ASU coach Tracy Smith speaks to the media after the Sun Devils’ 3-1 loss to Arizona, which sealed ASU’s first losing season since 1985. Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports

Arizona State baseball’s hope of avoiding its first losing season in 32 years and second in the varsity era since 1959 ended Friday night.

By losing 3-1 to No. 19 Arizona at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, ASU fell to 23-28 (8-18) with just four games remaining. The Sun Devils’ only other varsity era losing season was 31-35 in 1985. They are missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 when they were ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. Before that, their last year not making the postseason was 1999.

UA (35-17, 14-12 Pac-12) improved to 3-1 this season against ASU, winning the Territorial Cup Series point. The Sun Devils already had clinched a fourth straight overall series title although UA narrowed the final margin (10.5 points-9.5).

ASU has been under .500 for two months and earlier saw its nation leading 54-year streak of 30-win seasons come to an end. Still, the Sun Devils remained within range of 28 wins but going into Friday would have needed a season-high, five-game win streak to finish above the breakeven mark.

Eli Lingos (6-6) limited the big-hitting Wildcats to one run over six innings in what then was a tie game.

UA’s Louis Boyd and Cal Stevenson singled to start the seventh. Ryan Hingst replaced Lingos, getting a groundout that scored a run and walking a batter. Tanner West came in to face Wildcats hitting leader JJ Matijevic, a .401 hitter who ran hard to first to prevent a double play scoring another run.

Cameron Ming (7-1) threw a complete game for the Wildcats.

“I understand the losing season piece, but to me it’s a bigger picture thing at this point,” third-year ASU coach Tracy Smith said. “I’m not worried about the future of where we’re going and how this thing is going to play out. I know sometimes it’s tough for people to see the forest through the trees, but I’m not worried about that.

“I want to make sure the guys that are wearing this uniform are still playing hard. There’s a large percentage of guys that aren’t here because they couldn’t do that. I’ve rather be short-handed with people that want to be here and do it right. That’s the bigger message for the program, and that’s what people need to understand. If we want to get this thing back to where it needs to be, you’re going to have to grow through a little bit of this.

“I’m going to walk out of this facility tonight with my head held high because that locker room has not quit.”

Like in a 6-5 win Thursday, Arizona’s bats came to life the second time through the order. The Wildcats had four hits off Lingos in the fourth but scored just one run because of a double play after Ryan Haug’s double and a single by Cory Voss.

The Sun Devils pulled even in the sixth with a Hunter Bishop leadoff double, right-side ground out and Zach Cerbo sacrifice fly.

In the ASU second, Cerbo walked then was thrown out trying to steal on a pitch out only for Carter Aldrete to double to right on the next pitch. Andrew Snow walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Jeremy McCuin’s inning-ending strike out.

UA threatened in the third with a two-out double by Jared Oliva and walk. Matijevic lined a 1-1 pitch to the opposite field that Myles Denson came on to snare in left.

A two-out fielding error and Bishop single put ASU runners on first and third with two outs in the third. Lyle Lin, swinging on the first pitch, grounded out to third baseman Nick Quintana, who made up for his error with a force-out throw to second.

ASU will honor its 1977 College World Series championship team Saturday, which is also Senior Day. Earlier this season, the 1967 CWS champion team was recognized.

Thursday’s game: Arizona 6, ASU 5

When reliever Connor Higgins struck out Arizona’s leading hitter, JJ Matijevic, with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning Thursday night, Arizona State had hope of escaping a major jam in a tie game.

Instead, No. 19 UA scored two runs on a sacrifice bunt and another on the inning’s second error to take a three-run lead in a 6-5 victory at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

By winning the Pac-12 rivalry series opener, the Wildcats took a 2-1 season series lead over ASU.

The top of the seventh started badly for ASU with a fielding error by shortstop Andrew Snow. Tiring starter Eder Erives walked Cal Stevenson on four pitches and Jared Oliva singled to left, loading the bases. ASU coach Tracy Smith brought in Higgins, who fanned Matijevic on three pitches.

Alfonso Rivas bunted toward first base and was thrown out by Higgins but not before two runs scored. A third unearned run came across on Snow’s second error of the inning, a low throw to first base.

Erives (1-4) took the loss despite one of his best senior outings in his final home appearance. He worked six-plus innings with six hits and three earned runs.

Zach Cerbo hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, but ASU could not overcome a third deficit like it did when trailing 1-0 and 3-1. The Sun Devils stranded two in the eighth and one at second base in the ninth after scoring their final run on a passed ball.

