15th-Ranked Sun Devil Baseball Travels To Tucson For Three-Game Set With Rival Arizona
March 19, 2002
Mar. 22 at Arizona, 7 p.m. MST
ASU - Mike Esposito - RHP (4-3, 2.79 ERA)
UA - Sean Rierson - RHP (4-2, 3.35 ERA)
Mar. 23 at Arizona, 2 p.m. MST
ASU - Robbie McClellan - RHP (5-2, 2.90 ERA)
UA - Joe Little - LHP (5-1, 4.47 ERA)
Mar. 24 at Arizona, 1 p.m. MST
ASU - Bryce Kartler - LHP (2-1, 3.57 ERA)
UA - Marc Kaiser - RHP (4-1, 2.50 ERA)
Arizona State (16-8) fell a couple of spots in all three national polls after going 1-3 last week. ASU is now No. 15 in the Baseball Weekly/ESPN poll, No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 23 by Baseball America. The Sun Devils have now been ranked in the national polls for 46 consecutive weeks. Arizona (19-8) is 33rd in the Baseball Weekly/ESPN Poll.
All three games of the Arizona-ASU baseball series will be broadcast in the Phoenix Area on XTRA 910 AM with Tim Healey and Bob Eger calling al of the action. The games can also be followed via a live webcast at www.TheSunDevils.com. All three games can also be tracked via the LiveStats feature also at www.TheSunDevils.com. Saturday's game mark's ASU's second appearance on TV this year, with the game to be shown on Fox Sports Net as the Pac-10 Game of the Week. Jim Watson will have the play-by-play with former Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall handling all the color analysis.
Arizona State will look to put a streak of three losses in the last four games behind them when they open Pac-10 play this weekend with a three-game series at rival Arizona. ASU head coach Pat Murphy will renew a rivalry with new Arizona head coach Andy Lopez who coached at Pepperdine and Florida before taking over the Wildcat program this year. Since taking over the ASU program in 1995, Murphy's teams have never lost a season series to their rivals to the South and post a 25-14 record during that stretch. ASU last played in Tucson in the 2000 Pac-10 Championship season, taking two of three games, but only two players, Kartler and Wyrick, played in those games.
What's On Tap:
The 15th-ranked Arizona State baseball team takes to the road this weekend for a three-game series at Sancet Field in Tucson against rival Arizona. ASU will be looking to end a four-game skid on the road that has yet to see the Devils win away from the Valley of the Sun this year. ASU has a 25-14 record against the Wildcats since 1995, including winning a string of seven of the last nine games in the series. After the U of A series, ASU will host its first Pac-10 series at Hohokam Stadium, welcoming the Washington Huskies in for a three-game set. The Sun Devils next non-conference game will be Monday, April 1 at UNLV.
Recapping Last Week:
The Sun Devils started the week with a 8-7 loss at New Mexico State in which they gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth to extend their road losing streak to four games this year. The Devils then faced a tough Oklahoma squad that came in winning five in a row and lost the home series 2-1. ASU played the Sooners tough, losing a pair of close games and winning 6-4 in in Saturday's middle game. Senior Doug Schutt was 3-for-4 with two runs scored in two games and freshman Jeff Larish hit .571 (4x7) in his first action as a Sun Devil. As a team the Devils struggled with a combined .254 batting average over the four games and pitched for a 5.55 team ERA. Facing a team that Pat Murphy described as the best they have seen this year, Oklahoma moved from unranked in all three national polls to No. 22 in Baseball American and No. 18 in Collegiate Baseball.
The Last Time in Tucson:
The Sun Devils have not played in Tucson since the end of the 2000 Pac-10 Championship season when they scored 46 runs a three-game series win over the Wildcats. The 2001 season marked the first time during the Pat Murphy era that the Wildcats and Sun Devils did not play at eachothers home parks. This year's squad is so young with 23 of the 33 players on the roster being underclassmen, that only juniors Dennis Wyrick and Bryce Kartler have ever played a game at Sancet Field.
The All-Time Series vs. The Wildcats:
Arizona State leads the all-time series with Arizona dating back to the start of varsity baseball at ASU in 1959. Since 1959 the Sun Devils are 156-101. Having won 25 of the last 39 games since Pat Murphy took over the ASU program in 1995, ASU will be looking to extend a streak of having won seven of the last nine overall in the series and have won 12 of the last 18 at Sancet Field.
