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A decade of ASU sports

Left-handed pitcher Josh Spence and the ASU baseball team won their third straight Pac-10 title in 2009.(Scott Stuk | The State Press)

Leake, Spence lead baseball to first Pac-10 three-peat

May 2009 — Behind the 1-2 pitching punch of Mike Leake and Josh Spence, the ASU baseball team won its third straight Pac-10 title — the first time that feat had ever been accomplished in the history of the conference.

After sweeping through the Tempe Regionals and Super Regionals to advance to their third College World Series in five years, the Sun Devils experienced a slew of peaks and valleys in Omaha.

The Sun Devils started the CWS with a thrilling 5-2 victory over North Carolina in 10 innings, but their stay in Omaha ended with two of heartbreaking losses to Texas.

The Longhorns overcame a 6-0 deficit to beat the Sun Devils in their first meeting and then used a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 4-3 and send ASU home.

“I’m as proud of this team as any team, maybe more, for how they’ve conducted themselves on and off the field,” then-coach Pat Murphy said.

ASU finished third in the tournament in what turned out to be Murphy’s final season leading the Maroon and Gold.

ASU LB Burfict earns Pac-10 freshman honor

ASU middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict became the first-ever recipient of the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year award Monday.

Burfict, who arrived in Tempe as the highest-rated football recruit in school history, finished second on the team in tackles with 69, including seven tackles for loss. He also tallied two sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and five pass breakups.

Burfict is the third Sun Devil freshman to earn a Pac-10 award, joining Terrell Suggs, who was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2000, and Zach Miller, who earned the same honor in 2004.

Senior defensive end Dexter Davis earned All-Pac-10 First Team honors after recording 23 tackles (six for loss), 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2009. He ended his ASU career with starts in all 50 of his games played, which is the most in school history, and with 31 career sacks, third-most in school history.

Senior wide receiver Chris McGaha, senior offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao and senior returner Kyle Williams were all named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team, while senior linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel, sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and senior running back Dimitri Nance all earned honorable mention honors.

ASU men’s basketball breaks streak, starts new one

Jan. 9, 2008 — Call it James Harden’s coming out party. Last season’s First-Team All-American began turning heads nationwide when he scored 22 points after halftime to lead ASU to a 64-59 overtime win against archrival UA, snapping a 12-game winning streak for the Wildcats. The win was the first of what is now a five-game streak for ASU.

Harden was nearly unstoppable in the second half, knifing through defenders and willing ASU to a victory that was a turning point in the heated rivalry.

After four straight losses in his career, Jeff Pendergraph said after the game that he was relieved to get the proverbial monkey off his back.

““It feels really good,” Pendergraph said of his first win over his rival. “They’re a really good team. We knew that this was going to be a war and this was going to come down to the wire. We toughed it out and got it.”

ASU’s most recent win in the series came at last year’s Pac-10 tournament, on the way to the Sun Devils’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.

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