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Baseball takes series against UA

UA defeated: Sophomore Jake Barrett delivers a pitch during the Sun Devils’ 8-1 victory over UA on Sunday. The win gave ASU the series victory in the first weekend of Pac-10 play. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)
UA defeated: Sophomore Jake Barrett delivers a pitch during the Sun Devils’ 8-1 victory over UA on Sunday. The win gave ASU the series victory in the first weekend of Pac-10 play. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

There’s no love lost between ASU and UA.

Less than 24 hours after the UA men’s basketball team lost in the Elite Eight, the ASU baseball team added to Wildcat fans’ woes, taking the rubber game of the series between the two rivals, 8-1.

The No. 8 Sun Devils (18-6, 2-1 Pac-10) lost the weekend opener, but came back to win on Saturday and Sunday to take the opening Pac-10 series of the season from the No. 16 Wildcats (17-7, 1-2 Pac-10).

Kramer Champlin kicked things off with the Friday night start.

The junior transfer pitched into the seventh inning with a one-run lead but left the game with Wildcats on first and second base.

“I felt good; I felt like my stuff was working,” Champlin said. “Just caught a couple bad breaks.”

Junior relief pitcher Joseph Lopez allowed both inherited runners to score with the second run crossing home plate after an error by the pitcher.

UA added single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to extend its lead to three and secure the 5-2 opening night win.

Champlin (3-1) took the hard luck loss despite giving up just two earned runs and striking out six.

“I thought Kramer gave us a great Friday night start,” ASU coach Tim Esmay said. “He did a heck of a job. We gave them a lot of freebies — they scored a couple of their runs without swinging the bat.”

UA sophomore pitcher Kurt Heyer (4-1) kept the Sun Devil offense off-balance most of the night.

The Wildcat ace threw 131 pitches, striking out eight while pitching into the eighth inning.

The two ASU runs came on an RBI triple from sophomore designated hitter Joey DeMichele and a solo home run off the bat of senior outfielder Matt Newman.

“We didn’t put together Sun Devil at-bats — every time I looked in the air there was a pop fly up there and that’s not the way we’re taught to hit,” Newman said. “Sure I had a home run, but you think he cares about a solo home run? We need guys on base. That’s how the Sun Devils play baseball.”

The team responded Saturday in a convincing way.

ASU jumped on the Wildcats early to the tune of four runs in the second inning.

Senior catcher Xorge Carrillo provided the big hit with a two-run double down the left field line.

“I was seeing the ball well,” Carrillo said. “I was trying to do too much the first month of the season. It made it a bit special that I was able to help the team and the pitchers against UA.”

Carrillo finished his night 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

Supplied with a comfortable cushion, ASU sophomore ace Brady Rodgers (3-1) kept the Wildcats at bay through seven innings of two-hit, one-run baseball.

“Having the lead was huge — it puts all the pressure on them and makes them try to battle back against us in Packard, which is almost impossible to do,” Rodgers said. “My pitch count was supposed to be 80, but I was in a groove so coach had the confidence to keep me in.”

Lopez and junior closer Mitchell Lambson, who both gave up runs Friday, held UA scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings to give ASU the 5-1 victory.

“When they come to the ballpark, they know they are going to get the ball again,” Esmay said. “It’s a fresh start, like a hitter coming back after a bad day at the plate.”

Sunday saw an epic pitcher’s duel for the deciding game of the series. In ASU’s corner, sophomore Jake Barrett. For UA, sophomore Tyler Hale.

Both pitchers gave up an early run but settled down in the middle innings to keep the game tied at one.

The Sun Devils finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a two-run homer from junior catcher Austin Barnes.

“I got a curveball, I was looking for a fastball away,” Barnes said. “He had been throwing away all game but I saw one just floating up there and I took a cut at it.”

Barrett (2-2) retired one batter in the eighth before being lifted in favor of freshman reliever Trevor Williams.

“I went out there trying to attack the zone early with my fastball and relying on my defense behind me,” Barrett said. “I was trying to get ahead early and make their batters work from behind.”

ASU added five runs in the eighth with the help of two errors from the UA defense.

Lambson pitched the ninth for the third consecutive game, striking out the final two Wildcat batters to secure the series win.

“The Pac-10 is won on Sundays,” Esmay said. “They are crucial because you either have a chance to win the series, sweep it or just get one. Our guys played a tough ballgame and came out with the right focus.”

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