SCOTTSDALE — The Pac-12 baseball tournament got underway on Tuesday by kicking things off with some rivalry action between No. 5 Arizona State and No. 8 Arizona. In the fifth meeting of the two teams this season, Arizona was able to walk away with a 12-3 win in the opening round before advancing on to face Oregon State on day two.
“It was a good day for all of us,” starting pitcher Aiden May said. “Bats were good, pitching was good. We held them. It was just a good day overall.”
The Wildcats got things started early in the top of the first inning. As the second one up to bat, senior Nik McClaughry crushed a home run over the fence in left field to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead. Juniors Chase Davis and Kiko Romero followed in the lineup where they were walked before a two-run RBI triple from Emilio Corona pushed the lead to 3-0 Wildcats with only one out.
Before the Sun Devils were able to close out the inning, freshman Mason White had a pop-fly to right field, opening up the opportunity for Corona to cross home plate and extend the lead to 4-0 early.
“Our message was just let’s play the first inning,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said. “That’s all we can worry about. Just win the first inning and keep winning. To put it simply, we are in the playoffs right now.”
May said, “After that first inning where we scored some runs, it just gave me all the cushion in the world to go on the attack. I didn’t need to push defensively and I just found my groove and I started rolling with it.”
In the top of the second, the Wildcats kept the momentum going with another solo HR, this one coming from DH sophomore Garen Caulfield to give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.
When Hale was asked about why Caulfield was named the designated hitter, he said there were a couple reasons behind his decision.
“[Caulfield] has had really good at-bats against Arizona State,” Hale said. “It was a gut feeling, and there was also some scientific stuff that we looked at.”
After Davis was walked once again to start the top of the third inning, Josh Hansell was pulled from the mound for the Sun Devils and replaced by Matt Tieding. Corona was able to triple once again, this time on a line drive just inside the foul line to left field, sneaking it into the far corner. After waving Davis home, the Sun Devils were able to tag him out as he tried to slide in to home, keeping the score at 5-0 throughout the top of the third inning.
Going into the top of the fourth inning, the Sun Devils changed pitchers once again, sending in Will Rogers to the bump. Despite the pitching change, the Wildcats kept things going, putting up four additional runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 9-0 lead and force another pitching change before the Sun Devils were able to close things out.
Arizona State looked like they were going to be able to drive in some runs and start getting the bats going in the bottom of the fifth, but its hope quickly disintegrated. The Wildcats were able to get out of the inning without giving up any runs, despite having the bases loaded at one point with only one out.
The Sun Devils were finally able to get the bats going in the bottom of the sixth, with an RBI single finally erasing the goose egg on the board and saving them from the risk of being run ruled. It would still be a short inning, as the Wildcats only gave up the one run.
Opening up the top of the seventh inning, white had a single to third base before senior Tony Bullard was hit by a pitch to put two on with no outs. Sophomore Tommy Splaine slapped down a base hit to center field to drive in another run, making it 10-1 Arizona and forcing the Sun Devils to have another mound meeting and change of pitchers.
The next batter up following the change was Caulfield, who put down a bunt for an RBI single, stretching the lead to 11-1. Junior Mac Bingham followed, where he was walked to load the bases with no outs. Following a pop-fly on the next at bat, the Wildcats were able to send Splaine across home to push it to 12-1 before the inning came to a close.
Going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Arizona had a pitching change, putting in Junior Brandon Zastrow in place of May. May finished the game with a final stat line of four hits, one run, one error and an ERA of 6.62.
“May led the way with a great outing,” Hale said.
Hale said May was only pulled from the game because he was starting to cramp up, but they had faith in Zastrow taking over to lead the way.
“Unfortunately I ran into a calf cramp,” May said. “But besides that, I felt great out there.”
Zastrow opened up the game giving up back-to-back base hits. Johnny Weaver followed it up with a two-run RBI double, finally helping to move traffic along the bases and get some offense going for the Sun Devils as they now trailed 12-3 before the Wildcats could bring the inning to a close.
Midway through the bottom of the eighth inning, the Wildcats had another pitching change, sending in freshman Casey Hintz to close out the remainder of the game and pick up the win.
The Wildcats will now prepare to face no. 2 Oregon State on Wednesday morning at 10am. The Beavers, who are 39-16 on the season, won each of the previous three meetings between the two teams earlier this year. Junior Cam Waltey has been named as the starter for the game against the Beavers.
“They’ve got good speed, and they beat us up pretty good up in Corvallis,” Hale said. “We were ahead twice in the ninth and got beat. So, it should be fun. Our guys are excited about it.”