The Gomez Files: Bats Stay Hot In Las Cruces

May 21, 2004

By Brian Gomez

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- You won't get much argument from the Arizona State baseball team about the old adage 'hitting is contagious.'

In a continuation of a 22-run, 26-hit rampage against New Mexico, the No. 13 Sun Devils kept swinging the hot stick on Wednesday and toppled New Mexico State 12-5 at Presley Askew Field.

And it wasn't just ASU's power hitters that did the damage.

Making only his fourth start of the season, junior Ryan McKenna went 3-for-5 and scored in part of a seven-run second inning that chased Aggies ace starter Dustin Cameron. McKenna's batting average soared from .240 to .324, an 84-point leap over the past two games.

Sophomore Travis Buck also went 3-for-5 and reached base in his first four at-bats. Junior Dustin Pedroia belted a three-run home run in the second to take the team lead with nine on the season, and junior Chris Cook homered for the second straight game with a two-run blast in the seventh.

'Offensively, we're starting to get a little more confident,' said Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy, whose team posted 34 runs against the New Mexico schools, the most in back-to-back games since late February, when it also scored 34 against Connecticut on consecutive days.

'With the schedule we played and where we're at right now is incredible, considering that 70 percent of our team is newcomers.'

Along with McKenna, senior Nick Walsh saw a big jump in batting average this week, as it went from .361 to .368, thanks to a 2-for-4 effort Wednesday. He was 1-for-2 on Tuesday against New Mexico.

'Once somebody starts hitting ... we've had a couple big innings in the last couple games, and it has really put us ahead,' McKenna said.

The offensive explosion took pressure off ASU's pitchers, whom weren't as sharp as they were Tuesday, yet managed to pull through without taxing the bullpen before this weekend's Pac-10 series at rival Arizona.

Junior Ty Marotz relinquished three runs on seven hits and struck out a career-high five batters in 3 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the season. Freshman Quentin Andes, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., gave up one run in 2 2/3 innings to earn his fourth win.

'We wanted to give (our pitchers) some confidence, and putting up 10 or nine runs in the first couple innings really helped them out,' said Buck, who extended his hitting streak to a team-leading 13 games and finished the two-game New Mexico trip 5-for-7 with two runs scored.

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