June 13, 2010

Super Regional Scores, Schedules & Capsules


CBI Live
Maggi powers Arizona State back to Omaha

By Steve Heath

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


Steve Heath is a 20-plus-year veteran sports writer that has covered everything from junior high basketball to the Super Bowl. He has seen some of today’s top baseball prospects at their early stages, including following Tampa Bay’s David Price when he was a high school baseball and basketball star at Murfreesboro Blackman High School and current Vanderbilt ace Sonny Gray when he starred at Smyrna High in baseball and football. Heath was part of the radio broadcast team as a student at Indiana State and is currently assistant sports information director at Grand Canyon University, an NCAA Division II school that has produced 13 major leaguers, including Angels great Tim Salmon, Yankees World Series hero and Jim Gray protester Chad Curtis and recent draftees Jeff Urlaub (30th round/A’s) and Billy Schroeder (47th round/Brewers).


TEMPE, Ariz. – Drew was due.


Mired in a Super Regional super slump, Arizona State leadoff hitter Drew Maggi hit a two-run home run in the top of the 12th inning to give the top-ranked Sun Devils a 7-5 win over Arkansas at Packard Stadium Sunday.


The win gave ASU a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-three Super Regional and its 22nd bid to the College World Series. It is the Sun Devils’ fourth trip in the past six years.


“I’m excited, but as a team, we know the main plan when we get there is to win,” said victorious relief pitcher Jordan Swagerty, who gave up the game-tying home run in the ninth inning, but finished strong with seven strikeouts in the final four and one-third innings. “It’s nice to be going, but we have to be locked in from the get-go of game one. It’s a great place to be and a fun place to play.”


Prior to his 12th inning at-bat, Maggi was 0 for 5 for the night and 1 for 11 in the series. He drove in freshman shortstop Deven Marrero, who had earlier singled. Swagerty retired the Razorbacks in order in the bottom of the 12th.


“I came into the at-bat 0 for 5 and, at that point, every at-bat is the biggest at-bat of the game,” said Maggi. “I forgot everything that happened and went up looking for a good pitch and to put a good swing on it.”


“We were winning games and that’s the most important thing,” added Maggi, on being aware on his struggles at the plate. “I think everyone would say the same thing. It’s not about one guy. It’s about all of us. Me slumping? It’s no big deal as long as we’re winning.


“It only takes one at-bat and I’m sitting here in front of (reporters).”


Though the Sun Devils gained a series sweep, it was far from easy. Like Saturday’s win, the game went 12 innings and more than four hours (4:20). The series had more than its share of drama.


Arkansas slugger Brett Eibner delayed the Sun Devils travel plans to Omaha with a ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike home run to force extra innings. It was his 22nd home run of the season.


“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn on how his team battled back for the second straight night. “Brett just hammered it. I just wish someone was on base. We always feel like we’re in it until the last out is recorded.”


Arizona State jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Designated hitter Zach Wilson appeared fully recovered from a broken hand injury suffered earlier in the season, hitting a solo home run down the left field line in the second inning to give ASU a 1-0 lead. In the third, first baseman Riccio Torrez hit a two-run shot to left-center field to drive in Kole Calhoun, who had singled. Wilson made it back-to-back shots with a drive over the right-center field wall.


The Razorbacks cut it to 4-3 after five. Two walks and two hit batsmen by ASU starter Merrill Kelly led to two Arkansas runs in the fourth, while an Andy Wilkins RBI-single plated Zack Cox, who had doubled, in the fifth.


While the Backs battled back on offense, freshman reliever D.J. Baxendale was holding the Devils at bay. He threw six and one-third innings, in relief of ace lefty Drew Smyly, and did not give up an earned run.


“I just wanted to go out and throw strikes,” Baxendale said. “I knew we had plenty of fire power in our bats. You win some, you lose some, but I’ve never been so proud to wear a Razorback jersey.”


Both teams had late chances in regulation but fell short. In the seventh, Cox and Eibner had one-out singles. When Wilkins flew out to right field, Cox tagged and went to third, but Eibner slipped and fell between first and second base. He was in a rundown when Cox broke for home and was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.


In the top of the eighth, ASU had the bases loaded with one out, but Torrez hit a hard grounder up the middle that Razorback shortstop Tim Carver turned into a 6-3 double play.


Baxendale and Swagerty dominated the extra frames, letting neither team get a runner in scoring position. In the 12th, Arkansas went to reliever T.J. Forrest, who gave up a leadoff single to Marrero prior to Maggi’s two-out homer.


“(After Eibner’s home run) I was thinking, I was glad there wasn’t anyone on base,” said Swagerty. “We hadn’t lost yet and my mentality was to win this game from here on out.  … I didn’t want it to happen. I just had to move forward. You can’t think about the past when you’re on the mound.”


(photo courtesy of ASU Media Relations Office)