By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
In sports, there is a certain karma that can help or kill your team. It's called momentum.
After defeating New Mexico State 10-8 in the final game of a brief two-game, the UA baseball team (12-10-1) now has plenty of positive momentum going into Pacific 10 Conference play which for UA begins Friday in the first of a three-game series with Arizona State.
The Aggies got one run in the first when Jake Kershner stole home after UA catcher Chris Cooper attempted to pick off Jorge Perez at second.
The Wildcats wasted no time putting runs of their own on the scoreboard. In the home half of the first, Russ Brown and Scott Kidd led off with back-to-back singles. Jeff Gjerde walked to load the bases, then NMSU starter Jason Rakers walked Chris Cooper to score Brown. Diego Rico singled in Kidd, and John Powers two-RBI single scored Gjerde and Cooper. Jake Thrower lashed an RBI single and scored one batter later when Russ Brown tripled. Rakers got Kidd to fly out to stop the barage.
Despite scoring 10 runs, the Wildcats left 11 runners on base.
"We left a lot of men in scoring position," UA head coach Jerry Kindall said. "We need to get those guys across the plate."
Rakers (1-4) took the loss for the 10-6 Aggies. UA starter Jason Ford was relieved in the Aggies' half of the third. Reliever Shawn Barrington pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits to earn the victory.
The Wildcats got another run in the sixth when Cooper led off the innings with his second home run of the year.
Despite being down 8-2, the Aggies refused to roll over and die.The Aggies scored four runs in the seventh. All four were charged to Barrington who was relived by Ben White. White pitched 1 1/3 innings but was pulled in favor of Jason Frierott after he allowed the Aggies to pull to within one run, 9-8. Frierott closed the game to earn his third save of the year.
Not known as a long ball team, the Wildcats relied on their short game to tally an insurance run in the eighth. John Powers sacrificed Cooper and Rico around and Erik Mattern pulled off the suicide squeeze to score Cooper.
"We've been in every situation possible," Cooper said. "Nothing should surprise us, we're well prepared."
"We've managed to hang on," Kindall said.
"The players have every right to feel good about themselves."
Last season heading into their first series with ASU, the Wildcats were 3-21, a far cry from this season's mark.
"Last year there was a doubt, but this year we know we can beat them," Cooper said. "I'm more
anxious to play them this year."
Cooper had confidence in the Wildcats' chances against the Sun Devils, but the soft-spoken Kidd said everyone will have to wait and see.
"We'll see when it comes around on Friday," he said. "If we clutch up, we'll get some wins."
Pat McMillin will go to the mound for the UA.
The three-game series will take place at Sancet and will bein at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The two teams will then travel up the I-10 to Tempe for the final two games.
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