Arizona's Johnny Field steals second base when Arizona State's Drew Stankiewicz is late with the tag during a game earlier this month.


If it looks like a conference game and feels like a conference game, it has to be a conference game, right?

Not necessarily.

When the Arizona Wildcats welcome in Arizona State tonight to Hi Corbett Field, more than 4,000 people will be in the stands, the tension will be high and the baseball will be good.

But it won't count a lick toward the Pac 12 standings.

The Wildcats and Sun Devils annually play two nonconference games against each other on top of the three-game conference series, which this year, is in Tempe in May. It's a chance for both teams to play good competition against a squad that's a bus ride away and what fan doesn't like a rivalry game?

The Wildcats won the first nonconference matchup earlier this month 10-9 at Hi Corbett.

"I don't like it," UA coach Andy Lopez said. "You're really jockeying with your pitching staff and they are too. You don't really get a good feel. This guy is throwing, that guy is throwing and you won't see those guys on the weekend.

"I like the weekend games because you match up."

But even Lopez admits the two nonconference games against ASU do have some advantages.

Here's a look at what they are.

1. It's a chance to improve the team's NCAA tournament résumé. According to and, two websites that study college baseball RPI, the Wildcats enter tonight's game ranked No. 45 on one site and No. 46 on the other.

The Sun Devils are ranked No. 15 on both. So obviously another win over ASU will help the UA's résumé with just 13 games left on the schedule.

"From that standpoint, it would be great to play them six or eight times," Lopez said.

At 28-14 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-12, the Wildcats would likely be in the field of 64 if it was announced today. But they are 1-6 against teams ranked in the RPI top 50 and could use as many signature wins as they can get with the tournament just a little more than a month away.

But still, don't expect Lopez to manage tonight's game like it's a conference weekend.

"I'm not going to sacrifice this weekend with Washington to win a Tuesday game," Lopez said. "I can't sacrifice three for one. Those are conference games; this is not. That's the hard part and why it gets a little dicey sometimes."

2. It's fun for the fans. The one-run UA win earlier this month may have been the most exciting game the team has played this season.

It wasn't the prettiest game with the two squads combining for eight errors and 10 pitchers used, but it had passion and intensity.

The UA had its biggest crowd of the season with an announced attendance of 5,396 and brought in former football coach Dick Tomey to sing the seventh-inning stretch.

"I love the rivalry games," junior center fielder Johnny Field said. "We get great fan support for it and everyone gets into it. I still think it feels like a conference game because we know who they are and they know who we are."

3. It's good preparation for the homestretch. Following tonight's game, the Wildcats will play 12 games the remainder of the season with six against teams in the top 20 of the RPI.

The midweek matchup is a good tuneup.

Both teams have been playing good baseball lately. The Sun Devils are 8-2 in their last 10 and the UA is 7-3.

"You don't look at it as a nonconference game," sophomore Joe Maggi said. "It's always the same when you play ASU. It's nice to get someone like that in the midweek instead of waiting for the weekend. It's good to have someone like that to keep you on your toes."

Sure it's important for the Wildcats to remain fresh as the season winds down, but it's more essential for them to be playing at their very best.

This game helps that happen.


• Who: Arizona State at Arizona

• When: 6 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM