Friday First Takes - The "ASU-games-are-beginning-to-be-no-fun" Edition

Their games are over with quicker than a Politicians For Ethics role call.

This ASU team just keeps pile-driving people, especially the games I've been to. I've now seen the Sun Devils beat Vanderbilt 18-6 and today they obliterated USC 16-5 in front of a sellout crowd at Packard Stadium.

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(Pat Murphy and Chad Kreuter share a light moment before the game got ugly)

Improving to 23-1, tonight was Arizona State's 13th game where they've reached double-digits in the scoring column. And of those 10 where they didn't, four of those they either shut the opponent out or held them to one run. This team is still scary good, as I found out again tonight.

First to a quick sweep of the national goings-ons:

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THREE UP---
Those things in college baseball that deserve the loudest shout across the rooftops today.
1- Kentucky and Nebraska.
UK won at South Carolina 15-3.
NU won at Texas 14-4.
It was hard to single out just one of these teams. These are two teams that I had on my "Show Me" list going into the weekend and, well, sure enough I've been shown.

The Wildcats showed no freakin' fear at all. In fact, they laid the first "L" on Mike Cisco's ledger by blasting his offerings all over the place, plating 12 runs in the first three innings and never looking back. The Bat Cats did a great impression of the Cock bats by blasting five home run balls, including two by Marcus Nidiffer.

The Huskers, meanwhile, have become come-from-behind specialists. Give them credit for not freaking out after staking the Longhorns to a 4-0 lead after three innings in rowdy Austin. From there, NU's top six batters in the lineup went 8-for-16 to paste UT pitching. Jordan Danks, Brandon Belt and Kyle Russell went a combined 2-for-12 as Husker reliever Dan Jennings tossed 4.0 innings of no-hit work.

2- Other good "Show Me" performances.
- Cal squashed No. 5 Long Beach State 6-1 behind Tyson Ross' 8.0 innings of 5-hit, 8K work.
- Southern Miss edged No. 12 Rice 1-0 on a Ty Sutton solo shot and Barry Bowden's pitching.
- UCLA escaped Arizona 4-3 in 10 innings after Jermaine Curtis tripled and was sac flied in to win it.

3- The Barrys. Er, I mean... the Berrys
In the above mentioned USM win over Rice, the Eagle's Barry Bowden out-dueled Ryan Berry in one of the best-pitched games in college baseball this year. Bowden nearly went the distance (8.2inns) and struck out 10 with just four hits. Berry - with and "e" - went 8.1 innings, striking out 13 and also giving up just four hits. The only run of the game was scored when Trey Sutton torched a ball over the right field fence in the game's second at-bat.


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THREE DOWN---
Those things in college baseball that don't deserve the loudest shout across the rooftops today.
1- Ron Polk announcing his retirement.
I know this happened yesterday, but I didn't get the chance to add it to my Thursday Thoughts. What a freakin' bummer. I dig the guy. I've always liked his punk rock attitude toward the NCAA, saying things that other coaches love to hear him say because they don't have the cajones to say it themselves.

Oh and tonight, MSU beat Polk's former team, Georgia, 3-2 in 10 innings on a wild pitch.

2- The near-misses.
- Duke lost to No. 2 Miami in 10 innings. (Dennis Raben two-run double)
- Texas Tech lost to No. 8 Missouri 1-0. (Aaron Crow- 8.0inns, 2 hits)
- Santa Clara lost to No. 14 San Diego 1-0. (Brian Matusz 8Ks, CG, now 5-1)
- Liberty lost to No. 18 Coastal Carolina 5-3 in 11inns. (Five Flame Es and three Tommy Baldridge RBI did them in)

3- The Big 10 Network's season opener.
Ohio State lambasted Penn State 15-0.
Well this isn't exactly what the network had hoped for in their first ever baseball telecast. But give thumbs up for two things. 1) OSU playing this well. And 2) At least Mother Nature cooperated. While games within two hours of Columbus were getting cancelled because of rain and even show, this game was able to be played.


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WHAT I SAW AT PACKARD STADIUM---
USC - 000 030 020 - 5 11 2
ASU - 112 480 00x- 16 16 1

WP- Tommy Rafferty (4-0)
LP- Tommy Milone (3-2)

This wasn't Tommy Milone at his best. But this was another one of those ASU instructional series examples of how to demoralize teams in a quick fashion. The Devils put up runs in each of the first five innings on the way to a football-style 16-5 win.

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(Jason Kipnis gets congrats from Brett Wallace after another Sun Devil run has scored)

The Trojan chariot wheels came off in the four-run 4th inning, keyed by errant throws from SS to 3rd on a fielder's choice, Catcher to SS on a pickoff attempt and CF to the fan in the second row when Nick Buss attempted to throw out Brett Wallace who was streaking toward home. Three of the four runs were unearned.

Well, then again there was another set of wheels that came off in the 8-run 5th inning too. That barrage was highlighted by a bases-loaded, three-run double to the base of the wall below the scoreboard by Kiel Roling. The three pitchers USC used in the inning shot themselves in the foot by issuing five walks in the frame, all of which came around to score.

