After being victimized by Arizona State’s dynamic duo earlier this season, Arizona coach Jay Johnson said the following about Hunter Bishop and Spencer Torkelson:
“Those two guys ... are arguably the best hitters I’ve ever seen in coaching college baseball.”
The comment caused a stir on Twitter. Hadn’t Johnson coached future MLB All-Star Kris Bryant?
Johnson clarified the remark later in the series, saying: “From the other dugout. I never had to face him (Bryant).”
It was hard to argue with Johnson’s proclamation after Tuesday night.
Bishop and Torkelson combined for three home runs as the Sun Devils rallied to defeat the Wildcats 10-7 in front of a season-high crowd of 3,908 at Hi Corbett Field.
Bishop hit two homers, his Pac-12-leading 20th and 21st of the season. The first, a solo shot, tied the score in the top of the third; the second, a two-run bomb, bumped ASU’s lead from 8-7 to 10-7 in the top of the eighth.
As much as he would have liked to pitch around or even walk Bishop and Torkelson, Johnson had little choice because they invariable batted with runners on base.
"It made it hard," he said. "Those are the last two guys you want guys on base in front of."
The Sun Devils improved to 34-12, including four wins in four games against the Wildcats - the first season sweep for ASU since 2009. Arizona fell to 22-24.
The UA was coming off a sweep of Oregon, scoring 54 runs over three games — a school record for a Pac-12 series. Per usual, the offense performed well enough to win. But as has been the case far too often this season, the Wildcats’ pitching and defense faltered.
Arizona allowed 10-plus runs for the 16th time. The Wildcats committed three errors for the third time in four games.
UA starter Avery Weems had an adventurous first inning. He struck out three batters but also allowed three runs on three hits.
Weems got help from his defense in the second. With one out and a runner on first, Torkelson hit a hard grounder to the left side. Shortstop Cameron Cannon dove to his right to spear the ball and fired a perfect strike to second baseman Dayton Dooney. First baseman Branden Boissiere scooped Dooney’s relay throw to complete the double play.
Arizona scored four runs in the bottom of the second to take the lead, thanks in part to a missed call at first base.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Boissiere hit a grounder to the right of first baseman Torkelson. Torkelson made a diving stop and tossed the ball to pitcher Sam Romero, who appeared to beat Boissiere to the bag by a fraction of a second.
First-base umpire Jason Rogers called Boissiere safe. Two runs scored on the play. Two more would come home on singles by Donta Williams and Cameron Cannon.
After Arizona reclaimed the lead in the fourth on Cannon’s RBI triple, Torkelson knotted the score with a solo homer to left. The home run was Torkelson’s 17th of the season and his seventh in eight career games against Arizona.
The tie didn’t last long. Arizona scored twice in the bottom of the fourth. Justin Wylie drove in Ryan Holgate with a double. Wylie then scored on an error.
Another odd play at first base in the top of the seventh led to another tie. Reliever George Arias Jr. couldn’t handle Boissiere’s throw. The ball skipped toward the dugout, enabling Alika Williams to score. Lyle Lin, who advanced to second on the error, scored on Myles Denson’s single to right to make it 7-7.
"The dropped ball on the pitcher covering first was probably the play of the game," Johnson said. "We probably get out of that inning with the score 7-5 with only six outs to get."
ASU scored three runs in the eighth off Vince Vannelle, who had been Arizona’s most reliable reliever. Williams’ sacrifice fly to center preceded Bishop’s two-run blast to right.
"Vince is our best pitcher. He’s our most mature pitcher," Johnson said. "He was trying to stretch a changeup way out of the zone.
"Our whole deal was to not let him (Bishop) hurt us, and he hurt us tonight."
- UA catcher-first baseman Matthew Dyer missed his second consecutive game because of a bruised left hand. Dyer leads the Wildcats and ranks third in the Pac-12 with a .393 batting average. Johnson is hopeful Dyer can play this weekend vs. USC. "He's still in a lot of pain," Johnson said. "I know if he can he will."
- Freshman infielder Tony Bullard was not in uniform after having a procedure Monday to repair a broken nose. Bullard took a ball to the face during infield practice at Stanford two weekends ago. He started all four games last week. Johnson said Bullard should be able to return against the Trojans.
- With Dyer and Bullard out - and outfielder Matt Fraizer and shortstop Jacob Blas done for the season - Arizona had only 11 position players available. "That was a new deal," Johnson said. "(But) I don’t want to talk about the guys that can’t play, because I believe in the guys that were on the field tonight. I don’t want to give them an out or an excuse."