TEMPE, Ariz. -- It sure would be interesting if the glacial pace of the NCAA appeals process ended up allowing Arizona State to win its first baseball national championship since 1981.
With the appeal of its one-year postseason ban handed down in mid-December still undecided at the end of the regular season, top-seeded Arizona State earned a postseason berth with its play and then made things look easy this weekend in Tempe, winning its final two games by a combined count of 29-5, including a 13-4 win over second-seeded Arkansas on Sunday night that will send the Sun Devils to an NCAA tournament super regional.
"This journey is not easy," ASU coach Tim Esmay said, "but we are embracing it."
The No. 2 Razorbacks yielded a seven-run sixth inning, which mostly ended any potential intrigue. The evening before, ASU rolled over Charlotte 16-1.
After needing a walk-off home run to dispatch New Mexico on Friday, the Sun Devils simply opened a can of whoop-butt, at the plate and on the hill. They belted 32 hits versus 10 from their final two opponents, including a 13-2 advantage in extra-base hits.
The pitching was as good as the hitting. Mitchell Lambson, the Sun Devils' closer, who was making his 100th career appearance, allowed four runs and seven hits in 6.1 innings, with nine strikeouts and three walks.The night before, Kramer Champlin allowed no runs and one hit over seven innings with nine strikeouts
Oh, by the way, Arizona State has won 21 regional games in a row at Packard Stadium. It will head to the super regional looking for its third consecutive appearance in the College World Series.
The Sun Devils spent all season in limbo, not knowing whether they'd be able to play in the postseason. That could have been a distraction. But they were able to focus enough to finish tied for second in the Pac-10 with Oregon State, which also has advanced to a super regional.
"We were hoping all season but we really didn't know until the last weekend," Lambson said.
Arkansas (40-22) had little trouble with Charlotte, winning 11-3 in the early-afternoon elimination game, but it's likely that playing a double-header in 105-degree temperature affected the Razorbacks' play, even though they rallied from a 13-1 seventh-inning deficit to make the score more respectable.
"We're not going to use that as an excuse," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of playing two games. "We were a little bit sluggish. ... I think Arizona State was just a little bit better."
Arkansas starter Barrett Astin lasted just three innings. The Razorbacks struck out 10 times and didn't play well in the field, although they were charged with only one error.
The Sun Devils (42-16) jumped on the Razorbacks early. Pac-10 batting champ Joey DeMichele, the regional MVP, who belted the game-winning dinger Friday, ripped a two-run home run in the first, and it was 3-0 after two. Things settled down until the sixth, when 12 Sun Devils batted, using six hits and a walk to score seven.
DeMichele finished with four RBIs. Johnny Ruettiger, Riccio Torrez and Andrew Aplin had two apiece.
It's hard to imagine too many teams will emerge from their regionals playing much better than Arizona State. The team that didn't think it would be here because of off-field issues is taking care of business on the field.