Scouting the Wildcats:
The Wildcats enter this weekend's action 19-8 and are fresh off a series win over UNC Wilmington. The Wildcats are 18-2 at home and have endured the same road woes as the Devils, going 1-6 away from Tucson. The Cats are led by freshman catcher Richard Mercado (.345) and freshman outfielder Jeff Van Houten (.318) at the plate. Van Houten is tied for the team lead with six home runs (Chris Cunningham). Arizona has hit 29 home runs and is hitting at an overall team .288 clip. The pitchers, led by the 4-1, 2.50 ERA from Sunday starter Marc Kaiser, has a team 3.61 ERA.
A Very Young Team Indeed:
The Sun Devils feature a very young team in 2002, with 22 of the 33 players on the roster listed as underclassman. Losing seven of its top position players from the 2001 team and several top pitchers, a very young team Sun Devil team will take the field this year. The normal starting lineup has five sophomores, two true freshman and at least one senior on the field. When the Devils made the cross country trek to Tallahassee for the FSU series, 13 of the 27 on the travel roster were making their first road trip as a Sun Devil. The starting lineup this weekend figures to have three freshman, five sophomores and one senior. The starting rotation figures to have one sophomore and two juniors, one of which is a newcomer after transfering from a junior college.
Pac-10 Play Begins For Sun Devils:
The Sun Devils open their 24th season in Pac-10 play with a three-game series at Arizona this weekend. Arizona State, who was picked to finish third behind Stanford and USC in the preseason coaches poll, has an all-time 383-286 (1979-2001) in Pac-10 play. The Sun Devils finished third last year with a 14-10 record and are two years removed from winning the Pac-10 Championship. ASU is a combined 11-9 during the opening weekend of Pac-10 play since head coach Pat Murphy took over the program in 1995. The last time ASU opened league play with its rivals to the South was in 1995 when the Devils took two of three. ASU and Arizona also opened the Pac-10 season with a series in 1982 with the Devils also taking two of three.
McClellan Named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week:
Sun Devil junior right-hander Robbie McClellan had another fine outing after being named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week. The junior improved to 3-0 as a starter by striking out eight and allowing four runs in ASU's only win last week. McClellan, from Liberal, Kan., became the first Sun Devil to notch back-to-back complete games since 1999, striking out a career-high 10 batters in a seven-inning win against UNLV. He allowed just four hits and did not allow a run in the 10-0 win over the Rebels. He also went all nine innings in a 7-2 win over Loyola Marymount (3/2). McClellan leads the team in wins with a 5-2 record and has a 2.90 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched. Has struck out 50 batters and walked only 17. The Pitcher of the Week honor was the first for McClellan in his career, and the 43rd selection all-time for Arizona State. McClellan is nicknamed 'The Child' by his teammates for his boyish looks.
Home Sweet Home:
The Devils will look to put its road woes behind them when they travel to Tucson for a three-game Pac-10 series at Sancet Field. The Devils are 0-4 this year on the road, enduring a three-game sweep at Florida State and losing a 8-7 tilt against New Mexico State in Las Cruces last Tuesday. ASU is 16-4 at home this year, going 13-4 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa and 3-0 at Packard Stadium on the ASU campus. While the hitting has been similar with a .304 batting average at home and a .290 mark on the road, the difference seems to lie in the pitching, with a combined 7.71 ERA on the road and a stellar 2.53 mark in home games. ASU was 25-9-1 at home last year and 11-9 on the road.
Sun Devil Baseball Successful in March:
The Sun Devil Baseball program has an all-time 620-244-1 record in the month of March dating back to the 1959 baseball season. Head Coach Pat Murphy, who recently picked up his 600th career Division I victory, is 72-51-1 in the month of March in his eight years at ASU. Looking ahead to the month of April where the Devils will play the meat of their Pac-10 schedule, ASU is 514-217 dating back to 1959.
A Tough Schedule in 2002 For ASU:
The Sun Devils face a tough schedule in 2002, with 12 combined games against teams that participated in the 2001 College World Series (3 - Tennessee, 3 - USC, 3 - Stanford, 3 - Cal State Fullerton). ASU will play 22 of its 55 (40%) scheduled games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year. The Devils schedule includes road contests against Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida State, Stanford and UCLA. Arizona State is listed as having the ninth toughest schedule in the nation on www.Boydsworld.com. So far this year the Devils are 5-5 against teams ranked in at least one of the national polls at the time they played. ASU's 5-5 record against ranked teams does not include playing Oklahoma, which moved from unranked to No. 18/22 in the polls after taking two of three frome the Devils.
