SCOTTSDALE — Stanford continued its power surge with five home runs, including two apiece by Kody Huff and Drew Bowser, to increase its win streak to 14 games in the 15-8 victory Thursday night over Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.
The Wildcats (36-22) will play ASU (26-31) at 3 p.m. Friday at Scottsdale Stadium in an elimination game. It will be the rubber match for the teams this season after each team beat the other twice.
It will be only the third postseason meeting between the rivals, first in the inaugural Pac-12 tournament. The teams split in the 1976 College World Series with Arizona eliminating ASU in the second meeting in Omaha, Neb., that year before beating Eastern Michigan for its first national title.
The winner will advance to play Stanford at 9 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal game.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I mean, we have to play (and) we’ve got to win to continue to play in the tournament,” said Arizona coach Chip Hale, whose team won two of three games against the Sun Devils at Hi Corbett Field from April 22-24.
“These guys have played in enough tournaments in their lives. They’ll be ready to play, and beating ASU, It’ll be fun to play our rival in this tournament. There should be a good turnout.”
Hale said he will start right-hander T.J. Nichols (5-4, 5.47 ERA).
The Sun Devils, the lowest seeded team in the tournament at No. 8, lost to No. 1 Stanford 6-3 in the opening round Wednesday and eliminated No. 4 Oregon 4-2 on Thursday. ASU snapped a five-game losing streak with the victory.
Arizona, the No. 5 seed, defeated Oregon 8-6 on Wednesday to set up Thursday’s game with the Cardinal.
Arizona right fielder Tanner O’Tremba downplayed Friday’s elimination matchup between the two rivals.
“It’s just another game,” said O’Tremba, who was 3 for 5 with a home run Thursday. “We’ve got another game tomorrow, just another one — 1-0.”
Stanford has to win only once to advance to Sunday’s championship at 7 p.m. Either Arizona or ASU must beat Stanford twice on Saturday to move on to the title game.
Stanford, the top home run-hitting team in the Pac-12 with 91, is a different team than the one that was swept at Hi Corbett Field from March 19-21.
The Cardinal were 9-8 overall and 1-5 in the conference after that sweep by Arizona. They had only 20 home runs through 17 games at that point.
They belted 71 in the last 36 games to finish 21-9 in regular-season conference games. They are 39-14 overall.
Stanford’s early home run barrage Thurdsay against left-handed starter Garrett Irvin (4-4) gave the Cardinal a 3-0 lead through its half of the third inning.
“They had a good game plan,” Hale said. “They really used the other side of the field on his fastball and some of his offspeed stuff they pulled, so they did a really good job. This is a really hot team we played.”
Hoff and Bowser, who each finished with four RBIs, hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning and Brett Barrera smacked a solo home run in the third.
Arizona responded with a three-run rally in the third inning against right-hander Alex Williams, who entered the game leading the Pac-12 with a 1.67 ERA.
Nic McClaughry and O’Tremba singled and Chase Davis walked to load the bases with one out before Tony Bullard battled on a 1-2 count with numerous foul balls including one to his crotch, after which he had to walk off the pain before stepping out of the box.
Bullard lined a single just past the second baseman to score McClaughry and O’Tremba before Noah Turley hit a single to score Davis to tie the game at 3.
Stanford regained the lead in the fourth after It rallied with two outs. After Huff led off with a walk, the Cardinal flew out twice before consecutive singles by Eddie Park and Adam Crampton loaded the bases.
Brock Jones followed with a single that scored Huff and Park to put Stanford ahead 5-3.
A three-run rally by Stanford in the fifth, highlighted by Huff’s second home run of the game, 10th of the season, increased the lead to 8-3.
Irvin was relieved by Chandler Murphy after the home run. He finished with 10 hits allowed with two strikeouts and a walk in his 4 1/3 innings.
O’Tremba, who took the baseball to the face when Huff’s home run bounced off a fixture in right field, connected on his eighth home run of the season in the fifth to cut the lead to 8-4.
A five-run sixth inning for Stanford behind Bowser’s three-run home run helped the Cardinal pull away.
Stanford finished with 21 hits (a season-high allowed by Arizona) with seven batters tallying at least two hits. Barrera (3 for 5), Huff (3 for 5), Bowser (3 for 6), Park (3 for 4) and Crampton (3 for 5) each tallied three hits. Park and Crampton are the Nos. 8 and 9 batters in the lineup.
Ironic that Stanford’s home run and RBI leader this season — Carter Graham, who has 19 home runs and 66 RBIs — finished 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in this game.
Arizona had 14 hits led by Bullard’s 3-for-4 performance with three RBIs.
“Offensively, we have no issues,” Hale said. “It was a great offensive performance against a really good team.”
Hale was asked about what he believes the atmosphere will be like at Scottsdale Stadium with Arizona playing ASU. Many Arizona fans who either live in the Phoenix area or made the drive from Tucson occupied the park Thursday night.
“We’ll see. Hopefully we didn’t scare anybody away,” Hale said with a laugh coming off the loss to Stanford.
“I think our team is really good at flushing the day before,” O’Tremba added. “We just move on. We’re a resilient group.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.