My pick are in the CWS...
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 22, 2005
OMAHA, June 21 (AP) - Jeff Larish kept hitting the long ball, but it was small ball that helped Arizona State advance in the College World Series on Tuesday.
Larish matched a College World Series record with three home runs. But it was J. J. Sferra's bloop single in the 11th inning that drove in the winning run as Arizona State rallied for an 8-7 victory and eliminated Nebraska, the hometown favorite.
"I'm still trying to let it set in," Larish said. "We've been responding to adversity all year, and today was no different. I'm more excited about the team's performance than my own."
Larish's third homer tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, and Sferra's single in the 11th punctuated the 4-hour-7-minute game, sending the Sun Devils (41-24) against No. 7 Florida on Wednesday. Arizona State needs to beat the Gators twice to reach the championship round.
"We don't claim we're great; we don't know how far we can go," Arizona State Coach Pat Murphy said. "We're really elated right now. But we have to get back down to that flat line."
Larish's two-out ninth-inning drive over the center-field wall off Brett Jensen made him only the third player in College World Series history to hit three homers, matching the record set by Florida State's J. D. Drew in 1995 and tied by Stanford's Edmund Muth in 2000.
The homer also negated Andy Gerch's three-run blast for Nebraska (57-15) in the top of the ninth that gave the Huskers a 7-5 lead.
Larish, who bats left-handed, led off the game with an opposite-field shot and homered to right in the third. He now has 23 homers.
"That's ridiculous," Murphy said. "It's like a trifecta - a home run to every field."
But it was a blooper in the 11th that won the game for the Sun Devils.
"It felt like four or five games in one," Murphy said. "It's a tremendous testament to our guys. To do it against Nebraska at Nebraska with their closer on the hill down two in the ninth, a lot of people were assuming it was over."
With Larish coming to the plate as the potential tying run, Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson decided not to walk him despite the big day he was having.
"That's a rule of baseball - a double and he scores," Anderson said. "It wasn't a bad pitch. He just did a good job of hitting it."
Joey Hooft led off the 11th with a single and moved to second on Seth Dhaenens's sacrifice. Sferra, a 150-pound freshman who was the batboy when Arizona State last appeared in Omaha, in 1998, then popped a Tony Watson pitch into short right-center to score Hooft.
"I was trying to drive the ball somewhere, but I didn't do a good job of driving it," Sferra said. "I just got the barrel on it and slapped it over second. We caught the break, and we'll take it."
Dhaenens reached base on an error to lead off the bottom of the ninth and scored on Joe Persichnia's sacrifice fly. Center fielder Daniel Bruce made a great catch on the play and was able to double off Sferra for the second out, clearing the bases.
Then, Larish teed off again to tie the score.
The Huskers rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the top of the ninth to take the lead. Trailing against Arizona State reliever Pat Bresnehan, Jesse Boyer singled and Joe Simokaitis walked for the fourth time. Alex Gordon made it 5-4 with a hard grounder that Persichnia could not handle at shortstop.
Gerch then drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers, barely clearing the wall for his fourth home run and Nebraska's first three-run homer since March 23.
"It seemed like it was over then and there," Gerch said.
Instead, the season is over for a Nebraska team that reached the College World Series for the third time in five years after setting a team record with 57 victories.
"Not a lot of schools in the north are playing this level of baseball," Anderson said. "We're at the World Series this year because these players gave themselves up for this team."
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