By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
When Arizona and Arizona State get together, the rivalry is heated. Even the fans get into it. At Sancet Field Friday, Sun Devil coach Pat Murphy dove for the ground to avoid a scorching foul ball, and a Wildcat fan, referring to Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall, quipped, "Jerry would've caught it, Murphy."
The Arizona baseball team (13-11-1 overall, 1-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference South) and ASU (17-5, 1-1) split the first two games of a three-game series 9-8 and 5-2. They played a rubber match in Tempe yesterday that started at 1 p.m. It was the first conference series of the season for both teams.
On a team without a clear cut go-to-guy, Chris Cooper was the latest hero to step up for the Wildcats.
In Friday's game, the Wildcats, who found themselves down 8-3 at one point, battled back to an 8-8 tie going into their half of the ninth. Jeff Gjerde singled to left to open the inning. He then took second on a balk by ASU reliever Josh Deak-man (0-1). With a 2-2 count, Cooper roped a double past a diving Randy Betten to score Gjerde and lift the UA to a 9-8 victory in front of 1,953 fans, the largest crowd at Sancet this season.
"We battled our butts off," Cooper said. "I'll say it again, our team can play with anyone. We proved that today."
Arizona was given a big boost by the effective relief of Kirt Kishita and Matt Hendren. Kishita (1-0) took the mound in the top of the fourth and pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and allowing just one run. Hendren (1-3) pitched the final 2 1/3, surrendering just one hit.
The victory did come at a price, however. Shortstop Erik Mattern dislocated his left shoulder sliding head first into third base. He is expected to sit out at least three weeks.
ASU struck back with a 5-2 victory Saturday behind the pitching of sophomore Kaipo Spenser (4-1). Spenser struck out a career-high 15 batters and scattered five hits in earning the complete-game victory. Ryan Frace went the distance for the Wildcats but was victimized by four UA errors. He pitched eight innings, gave up eight hits and had six strikeouts, but fell to 3-3 on the year.
Arizona will be back at home Friday at 2:30 p.m. to face UCLA.
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