The Streak Continues. ASU Looks To Score in 400th Consecutive Game Friday:
The Arizona State baseball program made history on April 7, 2001 when they scored at least one run in its 350th consecutive game. The Devils broke the 12-year-old NCAA record in a 5-1 loss to USC exactly six years to the day when they were last shut out. ASU was shut out 9-0 on April 7, 1995 at Dedeaux Field. The one run scored in the 3-1 loss to UCLA on May 19 last year marked only the 11th time during the streak that ASU has scored only one run. The streak continues with it now reaching 399 consecutive games with ASU scoring in each of the 24 games this year. ASU has a chance to score in its 400th consecutive game Friday. The Devils have extended the streak early in almost every game, with a run in the first inning 15 times in 2002. ASU was neck-in-neck for the record with Wichita State, which had not been shutout in 332 games, but had its streak ended with a 1-0 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the middle of the 2001 season. Coastal Carolina previously held the NCAA record at 349 games set from 1983-1989. ASU also had a stretch of 278 games without being shut out from 1990 to 1994, meaning the program has only been shutout in three games dating back to 1990.
One, Two and Three-Run Misery:
Playing one of the nation's toughest schedules this year, Arizona State has had a handful of close games that haven't gone their way. In fact, of the squad's eight losses this year, seven have come by three or less runs. ASU is 2-2 in one-run games and 1-4 in two run games this year.
Devils Better Score Early and Often:
The Sun Devils have had good success this year when scoring before their opponent, going 11-5 in those games. Even more importantly, when ASU scores in the first inning they are 12-3. Five runs or more seem to be the magic number for the Devils, as ASU is 16-3 in games when scoring five or more runs.
You're The Best, Mike Esposito:
While not claiming to be the best, sophomore Mike Esposito comes out to the song from the Karate Kid soundtrack labeled, 'You're the best,' before each of his starts. A song held special to his heart because the man singing the song is his father, Joe Esposito, who is currently a lounge singer in Las Vegas and has numerous other songs to his credit. Espo, a fifth-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school, is off to a strong 4-3 start and leads ASU's starters with a , 2.79 ERA in 42.0 innings pitched this year. The hard-throwing right-hander has really turned it up a notch as of late,allowing only two earned runs in his last 19.0 innings pitched. Over that stretch he is 2-1, including a career-high nine strikeout performance in a 11-1 win over St. John's. Esposito pitched for Team USA last summer where he was 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
Now That's The Way to Start the Game.... And An Inning:
The Sun Devil leadoff hitter in the game is off to a great start in 2002, and a main reason why the Devils have scored at least one run in the first inning in 15 of their 24 (63%) games this year. The Sun Devil leadoff hitter, 18 times being Steve Garrabrants, four times being Dustin Pedroia and one time each being Doug Schutt and Jon Sheaffer, has recorded a hit in the first at-bat of the game in 14 of ASU's 24 games. Garrabrants is 10-for-17 (.588) with five singles, four doubles, a walk and a home run to his credit, while Pedroia is 3-for-4 and Schutt is 1-for-1 with a single. Garrabrants has also had great success when he is the leadoff batter in an inning, not jut the start of the game, going 15-for-30 (.500) with five doubles and both of his home runs.
Starting second baseman and leading hitter Steve Garrabrants has sat out the last five games with a shoulder/upper back injury that he developed after being hit by a pitch in the St. John's game (3/9). ASU is 2-3 since Garrabrants was sideline and has struggled with a .241 team average over that stretch of games. Garrabrants, who is hitting .375 with five doubles, two triples and two home runs, is expected to start this weekend. Closer Ryan Schroyer, who has struck out 13 batters in just six innings out of the bullpen, developed a strained muscled in his arm, but is excpected to be ready this weekend when he plays in his hometown of Tucson.
Jeff Larish Makes Strong Sun Devil Debut:
Freshman infielder Jeff Larish had not dressed for a game this year and was in the stands as a redshirt candidate before finding out he would be ASU's starting third baseman for Saturday's game against Oklahoma. Larish made the most of the opportunity, going 3-for-4 with a triple and run scored in his ASU debut vs. the Sooners. Larish added a triple in Sunday's game and was thrown out going for an inside-the-park home run. The freshman starred at Tempe McClintock High School last year and was a 32nd-round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs last June.
Going Young At Catcher:
ASU head coach Pat Murphy experimented with junior Dennis Wyrick behind the plate, but after 10 starts, appears to be leaning towards freshmen Joel Bocchi and Tuffy Gosewisch. Wyrick had five passed balls in his 10 starts, as ASU's starting shorstop the last two years never looked completely comfortable behind the plate. Gosewisch is hitting .167 with nine starts behind the plate and Bocchi is 1-for-11 with three starts. Senior Cesar Castillo has also started two games behind the dish and has been a great late-inning substitution for ASU this year.
