TEMPE, ARIZONA – The Monmouth University baseball team rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth inning and had the tying run on second base, but fell to the No. 5 national seed Arizona State Sun Devils, 5-3, in the NCAA Tempe Regional at Packard Stadium, on Friday night.
Monmouth mounted its rally in the ninth, stringing together four consecutive singles to open the frame. Andy Meyers (Stratford, N.J./Sterling), Rick Niederhaus (Whitehouse Station, N.J./Hunterdon Central), Shawn Teters (Springdale, Ark./Springdale) and Chris Collazo (Wall, N.J./Wall) each singled to start the inning. Teters drove in Meyers, who had advanced to third on Niederhaus’ single, before Collazo singled, plating pinch-runner Frank Catalano (Manasquan, N.J./St. Rose).
After a balk moved both runners into scoring position, reliever Jason Jarvis registered three straight outs to end the threat, as two Hawks were in scoring position.
The Sun Devils got on the board first when designated hitter Kiel Roling connected on a solo home run to rightfield on a 3-2 pitch, in the second inning. ASU threatened again later in the frame, putting two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Monmouth starter Brad Brach (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Township) struck out Matt Hall to end the threat.
Monmouth knotted the score at 1-1 in the top of the fourth when Kyle Higgins (Green Brook, N.J./Watchung Hills) led off with a double down the rightfield line. Kyle Messineo (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) then dropped down a bunt in an attempt to sacrifice Higgins to third, but beat the throw, which went wild, allowing Higgins to score and Messineo to reach third.
With one out, Rick Niederhaus (Whitehouse Station, N.J./Hunterdon Central) grounded to the shortstop, Andrew Romine, who gunned Messineo out at the plate, keeping the score tied.
After a leadoff walk to Roling to start the bottom of the sixth, rightfielder Ike Davis launched a two-run homer to right, giving ASU a 3-1 advantage. Brach pitched around two baserunners with no out to get the Hawks out of the inning with no further damage.
The Sun Devils went up 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, when Roling connected on a two-out double down the leftfield line and scored on Petey Paramore’s single through the right side.
ASU tacked on its third home run of the game in the bottom of the eighth, for a 5-1 lead, as pinch-hitter CJ Retherford connected on a 3-2 pitch that the wind carried just over the rightfield wall.
Brach set a new school single-season record for strikeouts, in his seven inning performance. Brach, who struck out the Pac-10 Player of the Year Brett Wallace in the third inning, finished the game with three strikeouts, while allowing four runs on nine hits. The loss drops Brach to 9-3 on the season.
Higgins, who got the Hawks’ first hit of the game, collected his 21st double on the year, giving him the single-season Monmouth record. Monmouth (36-22-1) collected six hits in the game, while the Sun Devils registered 10, including three home runs.
ASU’s starter, left-hander Brian Flores (10-1) pitched eight innings, scattering three hits, while allowing one unearned run. The junior struck out eight en route to the win.
Freshman Kyle Breese (Monmouth Junction, N.J./South Brunswick) pitched the eighth inning for the Hawks. The lefty allowed the lone run, on one hit, while striking out one.
Monmouth returns to action in the Tempe Regional on Saturday, June 2, when the Hawks face Nebraska at 2 p.m., in the first elimination game. Arizona State, which is now 31-3 at home this season and averages almost 10 runs per game, faces No. 2 seed UC Riverside at 7 p.m.
ASU Head Coach Pat Murphy
On the game:
"The first thing I think of is the job this guy [Flores] did right next to me. The second thing I think is that it was a great environment here tonight. We didn't string things together the way we needed to. We didn't hit singles the way we needed to. What an atmosphere. We're playing not to lose and [Monmouth] is playing to win. You have to give Monmouth a lot of credit. There is a reason they've won 30 whatever games. There is a reason that they've played us so tough. That pitcher was outstanding. If it wasn't for some timely hitting, Ike's two-run homer, we'd have to create some runs some other way. [It was Flores'] 21st start of the season. What an outing, what a performance. I'm really proud of our guys. It is not an easy situation to be in. When you have everything to lose, the seed hanging on you. It is a difficult situation. If you don't believe it, look through the score here [of other teams]. I'm proud of our club. This is not a time to get down on our club."
"They were trying too hard. We had 5,000 people. That's the biggest crowd we've had all year. These guys are playing with nothing to lose. Monmouth is coming in here to slay us, so to speak. Our guys were a little tense. That's normal, that's college baseball. But they hung in there and did what they needed to do. They got the job done. You win in many different ways. There were a lot of one run ball games out there today. It could change the complexion of the whole college tournament."
ASU Outfielder Ike Davis
On Monmouth Pitcher Brach:
"I had three at bats against him. The first at bat he threw me up inside with a fast ball, so the rest of the game he got in there, so he would come back in there in the next couple at bats. I got it and put a good swing on it. I tip my cap to him. He did a great job."
Monmouth Head Coach Dean Ehehalt
On the game against ASU:
"Good game. It went right down to the last pitch. I don't know if anyone else expected that, but that's the way we thought it would go. We played against an extremely talented team and it came down to the last pitch. We couldn't be prouder of our guys. Brad [Brach] was outstanding tonight. He pitched his heart out. There were a couple balls that got up. You have to tip your hat to their hitters. Every pitch, you are sitting on egg shells. Brad pitched one heck of a game. What more could you ask for."
On playing Nebraska:
"Solid team. Nebraska has played in Omaha. Fine ball club. I think that anyone that gets to this level, especially coming out of the Big 12 is a fine ball club. We'll continue to do the things we've done all year, try to play the game instead of the other team. I think we did a real good job of that tonight. We'll try to do the same thing tomorrow."
On the personality of the team:
"You saw it tonight. That's our personality. We've been like that since day one. In February...I made a comment that this was a unique group of guys and I think we are going to surprise some people and here we are June 1st and I think the same thing holds true. Just a great group of guys. They do a lot of things together. I appreciate the way Arizona State plays. I was fortunate enough to watch them play in the College World Series a couple years ago. We talk about the level of enthusiasm they play with and how they pick each other up. We talk about that. I think we've got some kids that believe in that. This couldn't be a better place for us to come to. There couldn't be a better environment."
Pitcher Brad Brach
"It felt pretty good tonight. I only had one pitch. I only had a fast ball. Usually I have a fast ball change up. I was able to spot that. It is frustrating when the ball gets up in the wind. It is a tough place to pitch, I'll tell you that. You throw a couple balls up and they make you pay for it. It is a great atmosphere to play in. I was pumped up from the beginning. I just went out there and pitched the best I could. It was a good game at the end."
photo courtesy of Art Foxall