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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats outlast Devils

TEMPE — Strong pitching and slick defense gave the No. 17 Arizona baseball team its first win over rival No. 1 ASU since May 2007 in a 4-2 nail-biter Tuesday night in Tempe.

“”If (ASU) were ranked 25th or 50th, it would still mean a great deal to beat them at home against a hostile crowd,”” said freshman second baseman Robert Refsnyder. “”Any way we can beat ASU, it’s a great feeling.””

The Wildcats quickly found themselves in a hole Tuesday night before the first pitch was even thrown.

Freshman Cory Bernard, who had a huge pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth inning in Sunday’s win over Washington State, severely hurt his arm in the bullpen as he was warming up to start the game for Arizona (27-9, 8-5 Pacific 10 conference play).

Minutes before the game, head coach Andy Lopez was without a starting pitcher and handed the ball to redshirt junior Daniel Workman.

“”It was kind of a spur of the moment thing 20 minutes before the game,”” Workman said. “”That’s just one thing we always prepare for. They’ve had me out of the (bullpen), and I’ve been prepped to go ahead and get hot quick.””

The lanky right-hander stepped up to give the Wildcats 6 1/3 innings of work, allowing just two runs and giving Arizona a boost of confidence against one of the Pac-10’s best offenses.

With the high energy palpable at ASU’s Packard Stadium, the young Arizona team couldn’t get down mentally facing its biggest rival and No. 1 team in the country.

Down 2-0 with one out in the fourth, senior Rafael Valenzuela took a pitch to the leg and wasted no time stealing second to give the Wildcats a scoring opportunity.

After right fielder Steve Selsky walked, Refsnyder perfectly placed a groundball through the right side to score Valenzuela and cut the Sun Devil lead in half.

“”It was a hit and run, and I was fortunate to come through. It was a good feeling,”” Refsynder said.

With Selsky at third base, freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean laced a sacrifice fly to left field to knot things up at 2-2.

With two outs, redshirt sophomore Bobby Brown dug in and launched a ball off the center-field wall to score Refsnyder, and Arizona took a 3-2 lead.

Meanwhile, Workman had settled into a groove, mixing off-speed pitches and painting his fastball to keep the Sun Devils off balance.

“”I was able to establish my off-speed pitches for some strikes and build off that,”” Workman said. “”Any time you can throw a pitch for a strike and establish it, a hitter has to respect it.””

Workman retired his final 12 hitters consecutively and handed the one-run lead to the Arizona bullpen.

Freshman Alex Mejia is known for his great glove, and he again proved why he has had no problems taking over the starting shortstop role by making a clutch barehanded play in the ninth, and soon after, fully extending to his left on a hot shot up the middle to prevent a rally situation for ASU (30-4, 9-4).

“”Boy, Alex Mejia put on a show tonight at short(stop),”” Lopez said.

“”(Mejia) made every play he possibly could. He executed it, grabbing the ball, throwing off-balance,”” Workman added. “”He did it all tonight.””

Sophomore Bryce Bandilla along with freshmen Augey Bill and Nick Cunningham kept the vaunted ASU offense at two until the last out was made, and the Wildcats ended their five-game losing streak to the Sun Devils with the 4-2 win.

There were doubts on how the youthful Wildcats would react to the intensity of the ASU rivalry. For Lopez, all the doubts were put to rest from the moment he saw his team step off the bus.

“”I saw them get off the bus, and I saw them stretch, saw the look in their eye and I thought we’d be OK,”” Lopez said.

“”On the road is a tough place to go, especially a place like this with all the adversity and the rivalry,”” Lopez added. “”Our freshmen are very young but they’re getting older by the minute.””

 

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