NCAA: AZ State Sun Devils Baseball Pac-12 Preview
The Arizona State Sun Devils baseball team opened up Pac-12 play this past weekend at Phoenix Muni against one of the stronger teams in the Pac 12; the Oregon State Beavers. Even though the Beavers lost several players from last year’s #13 ranked team, they are still a strong team and it was an outstanding series. The weekend series will help prepare the Sun Devils for 2015 Pac-12 baseball schedule. The Sun Devils won 2 of 3 games in the series over a team that had won 10 games in a row and were hitting home runs at a record-setting pace that ranked them second in the nation with 21. The Beavers also were ranked first nationally with their .519 slugging percentage.
When the 2015 Pac-12 predictions came out, the Sun Devils were picked third, behind Oregon and UCLA, and were expected to make a Regional appearance, but their season will ultimately hinge on hitting and defense, because the Sun Devils have the pitching to contend.
They have a formidable “one-two punch” in their rotation with left handers, Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg; both of whom were all-Pac-12 picks a season ago and are preseason All American selections this year. Lilek has the stronger arm, reaching up to 95 MPH with his fastball. Kellogg doesn’t throw as hard, but shows his fearless nature on the mound. In addition, Ryan Burr is nails as the team’s closer. Eder Erives, Hever Bueno and Jordan Aboites provide three reliable arms out of the bullpen.
As far as hitting, the Sun Devils have no true power hitters, but Junior, Johnny Sewald, leads a group of seven returners on this year’s club. The center fielder drove in 19 runs, stole 16 bases and hit for a .305 average last year. Sewald’s most impressive stat in 2014 was his .428 on base percentage.
Dalton DiNatale is back after a 36 RBI and three home run 2014 season and Trever Allen led the 2014 squad with five home runs and added eight doubles and three triples. Catcher RJ Ybarra started 50 games in 2014 and led the team in RBI, with 47. They will all be counted on again in 2015 to provide the run support needed to contend in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils have one of the top outfields in the Pac-12 this season. Sewald and Allen are two speedy players with good baseball instincts. They will need that to cover a lot of ground in the outfield at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Sophomore catcher, Brian Serven, has a good arm and will not allow many pitches to get behind him and he should be able to throw runners out trying to steal.
In closing, though it is not expected that the Sun Devils will win the Pac-12, it is possible that if they win a few series against UCLA and Oregon and win 20+ Pac-12 games they could surprise everyone and take the Pac-12 crown. We do know first year Manager, Tracy Smith, will instill discipline and if this team can win 45+ games, they could possibly host a Regional.
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