Friday First Takes - Bruins see a hellish ending

There's a reason why I still think Arizona State will make it to Omaha, even with all their injuries, suspensions, grades, investigations and seemingly shallow pitching staff. Tonight's 9th inning at UCLA is Exhibit A.

The Devils score five runs in their last at-bat and break the Bruin spirit with a 10-5 win in Westwood. And make no mistake, it's a win UCLA could've used for their RPI.

(Jason Kipnis gets another handshake after his second home run tonight)

The Devils looked pretty dead in the water. When he wasn't jawing back and forth with Sun Devil head coach Pat Murphy, Bruin starter Tim Murphy (oh heaven's no, there's no relation) was doing a pretty good job of squashing the ASU attack, holding the Devs to just two runs on six hits.

Then, ASU started to wake up. Murphy gave up a single to start the 8th inning and then got tagged for a home run by Jason Kipnis, the normal lead-off hitter who was in the 2-slot tonight.

Murphy would exit the game after that pitch, and three batters later State would tie the game on an RBI single by Marcel Champagnie. That set the stage for the 9th inning heroics of - once again - Jason Kipnis. After going down looking at strike three in his previous two at-bats, the Kentucky transfer hit home run bombs in his last two at-bats, the second of which put the Sun Devils up to stay in the 9th. ASU went on to score five runs in the inning to make this a no-brainer in the end.

The only mystery left in the game was whether ASU first base coach Tim Esmay was going to go for the throat on UCLA head coach John Savage. Seems as though Esmay took exception - a LOT of exception - to reliever Brendan Lafferty nailing Mike Leake (who started the game on the mound and moved to right field) square in the noggin on a 9th inning pitch.

After the post-game handshake between the coaches, Esmay got in the grill of Savage about it, before Pat Murphy actually played peacemaker here and separated the two.

UCLA has the pitching to win the next two games in this series. And considering the Bruins entered the weekend way down at No. 52 in the RPI and will definitely gain some ground win or lose. But just imagine what a win tonight, and another W or two this weekend would've meant to their at-large chances.

(Assistant coach Tim Esmay - #10 - and UCLA's John Savage are separated after the post-game handshake)

I have a confession to make here. First, I experienced computer problems this afternoon, so I couldn't keep up with all the games that were going on. Then, tonight's UCLA game went a little on the long side as well. Plus some buds of mine wanted to grab a brew or two after the game. So I didn't have much time to check out all on the national front.

So, here's today's three up and three down, if I happen to miss a no-hitter or three-homer game along the way, my bad. I'll make up for it later on this weekend. But these are the things that stuck out to me the most.

1- St. John's.
The Redmen struck out a season-high 18 West Virginia batters in a 2-1 win.
Keep in mind, a week ago, the Mountaineers had four regulars that hit .400+. But today, starter Scott Barnes struck out 12 'Neers and relievers Miguel Valcarcel and Colin Lynch combined for six more Ks. SJU improved to 33-10 and, coupled with Notre Dame's surprising loss at UConn, take over the Big East lead at 14-5.

2- Texas pitching.
Beat Baylor 12-1 in Waco tonight.
Maybe everyone has written the Longhorns off too early. Not only did Kenn Kasparak toss a no-hitter on Wednesday vs. Texas State, but today Chance Ruffin went the distance giving up just seven hits and getting 11 Ks against a talented - though underachieving - Bear lineup. Talk of "Texas is Back" isn't out of the question now.

3- Florida.
Won at South Carolina 9-3.
This was the Gators first Friday win in a three-game road series. And to do this at Sarge-Frye is pretty damn impressive. It also marked the fifth game in a row that the Gators didn't commit an error. Plus, I really like the UofF's chances on Saturday with Stephen Locke (3-2, 3.21) on the mound. This could be a big weekend for the Gators as a No. 1 seed isn't out of the question.

1- Central Florida.
Lost at Tulane 5-2.
But that's not the reason the Black Knights are included here - although the listless bats were held to just four runs. But UCF really sucks eggs today for letting the legendary Jay Bergman go to the unemployment line. In 26 seasons, Bergman 994 of his 1,210 total career wins as a head coach. On top of all that, UCF went into this weekend with a record of 27-19 and rated at No. 51 in the RPI. In other words, they were still within striking distance. Probably not now. An ignominious end to a Hall of Fame career.

2- Brian Matusz, San Diego.
How can I really bag on a guy that hasn't lost a game since the first day of the season? I know, pull my socks up on this one. But the national player of the year candidate had his first bad outing since February 22nd, and on national TV at that too. In the 5-2 loss to the rival Waves of Pepperdine, the hulking lefty went just 6.0 innings, giving up 10 hits and five runs, all earned with two outs. Matusz falls to 9-2 on the season and gives college baseball writers everywhere a reason to name Aaron Crow as the top pitcher.

Then again, Crow went just 5.1innings, giving up 8 hits and six runs to K-State today.

3- No help for Guido, man!
Northern Iowa's Guido Fonseca lost his first game of the season, a 6-1 loss at Wichita State, to drop to 7-1 on the season. But he didn't get any help, as the Panthers were boxed in with just five hits and struck out 12 times to WSU ace Rob Musgrave.

But it's time to hit the hay. More later.



Are you an asu fan or bruin fan? There's some interesting information about pat murphy flying around

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