew Stankiewicz and freshman Colby Woodmansee brought ASU within a run.
“My first at-bat, the amount of pitches I saw helped me get the pitch I wanted,” Woodmansee said. “(I’ve) been working on getting my top hand through on the inside pitch.”
The offense continued to roll, sparked by a three-hit, three-RBI performance from sophomore RJ Ybarra, whose double in the bottom of the ninth came within inches of being a game-tying solo shot to left.
Ybarra would advance to third on a balk, but no further.
“It’s tough when you have a guy on third base with no outs and can’t bring him in,” Woodmansee said.
Despite the run production, the defensive effort simply wasn’t enough to hold down UA Wednesday night. Two key errors either extended innings or gave UA opportunities to tie or take the the lead.
Ironically, the errors were committed by two of ASU’s biggest offensive stars of the evening.
Ybarra deflected a wild pitch wide right of the mound, outside the left-handed batter’s box near the UA dugout, and his flip to Burr went wide, allowing two runs to score without the ball being put in play.
Woodmansee bobbled a slow-roller with two outs in the eighth that would have bailed sophomore closer Ryan Burr out of a base-loaded jam, but instead UA went on to score the tying and go-ahead runs.
Woodmansee said that the back-and-forth nature of the game took a mental toll on the Sun Devil squad.
“It’s tough when they score a couple runs, and then we come back, and then they retake the lead on us, from an offensive standpoint,” Woodmansee said.
UA freshman first baseman Bobby Dalbec arguably had the game’s best all-around performance, ultimately sealing the Wildcat victory.
Dalbec had two hits, a pair of RBIs, and a run. In addition, he came in and earned the save for UA, shutting down the lower half of the ASU order after nearly giving up a home run to Ybarra.
Woodmansee summarized the significance of a one-run loss to their in-state rival.
“It feels pretty bad, the locker room is quiet,” Woodmansee said. “No one wants to lose to UA at Packard.”
ASU will next face Cal in a weekend series, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m at Packard Stadium in Tempe.
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