A harmless ground ball to third base was the beginning of the end.
The Sun Devils (23-7, 8-1 Pac-10) blew a five-run lead and lost to ninth-ranked Arkansas 8-7 in front of more than 11,000 fans at Baum Stadium (the highest attendance in Arkansas baseball history) for a second-straight game.
Behind coach Pat Murphy’s inexperienced midweek lineup, the Sun Devils opened up a 6-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth. With sophomore Matt Newman on the mound in his fifth start of the season, ASU was able to strike out the first batter of the inning.
In what should have been the second out of the inning, an infield throw from junior third basman Raoul Torrez to freshman Abe Ruiz was mishandled.
A ground-rule double and a two-run single knocked Newman out of the game and made it 6-3.
Senior Jason Franzblau came on and allowed two more runs on two infield singles to make it 6-5. The Razorbacks used two walks, in what was described as a squeezed strike zone by ASU’s radio broadcast, and a two-run single off of freshman Jordan Swagerty to give them a lead they would not give up.
“I hope we learn from this, Murphy said during his postgame radio interview. “We had many opportunities and we let the adversity get to us a little bit. Abe [Ruiz] had a big error that really hurt us, but he hadn’t been out there in awhile.”
The Sun Devils got the 6-1 lead beginning with a solo home run from junior Jason Kipnis in the top of the first to straightaway center.
In the second, freshman Johnny Ruettiger delivered one of his three hits on the night, doubling with one out.
Ruiz followed with an RBI single and shortstop Jared McDonald and Torrez added knocks as well.
Two more ASU baserunners proceeded with walks before Kipnis knocked in his second and third runs of the night to make it 5-0.
The Sun Devils would scratch out two more runs, but could not get the big hit.
In the fifth, ASU had runners at first and second when McDonald grounded into an
inning-ending double play.
In the sixth, Torrez led off the inning by getting plunked, but was caught stealing on what may have been a missed sign at the plate by freshman Zack MacPhee.
In the eighth inning, ASU had two runners reach base with only one out but could not score the tying run.
Junior Kole Calhoun led off the ninth inning with a walk and Kipnis followed with sacrifice bunt.
The Razorbacks brought in their star closer Stephen Richards, who struck out junior Carlos Ramirez and freshman Drew Maggi to end the game with the tying run in scoring position.
“I think we learned that this is what it would be like if you don’t play at home in the playoffs,” Murphy said.
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