Sun Devils Eye NCAA Return After Sweep Of Long Beach…
By CB360 Contributor Kevin Kennedy
The Arizona State baseball team continued to roll over the weekend with a sweep of Long Beach State in a non-conference series in Tempe. The Sun Devils outscored the Dirt Bags by a combined total of 32 to 14 in the three-game series.
The Sun Devils, who were playing in their last non-conference games of the season, won for the 13th time in the last 15 games to improve to 35-11 overall.
Long Beach dropped to 23-22 overall. LBSU came into the weekend needing some resume building wins to boost their NCAA Tournament credentials.
In the Sun Devils 6-3 win over the Dirtbags on Friday Devils ace pitcher sophomore Brady Rodgers dominated en route to picking up his 7th win of the season. Rodgers (7-2 2.92 ERA) went 7.1 innings allowing three runs on 8 hits while striking out five.
Rodgers seemed to get stronger as the night worn on before he was hit in the ankle by a come-backer off the bat of LBSU freshman catcher Royce Murai in the 8th. Rodgers allowed the next three hitters to reach after the Murai single. Prior to being hit in the leg Rodgers had retired 13 of the previous 14 Dirtbag hitters. The injury is not believed to be serious.
Long Beach rallied against ASU in the 8th cutting the deficit to 6-3. The Dirtbags had the tying run at the plate with two outs, but Devils junior LF Johnny Ruettiger made a spectacular sliding catch in the left center field gap off the bat of LBSU sophomore Matt Duffy to end the inning and the threat.
ASU struck first with a run in the bottom of the first leading off the inning with Ruettiger double, and a single by junior Zach MacPhee. Ruettiger scored on an error by Long Beach starter junior Andrew Gagnon (4-7, 2.73 ERA).
In Saturday’s win ASU jumped out early and were never threatened in the 9-2 win. ASU led 4-0 after three innings and 9-0 after five.
Arizona State starting pitcher Kramer Champlin (7-2 2.82 ERA) bounced back from his loss to Stanford last weekend pitching eight strong innings allowing two earned on eight hits, with seven strikeouts. Champlin didn’t allow a run until the 8th inning.
Joey DeMichele continued his offensive tear with hit second five hit game of the season going 5-for-5 with a double and 3 RBIs. Junior DH Austin Barnes was 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs. DeMichele (.406 average), and Barnes (.362) currently rank number one, and five respectively in the Pac-10 in hitting.
ASU got 14 hits in Saturday’s win with MacPhee, and Newman having multiple hit games for the second straight night. Duffy was the offensive leader for LBSU going 3-for-4 with a double, and 2 RBIs.
Long Beach’s pitching staff struggled with starter junior Branden Pinder (3-5 5.53 ERA) lasting just three innings allowing 4 runs (3 earned). Junior Matt Johnson relieved Pinder and he allowed five earned in just two innings.
In the series finale ASU exploded for its highest scoring output of the season in there 17-9 win. The Devils broke the game wide open with a six run 5th pushing their lead to 11-2.
The Dirtbags scored six runs in the 9th inning to make the final score look closer than the game really was.
Andy Workman led the offensive charge going 4-for-5 with 7 RBIs, a double, and two HRs. DeMichele was 2-for-5 on Sunday, he was 9-for-14 (.643) in the series. Zach Wilson was 3-for-4, and MacPhee was 2-for-3 in the win.
MacPhee was 6-for-12 in the series as the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year raised his average from .270 to .286. MacPhee hit .398 in 2010.
Long Beach starter freshman Ryan Strufing (3-2 3.92 ERA) took the loss allowing eight runs (five earned) in four innings. Freshman Kyle Friedrichs went two innings in relief of Strufing allowing five runs.
The Dirtbags fielders were no help to the team’s pitchers committing four errors, leading to five unearned runs.
ASU has been with out sophomore shortstop Deven Marrero since May 1 because of an ankle injury. Riccio Torrez was also out the last two games of the series because of injury. Neither injury is believed to be serious.
Currently ASU is second in the Pac-10 in hitting with a (.312), on base percentage (.383), runs scored (.299), hits (497), and RBIs (269). The pitching staff is fifth in the conference with a team ERA of 3.17.
The Devils sit in second place in the Pac-10 with three weekends left in the conference schedule. ASU is one game back of conference leader Oregon State. The Beavers hold the tiebreaker over ASU after sweeping the Sun Devils in Corvallis last month.
Arizona State, which went 6-2 in eight games played in ten days, now travels to USC next weekend followed by a series at Washington. The Sun Devils finish their season at home vs. UCLA.
ASU remains eligible for the NCAA Tournament, because the NCAA appeal process continues. The school is set to have its appeal heard a couple of weeks before the NCAA Tournament selections are made May 30, and it is unlikely the appeals committee will have a ruling before the 30th.
If ASU remains eligible and continues to play well down the stretch it could find itself in position not only to be in the tournament, but also as one of the Top-8 National Seeds.
Despite not picking up any wins this weekend, Long Beach State still has some chances for some quality resume wins down the stretch. They travel to Cal State Fullerton next weekend, and finish the year at UC Irvine.
They also have a Big West series at home vs. Cal State Northridge, and non-conference home games vs. UCLA, and Pepperdine.
(Front page photo courtesy Arizona State)