Bordow: All the pressure is on ASU, freshman - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Bordow: All the pressure is on ASU, freshman

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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2008 11:43 pm | Updated: 12:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It’s down to one game, nine innings, 27 outs, and who is Arizona State starting today?

A freshman.

It’s down to one game, nine innings, 27 outs, and who is Arizona State starting today?

A freshman.

Slideshow: ASU baseball vs. Fresno St.

Fresno State avoids elimination, beats Arizona State 8-6

We don’t know which freshman — Seth Blair or Matt Newman — but we know he’ll have butterflies the size of pterodactyls in his stomach.

And that can’t be a comforting thought for the Sun Devils.

ASU had several chances Sunday to avoid the mess it’s gotten itself into.

The Sun Devils left 12 runners on base in their 8-6 loss to No. 4 seed Fresno State. And when starter Josh Satow was hammered for six runs in 3 2/3 innings, the expected victory lap inside Packard Stadium turned into today’s white-knuckle affair.

Make no mistake. All the pressure is on ASU.

The Sun Devils are playing at home.

They’re expected to win the super regional.

And, let’s not forget, they were ranked No. 1 in the preseason. Anything less than a trip to the College World Series will be viewed as a massive disappointment.

Fresno State, on the other hand, will be loose as a goose. The Bulldogs weren’t supposed to survive the regional at Long Beach State, much less take ASU to the limit in this three-game set.

And the Bulldogs’ confidence will be sky-high given the manner in which they won Sunday.

They trailed 5-2 after 3 1/2 innings, and starter Clayton Allison was being hit harder than a pinata.

But ASU couldn’t get the one hit that might have taken the life out of Fresno State. It left the bases loaded in the third inning, two men on in the fourth inning and the bases loaded in the eighth inning when Ike Davis grounded into a fielder’s choice.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, took advantage of their opportunities.

In the bottom of the fourth (Fresno State was the designated home team), center fielder Gavin Hedstrom hit a grand slam off reliever Stephen Sauer to take a 7-5 lead, and the mood at Packard suddenly became as stifling as the nighttime heat.

ASU closed to 7-6 on Ryan Sontag’s RBI single in the sixth inning, but Fresno State closer Brandon Burke shut the Devils down over the final 3 2/3 innings, and Devils’ fans had to put a hold on their Omaha reservations.

The overriding question today is which team’s ravaged pitching staff will be able to put in nine innings of quality work.

ASU went through four pitchers Sunday, and senior Tommy Rafferty, who has been invaluable out of the bullpen, threw three innings. Coach Pat Murphy took a calculated gamble in using Rafferty in a game the Devils were losing and didn’t have to win.

Now, there has to be some question whether Rafferty even will be available today.

Fresno State isn’t in much better shape. Junior Justin Miller is normally the No. 3 starter, but he pitched two innings Saturday. And it’s doubtful Burke could come back after his long stint Sunday.

In all likelihood, today’s game will be what was once affectionately called, “Sunday in the Six-Pac.”

No pitching. Lots of runs. And bring a seat cushion. The game will last the better part of four hours.

There’s not much at stake for ASU.

Win, and the Sun Devils will play in the CWS for the second straight year.

That hasn’t happened since 1993 and 1994.

Win, and they’ll travel to Omaha for the third time in four years.

That hasn’t occurred since 1981, 1983 and 1984.

But if they lose, all the accomplishments, all the victories, all the glowing reviews will be forgotten.

One game. Nine innings. Twenty-seven outs.

A freshman starter.


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