“That’s one for the taking tonight,” ASU coach Tracy Smith said. “We had a couple of miscues. We make the plays defensively, we’re probably coming out of here with a different result. That’s been a little bit of our song all season. We have not had solid middle infield play, which is something we plan to address moving forward. But I’m not going to fault the effort on the guys. They kept battling.”

Second baseman Carter Aldrete, who had three hits, said, “Eder threw his tail off tonight. If would have gone way better if we had capitalized defensively, but that’s how it goes sometimes. We had to play the elements and defensively we didn’t support him as well as we want to.”

Matijevic broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double to the right field corner off Erives.

ASU’s Gage Canning cut the deficit in the fifth with his team-high sixth home run, a one-out solo shot to right field. Then with the bases loaded and two outs, UA starter JC Cloney threw an 0-2 wild pitch to Carter Aldrete, scoring the tying run.


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Cloney exited after 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and three runs with seven strikeouts.

UA can clinch the Territorial Cup Series point with a win in one of the remaining two games, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

ASU already has clinched the overall Territorial Cup Series title for a fourth consecutive year, leading 10.5 points to 8.5.

The Sun Devils must win their remaining five games to avoid its first losing season since 1985 and second ever in the varsity era going back to 1959.

Arizona went hitless through the first three innings on Thursday before breaking through in the fourth.

Stevenson led off with a double to center that Canning misplayed due to a tricky wind that affected fly balls for the first six innings. With one out, Erives hit Matijevic, who started the night hitting .402, seventh-best in the nation. Alfonso Rivas singled to short left in between Snow and outfielder Myles Denson to score Stevenson. Another hit batter loaded the bases, but Erives escaped further damage by getting an infield fly and ground out.

ASU got the tying run back in the fourth off Cloney. Cerbo walked with one out, moving to third on a hit-and-run single by Aldrete. Snow’s sac fly to right scored Cerbo.

Erives pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief at Arizona on May 9, holding on in a 14-13 victory for his first win of the season. UA won the first rivalry meeting 11-2 on April 4.

Cloney worked a clean first inning but needed 20 pitches to do so including 10 to strike out leadoff batter Canning.

In the ASU second, Lyle Lin and Aldrete singled with a strikeout in between but neither scored as Snow and Jeremy McCuin flied out.

Remaining games

Friday, May 26 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Saturday, May 27 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Sunday, May 28 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Arizona at ASU preview

The Sun Devils (23-26, 8-16 Pac-12) play their final home series of the season against No. 19 Arizona (33-17, 12-12) with the Territorial Cup Series point at stake.

Perhaps more importantly, the Sun Devils are fighting to avoid what would be only the second losing season in the program’s 59-year history

ASU and UA split two non-conference games this season, both in Tucson, with ASU losing 11-2 on April 4 and winning 14-13 on May 9.

RELATED: Pac-12 baseball standings

The Sun Devils already have clinched a fourth straight undisputed Territorial Cup Series title, leading 10.5 points to 8.5. ASU went 3-2 against UA from 2014-16.

Sun Devils need strong finish

To avoid its first losing season since 1985, ASU must finish at least 5-1 against UA and at Utah.

The Sun Devils are coming off a 2-2 trip to Washington that included a 6-4 comeback win over Seattle on Tuesday. 3B Jeremy McCuin has seven hits in the last three games. Freshman Myles Denson has played left field in the last four games.

The trip also was marked by the end of ASU’s 54-year streak of winning at least 30 games with a 4-0 defeat at Washington on Sunday.

Wildcats angling for postseason

UA won their last two games at College of Charleston to take that non-conference series. The Wildcats are seeking to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament to compete for a return trip to the College World Series.

The Wildcats are home against California after playing ASU before the 64-team NCAA field is announced May 29.

1B JJ Matijevic is hitting .402 with 10 home runs, 57 RBI and a .672 slugging percentage. Pitcher JC Cloney is 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA. UA last won the rivalry series in 2013 (3-2).

Arizona at Arizona State

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

TV: Pac-12 Network.

Radio: KDUS-AM (1060).

Remaining games

Friday, May 26 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Saturday, May 27 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Sunday, May 28 – ASU at Utah, 10:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks

Tuesday: ASU baseball 6, Seattle 4

Arizona State scored four runs in the seventh inning to rally past host Seattle for a 6-4 win on Tuesday.

The Sun Devils were led by Jeremy McCuin, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Zach Cerbo, who had a 2-for-3 night with a home run and two walks.

ASU (23-26) returns to Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Thursday to open a three-game series against rival Arizona (33-17). The Sun Devils and Wildcats split a pair of non-conference games earlier this season.

The Sun Devils need to win six of their final seven games to avoid their first losing season since 1985 and second in school varsity history (not including 2007 when 44 wins were vacated due to NCAA sanctions).