Tempe Regional: Arizona State 16, Charlotte 1
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State looked mostly awful through eight innings against New Mexico on Friday. Then second-year skipper Tim Esmay went all Tasmanian devil about a dubious interference call at first base after a sacrifice bunt. The umpire, not without justification, sent Esmay packing.
Since that managerial eruption, however, the Sun Devils have been hotter than the temperatures in Tempe.
A walk-off three-run home run did in New Mexico, but Arizona State used simple dominance, not holy-cow dramatics, to dispatch Charlotte16-1 in the second round of the double-elimination Tempe Regional.
Pitching? Starter Kramer Champlin allowed no runs and one hit over seven innings with nine strikeouts.
Hitting? The Sun Devils sent 10 to the plate in a five-run fourth, which was highlighted by a three-run home run to left field from catcher Xorge Carrillo and a triple that scored two from third baseman Riccio Torrez. And that was just the beginning. Six players had multi-hit games and eight drove in runs. Carrillo went 5-for-6 with three RBI. Torrez drove in four runs on two hits. Eight of the Sun Devils 19 hits went for extra bases.
Defense? Well, the Sun Devils had three meaningless errors, but center fielder Andrew Aplin had the best diving catch in the eighth inning you likely will never see.
So was this sudden manifestation of baseball pyrotechnics a pure coincidence? Or did Esmay manufacture a moment of motivational brilliance, concocting a tantrum in order to ignite a conflagration inside these Devils? Or is this just the labored effort of a sportswriter trying to write something about a game devoid of intrigue almost from the starting bell?
"That was not calculated," Esmay said. "But good response today."
Top-seeded Arizona State (41-16) will play the winner of the Arkansas-Charlotte elimination game Sunday at 9:30 p.m. (ET). The Razorbacks or 49ers have the unenviable task of playing at 4 p.m. Sunday -- 1 p.m. local time -- in triple-digit temperatures before turning around and facing the Sun Devils in another elimination game a few hours later.
Charlotte, which fell to 43-15, entered the postseason ranked third in the nation in earned run average (2.43), and Andrew Smith shut down the Razorbacks on Friday. Starter Tyler Barnette, now 9-2, owned a 1.96 ERA before getting chased after just three innings, surrendering four runs and five hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
"That was about as poorly as we've played in a long time," Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. "We just never could get into a rhythm. We kind of ran into a wall tonight."
It was not a great night for the 49ers. It couldn't have been much better for the Sun Devils.