NCAA: AZ State Sun Devil Baseball Team in the Tournament
The AZ State Sun Devil baseball team completed their regular season this past Sunday with a 6-3 win over the Washington State Cougars. They finished the 2014 campaign with an overall record of 33-22 and a 19-11 Pac-12 record, good for third in the conference. They also finished with eight conference series wins, the second-most in school history. And for the 52nd consecutive year the Sun Devil baseball team has won at least 30 games in a season.
The Sun Devils have won nine of their last ten games. That was a much-needed hot streak for this team as they never really got into a routine for most of the season and it showed in early May, when they were swept by Oklahoma State. Poor pitching and poor fielding really showed in that series. They gave up 28 total runs and committed 8 errors. However that series seemed to inspire this team and it certainly has shown on offense ever since.
For their play on the field the Sun Devils were rewarded an NCAA tournament selection. They were selected as the # 2 seed in the San Luis Obispo Regional hosted by Cal Poly. They will face the # 3 seed Pepperdine Waves at 1PM AZ time this Friday. The 18th ranked Sun Devils are making their 37th NCAA postseason appearance. That is the sixth most in Division I college baseball history. They have made 14 consecutive postseason appearances when eligible (in 2012 they were under an NCAA postseason ban).
The offensive players behind the turnaround have been Drew Stankiewicz and Nate Causey. Stankiewicz was named Pac-12 Player of the Week last week with a .389 batting average, a .667 slugging percentage and a .389 on-base percentage. He finished the regular season with a .337 average, with 57 hits and 81 total bases. He is one of only 4 players in the Pac-12 to rank in top 10 in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Nate Causey finished the year with a .333 average, a team leading 64 hits and 14 doubles to go along with 90 total bases and a .469 slugging average. Nate also walked 31 times.
In fact, as a team, the Sun Devils finished the regular season ranked first in the Pac-12 in batting average at .286, a slugging percentage of .389, 546 hits and 741 total bases. They were second in on-base percentage .374 and runs scored 325. This is the second consecutive season they led the conference in slugging percentage, hits and total bases.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher, Ryan Kellogg, who went 8-3 on the year, will be the starting pitcher for the Friday afternoon game. Look for left-handed starting pitcher Brett Lilek, who led the team with a 2.59 ERA and a team-high 79 strikeouts, to pitch game two. Right-hander Jordan Aboites, who made a team-high 28 appearances out of the bullpen, will be called upon in the later innings if needed. Closer Ryan Burr, who led the team with 12 saves and a .151 opposing batting average, could be needed for both games. If any of the starters get into early trouble look for Seth Martinez or Hever Bueno to come in and help out.
In order for this team to advance to a Super Regional they must be strong in all aspects of the game. They will need timely hitting, smart base running, excellent pitching and most of all superior defense. That has been a weak spot for this year’s team. They committed 75 errors in their 55 games. Those errors led to 69 runs for the opposing team.
So sit back and watch the Sun Devils, as the ESPN Networks will carry the games or you can listen on the radio on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 PHX.
Here is hoping the Sun Devils can advance to the next round of the 2014 NCAA baseball tournament.
Follow me on Twitter: @Basebaldaz and listen for my local updates and baseball report on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 on Saturdays from 10AM/1PM AZ time.