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No. 9 Arizona ready again for fading Devils

JOSH FIELDS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior Trevor Crowe knocks a pitch into the outfield during the Feb. 15 7-6 win against ASU. The Wildcats will battle ASU again 4pm today at Sancet Stadium.
By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
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When ASU invaded Sancet Stadium Feb. 15, they entered with the confidence stemming from a 9-2 record against the Wildcats in the last three years.

Fourteen innings, five hours and 13 minutes later, junior first baseman Jordan Brown showed how much that mattered this year with a two-run walk-off home run to give No. 9 Arizona (9-1) a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Sun Devils. ASU (6-8) will be back for another non-conference battle this afternoon at 4 in Sancet Stadium, the start of a 12-game homestand for the Wildcats.

"Any win against your rival is big, but with the history of success we've had against them I think it was important we got off to a good start this year," said junior outfielder Trevor Crowe.

ASU enters this matchup riding a five-game losing streak and having dropped out of the national rankings after being ranked No. 11 last week. Over the weekend, No. 1 Tulane swept the Sun Devils, pushing them out of the Top 25 for the first time since the start of the 2000 season.

"Baseball's a humbling game, and I'm sure they're going to get hot pretty soon," head coach Andy Lopez said. "It happens to everybody. It's just a time where I'm sure they're going to work their way out of it. I will not be shocked to see them battling for a Pac-10 spot at the end of the season."

Freshman David Coulon (1-0) gets the nod after pitching two scoreless innings Sunday in a 7-0 loss at Texas Pan-American, a trip in which Arizona finished 2-1.

"(Freshman) Eric (Berger) started last week, and we wanted to give David a chance to start against a Pac-10 opponent and give those guys an opportunity to do it before Pac-10 games," Lopez said. "We look at it as an opportunity to start David and see how he goes against them."

After struggling with his control at times in his first outing of the year, Coulon has impressed in his last two starts.

He gave up two hits Sunday in his two innings after allowing just three hits in five innings while striking out seven in a 10-0 victory over Northern Colorado on Feb. 13.

"I'm just going to go out there and throw strikes and mix up my pitches real well, and try to get my offense back in the dugout as soon as possible, so they can get an offensive pace," Coulon said.

Crowe enters the series hot after a week in which he won the Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week for the second time in his career.

Crowe led the Wildcats with a .529 batting average, nine hits, eight RBIs and six walks over the week. He also scored five runs, hit two home runs, and recorded a 1.059 slugging percentage and .652 on-base percentage.

"It's humbling. It's a good honor," said Crowe, who also holds a team-high 18-game hitting streak dating back to last year. "It speaks about not only myself, but my team's accomplishments this week."

After the Crowe-led offense outscored UTPA 26-5 in the first two games, the Wildcats were shut out and held under 10 hits for the first time all season during the finale. Lopez said his team played well over the weekend, noting that it is unrealistic for a team to go 56-0.

"Of course losing isn't something you want to do," Berger said. "But I guess it's a reality check for us and we just need to go out and play the game more soundly. We're getting to the point where we can go up against anyone."

Even with Arizona's fast start, high expectations and ASU's drop from the national rankings, anything can happen when these two rivals get together.

"Whenever you play a good team, and Arizona State's a good team, you expect the type of game that you saw last week where you're battling into the late innings," Lopez said. "I'm shocked if it's not a close ballgame."

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