TEMPE - With his team needing to get hot, Andy Lopez's rally cry has been the same for the past few weeks.
The Arizona Wildcats coach always says he doesn't know if they can win five or six in a row, but he's sure they can win one in a row. After suffering a weekend sweep at UCLA last week, his club finally proved him right.
The Wildcats beat rival Arizona State 10-7 Friday night at Packard Stadium in the first of a three-game series.
The win improves the Wildcats to 30-20 and 11-14 in the Pac-12 and keeps their ever-slim chances at an NCAA tournament appearance alive for now.
And what a victory it was.
After the Wildcats jumped out to a 9-0 lead, the Sun Devils (33-16-1, 14-11) fought back and made it a three-run game, trailing 10-7 in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and the bases loaded.
Designated hitter Nathaniel Causey hit a rocket to center field off reliever Mat Troupe that seemed destined to fall in the gap and clear the bases. Instead, center fielder Johnny Field dove head first, sprawled out on the warning track and snagged the ball to preserve the lead.
"Unbelievable," coach Andy Lopez said. "What's that old saying? Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. That was a great job."
Added Field: "I didn't really see it off the bat. I just heard the noise and spotted it, and it kept carrying. If I would have gotten a better jump, it wouldn't have been that cool-looking."
Troupe then walked the first two batters in the ninth, and Lopez was forced to bring in Sunday starter Tyler Crawford to get the final three outs.
Crawford was in the dugout with his cleats off to start the ninth when he was told to get his spikes on and get loose fast. He ran down to the bullpen and tossed a few warm-up pitches before coming in.
He got the first batter to strike out and then forced a pop out to first baseman Joe Maggi. Crawford, a sophomore from Glendale, closed it out when he got Kasey Coffman to fly out to Field.
"It all happened so fast, I didn't know what to think," Crawford said. "I just knew we needed strikes in that situation, so that's what I wanted to do. We all know what's at stake right now, and I was just glad to be called on in that situation."
The UA pounced on Sun Devils starter Trevor Williams, scoring nine runs in the first three innings. After taking a 2-0 lead in the first, the Wildcats sent 10 batters to the plate in the second and scored six times.
Brandon Dixon had a three-run double in the inning, and Trent Gilbert, Riley Moore and Zach Gibbons each added RBIs.
Gilbert added another run-scoring single in the third as the Wildcats handed starter Konner Wade a 9-0 lead.
Wade gave up two runs each in the third and fourth and then put up three straight scoreless innings to get through seven innings, needing 116 pitches total.
In the eighth, Wade put the first two runners on before being pulled. His final line was seven innings, giving up nine hits, six runs (four earned) and striking out five to earn just his second conference victory of the season.
"He threw more strikes than he has the past few weeks," Lopez said about Wade. "One thing that I thought was a big difference tonight was his change-up. He was able to get some swings-and-misses and that was big."
The Wildcats will try to win the series tonight at 6:30. Junior James Farris will get the start.
• What: Arizona at Arizona State
• When: 6:30 p.m.
• Radio: 1290-AM
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk