2007 Baseball Outlook

Feb. 2, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. -

Few athletic programs in the state of Arizona share the same tradition of excellence as the Arizona State Sun Devil baseball program.  Year in and year out, ASU wins consistently, despite constant changes in the landscape of college baseball and the emergence of several new programs in the top 25 rankings.  Entering 2007 with a young and exciting team, the only Valley sports program with two top-three finishes in the last nine seasons (1998 and 2005) finds themselves searching for that ultimate prize - the program's sixth national championship.

Several members of the 2007 team gained valuable experience playing as freshmen in 2006 and give 13th year Head Coach Pat Murphy a solid nucleus to build around this season.  Of the 15 returning letterwinners, seven finished the 2006 season as starters. Add in 22 talented newcomers and the Sun Devils could have a recipe for success. 

'We're just trying to stir the soup, 'says Murphy.  'We'll try to find the right ingredients to be the best program around, and I think we have the personnel in place to make that happen.'

Ranked for 21 consecutive years in the annual Baseball America preseason poll (longest current streak in the country), the Sun Devils are expected to contend for the Pac-10 crown and make the program's 20th trip to Omaha and the College World Series.  Few people would welcome the yearly pressure that comes with coaching at a top-ten college baseball program, but Coach Pat Murphy welcomes the challenge.

 'We will not live down to expectations,' said Murphy.  'We'd like to do something remarkable and will prepare our student-athletes to do just that.'

          Being a top flight program, ASU must deal with the loss of talent every year. Eight Sun Devils from last season's team are gone to professional baseball, led by Colin Curtis, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 MLB draft by the New York Yankees. And while the outgoing players must be replaced, the 22 newcomers feature impact players that will be expected to contribute immediately. 

          The 2007 Sun Devils feature a 37-man roster with six seniors, 11 juniors, ten sophomores and ten freshmen. ASU will be led by Preseason All-American junior 2B Eric Sogard, sophomore OF/LHP Ike Davis, sophomore 1B Brett Wallace and junior LHP Josh Satow.

'Coaching is a privilege,' said Murphy, 'but as anyone that has ever had the chance to enjoy it knows, young people must mature and learn the game.' 


'Every year is a new opportunity and my main goal in 2007 is for these guys to realize their possibilities. I'm excited to get things started and see where the journey takes us.'



            ASU is known around the country and well-respected for always playing a challenging schedule. 2007 will be no exception, as once again, the Sun Devils will face a difficult non-conference slate.

          'We play in the toughest conference in the nation, the Pac-10,' said Murphy. 'In order to prepare for the rigors of the Pac-10 season, we feel like we should play the best available competition out of conference.'

          The Sun Devils will do that right out of the gate, as they travel to Houston, Texas for the Houston College Classic during the second weekend of play (Feb. 9-11). ASU will face Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Houston at MinuteMaidPark, home of the major league Houston Astros. ArizonaState will become the first Pac-10 team to ever play in the prestigious tournament, which is known for featuring crowds as large as 25,000 fans.  The Sun Devils will also travel to Auburn, Alabama to face the SEC's Auburn Tigers in what is widely regarded as the finest college baseball ballpark in America, PlainsmanPark.

          Eight teams that advanced to last season's NCAA Tournament in 2006 grace the schedule this season. ASU will face traditional powers Long Beach State, Hawai'i and Texas A&M, among others.  The Sun Devils will also face seven teams ranked in the preseason Top 40, including four Pac-10 rivals. Annually one of the toughest conferences in the nation, the Pac-10 will once again feature several talented schools.

          'There are no free passes in the Pac-10, you have to come to play everyday,' said Murphy. 'Last year's National Champion, OregonState, came from our conference, Stanford and USC are perennial powers, and UCLA is coming off an NCAA tournament appearance and has a lot of excitement surrounding their program. Washington State, Cal and Washington are all much improved, as is Arizona. In this conference, every game will be a dogfight.'



            Fifteen members of last season's team return to the Devils in 2007. Headlining the returners is junior second baseman Eric Sogard. Sogard, a preseason All-American, had a breakout 2006, batting .353 with nine home runs and 50 RBI. He was named an All-American and All-Pac-10 selection following his sophomore season.

          'Sogard really came on last year,' said Murphy. 'We didn't know what to expect from him at the start of the year, but he really took advantage of an opportunity to play and has flourished ever since.'

          The 2006 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Ike Davis, begins his sophomore season looking to build on his historic debut season in Tempe. Davis established a new school freshman record with his 65 runs batted in during 2006, becoming the first freshman to ever lead the Pac-10 conference in RBI during the regular season. The First Team All-Pac-10 member hit .329 with nine home runs and also pitched in 14 games.  He begins 2007 as the Sun Devils right-fielder.

          'Ike is only beginning to reach his potential as a baseball player,' Murphy said of Davis. 'He certainly showed last year what he can do at the plate, and we think the more he matures and learns the game, the better he will become.'

          Fellow sophomores Brett Wallace (1B) and Petey Paramore (C) also had standout freshmen years that they will look to build upon in 2007. Wallace led the team with his .371 average while Paramore earned Freshman All-American and First Team All-Pac-10 honors for his work both at and behind the plate.