After that two-inning total of 12 runs, it was over. And I had to take off anyway. Because I had to drive into downtown Scottsdale to see...


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(Black Rebel Motorcycle Club playing in Scottsdale tonight. Yep, they wear black and they are rebels.)
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BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB---
Named after a motorcycle gang from the Marlon Brando movie "The Wild Ones", this band from San Francisco (great, now I know Kendall Rogers has stopped reading), played at the Martini Ranch. Good straightforward rock-n-roll with bass, drum and wire, pretty reminiscent of hard-driving 90s bands like Ride or The Stone Roses. Possibly played too many slow songs here and there, but the high energy stuff was deep, chest-thumpin' good. Very versatile musicians too, playing electric, bass and acoustic guitars throughout and a harmonica at the same time.

Check them out at www.blackrebelmotorcycleclub.com.

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JUST AS MURPH WOULD WANT IT---
On ASU coach Pat Murphy's trips out to the mound tonight, the Packard Stadium P.A. played Bruce Springsteen's "Prove it all night". Murph loves the Boss, even going so far as to quote him in press conferences at Rosenblatt.

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NOT A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK---
The first reliever tonight for USC was Jordan Hershiser, who came in for starter Milone and immediately walked the first two batters he faced. He then gave up a frozen rope line out to first by Jason Kipnis. After that, he was then replaced by Daniel Cooper. Both of his walked batters came around to score on an Ike Davis double.


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SECOND SELLOUT IN THE LAST 10 DAYS---
Tonight's announced crowd of 4,371 was ASU's second sellout crowd in the last 10 days. Back on March 18th, the Devils hosted then-No. 2 Arizona, and like tonight, had no tickets available.


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TWO PITCHERS, TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS---
The pitching matchup that Aaron Fitt had underlined as the one to watch this weekend never materialized. San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg lived up to his end of the bargin, pitching SDSU to an 8-0 win over Houston with 12Ks and just two hits in a complete game effort. But Coog ace Wes Musick lasted only 3.2 innings, giving up seven hits and five earned runs in the 19 batters he faced.

Keep an eye on the Aztecs, as they are now 15-10 including recent wins over UCLA, Oklahoma State and now the Cougars.


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GIANT KILLER KILLED IN A GIANT WAY---
South Dakota State - 24
Northern Colorado - 7
UNC has wins over Texas A&M and Arizona State, but today, gave up the most runs ever scored by SDSU in its Division I era. The Jackrabbits' main man was Craig Parry, who hit for the cycle, including a grand slam as part of a 4-for-7 day. In case you're wondering, the Bears have now dropped to 7-18.

Again, look at NoCo's wins: Texas A&M (2), Southeast Missouri (3), Arizona State and Florida International. And yet, the Bears can lose to a South Dakota State. Ya' kiddin' me here?

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NICK'S NO HITTER---
Evansville - 0
Northern Iowa - 3
Nick Kirk struck out 15 Aces and went the distance without allowing a hit to get UNI's first no-hitter since 1995. Only two Aces reached base all game, one on a walk and another on an error. Kirk is now 3-3 on the season.


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CYCLE NEWS---
Georgia Southern - 15
Col. of Charlston - 5
GSU's David Richardson went single, homer, double and triple in the 4th-5th-6th-and-7th innings to hit for the cycle in four consecutive innings. But allow me to big-picture this thing for a moment. GSU has now won six straight games to improve to 15-8 on the season. More impressively, the Eagles have also scored double digit run totals in 14 of those 15 wins. The only game they didn't was a 3-2 win over Pitt at the Keith LeClair Classic.


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WAKE US WHEN IT'S OVER---
UC Riverside - 6
Cal State Fullerton - 7 (16inns)
Dammit Highlanders! Why'ja let the Titans score five runs in the bottom of the 9th? There wasn't another score until one minute past midnite (that's 3:01am for all you East coasters who couldn't stay up listening to it on the internet) when Eric Komatsu, who tripled for the second time on the night, was sacrificed home with the winning run. In that fateful 9th inning, the Highlanders dropped a sure third out in foul territory. Then Josh Fellhhauer singled, pitcher (!) Brian Wilson singled and Komatsu hit a two RBI, game-tying triple. But that time, Komatsu was stranded at third. Not so in the 16th, where he accounted for the winning run. Yawwwwwn. Nice win CSUF. Nite-nite now.


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THESE GUYS PLANNED THEIR CLOTHES TO MATCH---
I can just see the phone conversation between these two before tonight's game.

"Hey man, what are you wearing to the ASU baseball game?"

"I don't know. Probably my oversized white T-shirt, baggy jeans and my Yankees hat... on backward."

"Okay, I'll wear the exact same thing. But I'm gonna go with my Twins hat instead... on backward."

"Deal."


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Because the band didn't go on-stage until midnite - or, if you will, a minute before the UCR-Fullerton game ended - I'm posting this edition really late. So I'm hittin' it now. See you from the basketball arena tomorrow.

G'night

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert