Pac-10 Race Tightens After ASU’s Sweep Of Cal

April 26, 2011
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A Rundown Of The Weekend In Berkley…

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By CB360 Contributor Kevin Kennedy

The 6th ranked Arizona State baseball team picked up its second straight Pac-10 series sweep by taking down #15 California in a very eventful weekend three games in Berkeley.

ASU players after their sweep of Cal in Berkley

The series featured a 17-inning marathon on Thursday, two complete game shutouts by ASU pitchers on Friday and Saturday and two Cal coaches ejected for arguing separate balk calls in the series finale.

Arizona State (29-9, 11-4 Pac-10) has now won six straight games since being swept at Oregon State two weekends ago. Cal (24-12, 9-6 Pac-10) was ahead of ASU in the conference standings coming into this weekend.

Thursday’s 17-inning epic was the second longest game in the history of both baseball programs. The game was a pitchers duel between ASU sophomore ace Brady Rodgers, and the Bears ace junior Erik Johnson. Both pitchers got no decisions.

Rodgers lasted 7.1 innings allowing two earned on four hits while striking out four and walking three. The three walks increased Rodgers’ season total four, while his ERA currently sits a 2.85.

Johnson went 9.0 innings for Cal, allowing two earned on eight hits, with two strikeouts and three walks. Johnson’s season ERA is 2.04- more than two points lower than his 4.09 ERA in 2010.

Thursday’s game went into extra innings tied up at 2-2. ASU took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th only to see Cal rally in the bottom half of the inning to extend the game. The same thing happened in the 13th when Cal tied it again at 4-4 with ASU blowing its second save chance of the game.

The Sun Devils struck for two run in the top of the 17th to take a 6-4 lead. This time ASU was able to hang on. Freshman Mark Lambson pitched 3.0 shutout innings to finish the game and get the win.

Both teams used four relievers in the contest. ASU sophomore Alex Blackford pitched 4.0 innings of relief, and Cal’s freshman Louie Lechich took the loss pitching 3.1 innings of relief.

The 5 hour and 12 minute game saw the two teams combine for 29 hits, and 28 runners left of base.

In Friday’s game both coaches got what they wanted out of their starting pitchers- enough innings to rest both teams’ tired bullpens. Both starting pitchers went the distance in the Devils’ 5-0 win.

Kramer Champlin

ASU junior Kramer Champlin was spectacular, giving the Devils’ their best pitching performance of the season to date by throwing a complete game shutout. He allowed five hits, all singles, one walk, and five strikeouts. Cal did not advance a runner past second base. Champlin finished the game by retiring the last seven batters he faced. The junior improved to 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA, which is the  lowest among ASU’s weekend starters. It was also his second complete game of the season.

Cal sophomore Justin Jones allowed five earned on nine hits with two walks and no strikeouts. ASU scored two runs off Jones with three straight singles and a sac fly in the second inning. Back-to-back doubles in the sixth gave ASU a 3-0 lead. ASU scored again in the sixth when Riccio Torrez stole third and scored on a throwing error by Cal junior catcher Chad Krist giving ASU a 4-0 lead. They added their fifth and final run in the eighth.

On Saturday sophomore starter Jake Barrett went the distance in another dominating performance as ASU shut out the Bears 6-0.

The highlights of the game were Cal head coach David Esquer and assistant head coach Dan Hubbs being ejected after heated arguments with umpires following separate balk calls by first base umpire Tim Vessey.

Cal head coach Dave Esquer argues a balk call.

Esquer was ejected in the third inning when starting pitcher junior Dixon Anderson was called for a balk with ASU runners at first and third. The run gave ASU a 2-0 lead. Esquer came out and began yelling at Vessey before being thrown out by the umpire. Before leaving the field, Esquer voiced his displeasure to home plate umpire Tony Norris as well.

In the sixth Anderson was called again for a balk with runners at the corners allowing ASU to take a 3-0 lead. Hubbs came out to argue the call with Vessey, but was relatively calm compared to Esquer.

Three batters later after Anderson was taken out of the game after allowing a solo home run to Zach Wilson, extending ASU’s lead to 5-0. Hubbs was thrown out after having words with Vessey. He then continued the argument and had to be restrained by another umpire.

The fireworks overshadowed the dominant performance by Barrett.  The ASU sophomore allowed five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He improved to 5-3 with a 4.55 ERA in his first career complete game as a Sun Devil.

Cal did get two doubles in the game but for the second straight contest failed to get a runner past second. Going back to the 13th inning of Thursday’s game, Cal has now been held scoreless for 22 consecutive innings.

It was the first time since May of 2009 that ASU posted back-to-back shutouts. It was an overall impressive weekend for the ASU pitching staff. The three starters went a combined 25.1 innings allowing just two earned runs.

The Sun Devils seem to lack a dominant ace pitcher, something they had the last two years with Mike Leake in 2009, and Seth Blair in 2010.  The staff ERA currently sits at 3.13.  The 2010 squad finished with a 3.32 ERA.

If ASU ends up making the tournament because their appeal to the NCAA likely will not be settled by the time the tournament selections are made, postseason pitching experience could be a key. None of ASU’s current weekend starters started any of the 2010 tournament games.

Cal has a much-improved pitching staff compared to the two previous years. Already posting eight shutouts, the team ERA 2.85 compared to 4.91 last season. The Bears’ weekend starters have all lowered their ERA in 2011 at least point from last season.

Senior Kevin Miller joins Johnson, Jones, and Anderson to give the Bears four quality starters for the rest of the season, and likely into the NCAA Tournament.

This weekend was a big blow for Cal’s Pac-10 Championship hopes. They came into the ASU series just a half game behind leader Oregon State. The Beavers lead the conference with a 10-2 (.883) Pac-10 mark, ASU is next at 11-4 (.733), followed by UCLA at 10-5 (.667) and Cal at 9-6 (.600).

The Golden Bears still have to play at Oregon State, and at UCLA. Along with home series’ against Oregon, and Stanford.

 

This week ASU will visit rival Arizona in a non-conference game before hosting Stanford for three games beginning on Friday. The Stanford series begins a eight game home stand for the Sun Devils

Cal will play at Stanford in a non-conference game between the two rivals before beginning a three game series at home against Oregon. After the Oregon series Cal does not play in Berkeley until the final weekend of the season.

 

Baseball Express

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