Murphy Picks Up Career Division 1 Victory #600:
With a convincing 10-0 win over UNLV in seven innings on March 8, Sun Devil Head Coach Pat Murphy reached the 600 plateau for Division I victories in his 15 years of coaching at the top level of collegiate baseball. Murphy has now fashioned a career 658-322-4 record in his 18 seasons as a head coach, with 55 of those wins came at Maryville (Tenn.) College and Claremont-Mudd Scripps. In his 15 years at the D1 level, Murphy has averaged nearly 40 wins per year and is 286-151-1 in his 8-year ASU career. He will coach in his 1,000th career game on April 27, 2002 when he returns to play his former school, Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind.
Garrabrants Looking To Get Back in Lineup:
Sophomore Steve Garrabrants was off to a torrid start to the 2002 season before being sidelined and is hoping to bounce back from a shoulder injury this weekend. Starting ASU's first 19 games, Garrabrants has sat out the last two after being hit by a pitch vs. St. John's. He is currently tied for the team lead in hitting at .375 and has five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. He is second with 10 multi-hit games and has nine extra base hits. As ASU's leadoff hitter, Garrabrants is an amazing 10-for-17 to lead off the game for the Devils.
Making the Most of his Senior Year, Jon Sheaffer:
Senior center fielder Jon Sheaffer is making the most of his final year as a college student-athlete. Sheaffer, who played football and baseball for ASU last year after transferring from South Mountain CC, played in only 30 games last year, making three starts. This year is a different story though, as Sheaffer has started 19 of ASU's 24 games in center field and is currently the team's leading hitter at .375 (24x64) with five doubles and 13 RBI. He has recorded a hit in 18 of his 22 games this year, including a streak of 16 of his last 18 games. He recently had a career-high 13-game hitting streak snapped in which he combined to go 17-for-40 (.425) with 11 runs scored and 10 RBI.
The Wild, Wild West:
Sophomore first baseman Jeremy West has been swinging a hot bat as of late, hitting five of his team-leading six home runs in the last 14 games. West is currently fifth on the team with a .349 batting average and leads the team with 30 RBI (1.25 avg. per game) and 17 extra base hits. He tied a career high with four RBI vs. LMU (3/2) and has recorded a hit in 17 of his 23 games played this year. West leads all Sun Devils with 12 career home runs. West hit .353 (6x17) with five RBI last week.
A Cubs/Sun Devil Doubleheader?:
With ASU sharing Hohokam Stadium with the Chicago Cubs this spring for their spring training, baseball fans had the unique opportunity on three occasions to enjoy a Major League-College baseball doubleheader. Sunday marked the third of the three doubleheaders, with the Cubs beating the Chicago White Sox 3-0 and ASU falling to Oklahoma 7-5. ASU was 2-1 when the Cubs had a game earlier in the day at Hohokam Stadium.
Allen and Esposito Earn Preseason All-America Awards:
Sun Devil players Rod Allen and Mike Esposito both earned preseason All-America honors by various college baseball publications. Allen, set an ASU freshman record in 2001 by hitting .389, was named a first-team preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Esposito, who recorded a 5-2 record in 2001 and is coming off an impressive summer with Team USA, was named to a third-team preseason All-American by Baseball America. Allen has come on strong as of late and is hitting .293 on the year with four home runs, 24 RBI and has played spectacular defense in left field. He has recorded a hit in 19 of 24 games this year. Esposito is 4-3 with a 2.79 ERA in his seven starts, including a complete-game victory over Tennessee (2/9). Esposito has given up only two earned runs in his last three starts and 19.0 combined innings.
Murphy's Teams Know How To Score:
A true icon of the Pat Murphy system is scoring runs. The Sun Devils have done plenty of that since he arrived in 1995. ASU has led the NCAA in scoring in two of the last three years, averaging 11.32 runs per game in 1999 and 10.97 runs per game in 2000. The Devils paced the Pac-10 in 2001, hitting at a .327 clip and averaging 8.26 runs per game to rank 17th in the nation. ASU also led the nation in batting average with a team total of .356 in 1999 and fell just percentage points shy of matching that feat a second year in a row in 2000 with a .346 mark, trailing Stony Brook by one point. During Pat Murphy's eight seasons in Tempe, the Sun Devils have been a scoring machine with 4,023 runs, averaging 9.21 runs per game and hitting at an overall .330 clip.
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