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Baseball drops fourth straight series at home after 6-5 loss

Devils to face intrastate rival UA tonight

 by Matt Schubert
 published on Monday, April 12, 2004

ASU right fielder Travis Buck gets a hit during the Sun Devils´ loss to Oral Roberts on Saturday at Packard Stadium./issues/sports/657517
ASU right fielder Travis Buck gets a hit during the Sun Devils´ loss to Oral Roberts on Saturday at Packard Stadium.
 

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Head coach Pat Murphy did all he could to try to turn things around for the ASU baseball team during a 6-5 loss to Oral Roberts on Saturday.

Murphy made changes to the lineup, providing the 29th different batting order this season. He also substituted new players in positions that had been claimed by the same person all season. But in the end, it just equaled another home loss for ASU.

"I don't want to candy-coat what's going on," Murphy said. "We're a bunch of guys playing scared right now. We're not playing with confidence, and we're not playing with passion. Everybody's waiting for everybody else."

With Saturday's defeat to the Golden Eagles (26-7) -- which included a 45-minute rain delay -- the No. 23 Sun Devils (23-11, 3-6 Pac-10) hit a new low, losing four straight home series in the last four weekends.

A frustrated Murphy shook things up in the middle of the game after the offense failed to move a runner past second base in the first four innings. Taken out were freshmen Colin Curtis and Joe Persichina, and inserted were sophomore Nick Cadena and junior Chris Cook. Yet, the biggest substitution came in the ninth inning when Murphy decided to pinch-hit freshman Zechry Zinicola for junior pre-season All-American Jeff Larish, who has struggled at the plate the majority of the season.

Zinicola's ground ball scored the runner from third to put ASU within a run of the Eagles at 6-5. But with two outs and a man on second, junior Joel Bocchi popped out to end the game.

Saturday's loss was the team's fourth defeat in five games, completing a stretch of four series in which the Sun Devils have gone a combined 4-8, the worst stretch since 1987.

After starting off the season 19-3 against one of the most difficult schedules in the country, ASU has fallen fast. With this weekend's series loss, the Sun Devils are likely to fall out of the rankings for the first time since 2000, a string of 88 consecutive weeks.

"We chose to play this tough of a schedule, that's no excuse to lose," Murphy said. "Right now, I don't think we're mentally tough enough to play nine innings."

In the game, the Sun Devils made several key mistakes including a base running blunder in the sixth inning that took away a golden opportunity with the bases loaded, as well as an error and a mental mistake on a small pop up on the third base line from senior starter Jeff Mousser that cost ASU the last of three runs scored in the second inning.

On Friday night, junior Jason Urquidez followed up last weekend's stellar performance with another gem in ASU's 5-1 win. Over seven innings of work, the junior college transfer held the Eagles at bay for seven innings. It was the second straight start in which Urquidez has eclipsed the 120-pitch mark, throwing 123 pitches for six strikeouts and only five hits.

"I'm definitely finding that rhythm," Urquidez said. "I'm always going to give it my all for as many pitches as it takes. If you make pitches and you have bad mechanics, it's going to affect you. But if you make a lot of pitches and you keep with your mechanics, it feels the same."

In what appears to be the strongest one-two combo for the ASU pitching staff, Zinicola came in to close out the game in the final two innings. Junior Tuffy Gosewisch once again had a big Friday night as well, going 2-for-3 with a home run that put ASU ahead 2-0.

Devils face UA

Intrastate rival UA will be in Tempe tonight to face the Sun Devils in a one-game, non-conference match up featuring two teams that have failed to meet expectations.

For UA, both junior Jeff Van Houten and sophomore Brad Boyer have struggled to repeat last year's offensive performances. Likewise, the Wildcat pitching staff has also struggled with consistency. UA (16-14-1, 5-4 Pac-10) salvaged the last game of its weekend series to UCLA with a 9-5 victory after dropping the first two.

ASU may opt with sophomore Brett Bordes to start against the Wildcats. In the two teams' last meeting, Bordes shut out the Wildcats for six innings while posting a career-best 10 strikeouts.

The game is the last in a 26-game homestand for the Sun Devils and will give ASU a chance to turn things around before heading to Los Angeles for a three-game set against UCLA.

"I'm done patting them on the back, it's time to kick their ass," Murphy said.

Reach the reporter at matthew.schubert@asu.edu.



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