Larish Looking to Return to Form in 2005

Jan. 25, 2005

Heading into the start of last season, the story appeared all but written for Jeff Larish.

The ASU baseball star had burst onto the national scene his sophomore year, hitting .372 with 18 home runs and 95 RBIs. Professional teams were banging down the door to get a look at him, and Larish was showered with numerous preseason accolades.

One more similar season, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that Larish would be a high draft pick and move on to the professional ranks.

However, the junior year most expected to be Larish's swan song didn't turn out as planned. Larish's numbers fell in nearly every statistical category, and he wasn't picked until the 13th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball amateur draft.

'I had my struggles,' Larish said. 'It was a pretty difficult year.'

Just glancing at the numbers, it would be easy to say Larish didn't live up to expectations. But just glancing at the numbers never tells the whole story.

Larish was asked to switch positions -- from first base to left field -- for the third time in three years. He did so without complaint.

'Wherever coach [Murphy] says is where I'm going to play,' Larish said.

Larish did a stellar job in the outfield, committing no errors in 95 chances. He was asked to help take the reins of a team that lost big-time bats in Andre Ethier, Jeremy West and Steve Garrabrants. And instead of blending in with the rest of his high-powered teammates, he had to deal with opposing pitchers bringing their best stuff every time he stepped to the plate.

HOMETOWN: Tempe.YEAR: Senior.SPORT/POSITION: Baseball, 3B.HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.FAST FACTS: National leader in runs (157), walks(142) and RBIs (168) among active players. Has played three different positions in a four-year career. Rated by Baseball America as the No. 45 college prospect for this year's Major League Baseball amateur draft. Has been drafted twice by major-league clubs.

'With [the 2003] team, we didn't have a hole in the lineup,' Larish said. 'It just made it easier for everybody to hit. [In 2004], it was just a situation I had never been in, with guys coming at me. I learned more from last year than any other.'

Larish enters his senior season vowing to do what he attempts every year: stay consistent. There haven't been any magical cure-alls implemented to fix what happened last season because they don't need any.

The talent Larish possesses is unquestionable. Teammates rave about the way he effortlessly hits ball after ball over the Packard Stadium fence and onto Rural Road.

It's make-or-break time for Larish, who has one last chance to see if he can revert to his sophomore form.

None of the pressure seems to be affecting Larish, at least not publicly. Larish hardly speaks of any individual goals, instead answering questions about what he wants to accomplish exclusively in terms of the team.

His main goal this season? To lead ASU to the College World Series -- something he hasn't done the last three years.

If Larish accomplishes that, his numbers should end up just fine.

By Kyle Odegard

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