          SS Andrew Romine wasn't expected to play a game in 2006 because of complications that resulted from a preseason blood clot, but ended up being a key part of the Sun Devils lineup by the end of the season. Romine hit .375 in the 22 games he appeared in, driving in 13 runs and scoring 12 times.

          'What Andrew Romine did last year was both amazing and inspirational,' said Murphy. 'Here's a kid who goes through major surgery just before the season, isn't expected to play at all, and becomes a major contributor to us down the stretch and into the NCAA Tournament. He is the consummate team guy and a great young man.'

          Sophomore Matt Hall will begin the season at 3B and has been very impressive in preseason workouts.  Senior Joe Persichina provides the Sun Devils with the most game experience on the current roster and is able to play all four infield positions.

Sophomore two-sport athlete Mike Jones has shed his shoulder pads for batting gloves and will look to build upon his late season surge as the 2007 season begins.  Despite missing part of the baseball season to participate in spring football practice, Jones was one of the Sun Devils hottest players down the stretch in 2006 and is expected to begin the 2007 campaign in centerfield.

Other returning position players include CJ Retherford, who played five positions in 2006, sophomore catcher/infielder Greg Bordes, who redshirted last season, and junior outfielders Ryan Sontag and Rocky Laguna.

Only three pitchers return in 2007, led by junior lefty Josh Satow.  A crafty lefty with exceptional control, Satow had a breakout sophomore campaign and will compete for a spot in the weekend rotation to start the season.  Sophomore LHP Jeff Urlaub began 2006 as hot as any pitcher in the conference before coming down with mononucleosis in March.  Urlaub's health has returned, and he will be counted on to fill one of the Sun Devils starting or long relief roles in 2007.  Senior RHP Matt Trink also returns and will pitch primarily out of the bullpen.



            Another decorated recruiting class is set to make an impact in Tempe in 2007.  Left-handed pitcher Brian Flores, a junior transfer from New MexicoJunior College, will compete immediately for a spot in the weekend rotation. Flores comes to ASU as a highly decorated junior college pitcher, having won the NJCAA Male Athlete of the Year Award following his sophomore season. He went 27-3 as a starter at NMJC, including a perfect game and two no-hitters. He helped lead New Mexico JC to a National Title in 2005.

          Outfielder Tim Smith also comes to ASU with high expectations after a successful junior college career.  Originally from Toronto, Smith comes to ASU from MidlandCollege in Midland, Texas, where he hit a combined .459, including 59 extra base hits and 41 stolen bases.

          LHP Joey Parigi was heavily recruited by ASU out of high school in Monterey, California, but chose to attend the University of Texas in 2006 before transferring to ASU in 2007.  Parigi was one of the Longhorns top relievers last season and gives the Sun Devils valuable big game experience and will compete for a spot in the weekend rotation to start the season.

Catcher Kiel Roling was a member of ASU's fall signing class and originally expected to not arrive on campus until the fall of 2007.  After deciding to enroll at ASU over the winter break, Roling brings a big right-handed bat to the lineup and will see action behind the plate as part of a sophomore catching tandem with returner Petey Paramore.

Other transfers expected to contribute are RHP Ted Aust, RHP Scott Mueller, LHP Brett Davis, RHP Dustin Brader, LSU transfer Jarred Bogany and University of North Carolina transfer Matt Spencer OF/LHP.  Spencer was a member of the national runner-up Tarheels last season and combines an attractive combination of speed and power. Bogany is a talent both in the field and at the plate and should make a push for a starting position.

          A very talented freshman class is led by RHP/OF Mike Leake, who was a 7th round pick of the Oakland A's in last summer's MLB Draft. Leake is expected to be a major part of the Sun Devil pitching rotation, but will also see time in the outfield at some point this season.

          'Mike Leake is a very special, game-changing type of player,' said Murphy. 'We are extremely excited about the future this young man has at ArizonaState and for the contributions he'll make as a freshman.'

          Another freshman who will play a major role is utility man Raoul Torrez.

'Raoul really understands and lives the Sun Devil way,' said Murphy. 'It's hard to quantify what a player like him brings, but it is so important to the team. Although uncommon for a first year player, Raoul's leadership skills will have an impact on our team this season.'

          Leake and Torrez are joined by fellow freshmen LHP Adam Bailey, RHP Jason Mitchell, LHP Joe Hatasaki, OF Kyle Williams, IF Joe Van Meter, IF Tyler Hoechlin, OF Mike Petello and RHP/OF Jason Jarvis.  Bailey, Mitchell, Jarvis and Hatasaki will compete for innings out of the bullpen.  Williams is another two-sport athlete that will see time in the outfield after doubling as a wide-receiver on the Sun Devil football team this past fall.  Hoechlin is well known for his acting work on TV's 7th Heaven, but also a talented baseball player that will get the chance to contribute early in 2007.  Petello and Van Meter are expected to redshirt in 2007.  Two other Sun Devils, RHP's Derik Olvey and Tommy Rafferty will redshirt this season because of NCAA transfer rules.



          'We know what the expectation is here and we've been working towards that goal each day leading up to the season, 'said Murphy.  'Every single player that puts on the uniform realizes what a special place this is and wants to leave a mark on the rich tradition our program enjoys. I'm not big into predictions, but I do know that our team will play the game with a passion, attitude and commitment to team unrivaled by other programs in the country. I'm excited to get it started!'


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