#15 Sun Devil Baseball Lifts Lid on 2021 Season vs. Sac State
PHOENIX -- #15 Sun Devil Baseball will lift the lid on the 2020 campaign this weekend against the Sacramento State Hornets beginning Friday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. The second game of the series will get underway Saturday at 5 p.m. before closing things out on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. AZT.
The Sun Devils are ranked 15th in the country in the preseason polls by Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The NCBWA have ASU tabbed at No. 29 while the team remains unranked by Baseball America and D1Baseball. ASU was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 this season in vote by the Pac-12 Coaches this week.
Follow the Action
- All three games this weekend will be streamed live online at https://pac-12.com/live/arizona-state-university-2 (Friday and Sunday) and https://pac-12.com/live/arizona-state-university-2 (Saturday)
- Sautrday's game will be available over the airwaves with Jeff Munn and Max Rossiter on NBC Sports 1060 AM.
- Fans are encouraged to follow along pre-game and in-game content throughout the week on the Sun Devil Baseball Twtter account: @ASU_Baseball, especially for key weather updates and time changes.
On Season Openers/The Hornets
- The Sun Devils are 48-13-1 in season openers and have won or split 13 of their last 14 season opening series. ASU has won 12 of its last 14 season openers.
- The two teams have played just once before, a Sac State victory in the Regional Round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament - the first NCAA Tournament win in Hornet history
- Of the 33 players on last year's Hornets roster, the team is returning 23 players. All of 2020's nine regular starters return for 2021. On the offensive side of the ball, Sacramento State is returning 100% of its runs, hits, and RBIs from a year ago, and 99.2% of its total at bats.
- On the mound, the Hornets return 77.8% of its their wins, 70.8% of innings pitched, 70.4% of strikeouts, and 62.5% of their starts. Leading the returning pitchers is the trio of Scott Randall, Travis Adams, and Stone Churby. Almost all of the team's lost pitching stats can be attributed to the departure of one player, former Hornet pitcher Parker Brahms, who signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
1. ASU held opponents to five runs or fewer in 16 of the first 17 games of the 2021 season and led the Pac-12 in strikeouts in the short year.
2. Despite the five-round MLB Draft, ASU made history with its five draft selections through the first four rounds marking a program record.
3. .@coopb__17 will get the nod on Opening Night on the mound after posting a 3.60 ERA and 25 strikeouts through 20 innings last year.
4. Sun Devil Baseball has recorded a Top-1 recruiting class in four of the last five years, including this year's crop of youngsters.
5. Tyler Thornton posted a quality start in three of his first four starts last season, the only Sun Devil to post such a feat.
6. .@Swiftyy23 helped turn 10 double plays last season - the third-most in the Pac-12 and most among non-first basemen.
7. .@ErikTolman had 30 strikeouts in just 18.0 innings of work last season, a 15.00 K/9 innings ratio that was 18th nationally.
8. .@hunterjumpp is riding an 8 game hitting streak and led the Pac-12 with seven doubles last season.
9. .@Swiftyy23 had a team-best 8 multi-hit games and was the only player on the squad to record a 4-hit game - doing so twice.
10. .@boyd__19 has not allowed an earned run in his last 14.1 innings of action over four appearances.
BY THE NUMBERS
42 - In his last eight regular season appearances dating back to 2019, Vander Kooi has posted a 1.39 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched, striking out 42 with just six walks and seven earned runs allowed. The junior led the team last year with a 0.70 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. The ERA was good for 2nd in the Pac-12 despite being second in the league in innings pitched. Vander Kooi walked just two batters to 20 strikeouts last season and the 10.0 strikeout to walk ratio was second in the Pac-12 and 31st nationally.
30 - Erik Tolman had 30 strikeouts in just 18.0 innings pitched last season - holding opponents to just .143 hitting.The 30 strikeouts were 5th in the Pac-12 last season while his 12 looking strikeouts were second. Tolman recorded 15.00 strikeouts per nine innings, a total that was 2nd in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally. In his three starts, Tolman allowed just four earned runs. He was unfazed by runners on the basepath, holding opponents to just 3-of-20 hitting (.150) with runners on. Tolman was deadly with two strikes to his credit this season, holding opponents to 3-for-45 (.067) hitting.
8 - Drew Swift had a team-best 8 multi-hit games last year - two more than any of his teammates - and was the only player on the squad to record a 4-hit game - doing so twice. Swift was on an unreal tear over his final seven games, recording five-straight multi-hit efforts at one point and two of those being four-hit contests. In that five-game stretch, Swift went 15-of-29 (.517) with a team-best 13 RBIs. Swift led the team in batting average, sitting at .365 overall on the season with a team-best 23 hits - three more than any of his teammates.
8 - Hunter Jump was among the hottest hitters in the Sun Devil lineup in the last couple weeks of the 2020 season and rides an eight-game hitting streak into the season.In the last two weeks of action, Jump went 14-of-31 with a .452 average and was second on the team with 12 RBIs in his last 8 games. He slugged .742 in that time with a team-best six doubles.He led the Pac-12 and was 27th nationally with 7 total doubles on the season.
Just Like He Drew It Up
- Drew Swift was Mr. Sun Devil for the ASU last season, seeing time at second base, shortstop, center field and right field.
- Drew Swift was on an unreal tear over his final seven games, recording five-straight multi-hit efforts at one point and two of those being four-hit contests. In that five-game stretch, Swift went 15-of-29 (.517) with a team-best 13 RBIs.
- Swift led the team in batting average, sitting at .365 overall on the season with a team-best 23 hits - three more than any of his teammates.
- He was easily been ASU's best hitter with runners in scoring position, going 11-for-24 (.524) with three more hits than any teammate.
- His clutch hitting also stood out as he was the team's best hitter with two outs, going 9-for-22 (.409).
- Swift had a team-best 8 multi-hit games - two more than any of his teammates - and was the only player on the squad to record a 4-hit game - doing so twice.
- Swift helped turn 10 double plays last season - the third-most in the Pac-12 and most among non-first basemen.
- Swift was named to the Pac-12 honorable mention All-Defensive team as a sophomore. He was a part of 36 double plays, despite the time missed, good for fourth in the Pac-12 in the category and second among non-first basemen. He helped ASU turn 61 double plays on the season - sixth in the nation and first in the Pac-12. His 135 defensive assists were good for 7th in the Pac-12.
Hangin' With Mr. Cooper
- Cooper Benson wasted no time putting himself in the rotation as a freshman, working his way to the role of Friday-night starter by the conclusion of the shortened season.
- Benson will toe the rubber for Sun Devil Baseball on opening night.
- He finished with a 1-1 record and a 3.60 ERA, striking out 25 in 20.0 innings of work.
- Benson an impressive debut for the Sun Devils against a Top-10 Michigan program, recording a quality start with 6.1 innings pitched and just two earned runs against in his first collegiate action - striking out eight with no walks.
- Benson a career-best nine strikeouts in his final appearance of the year against Fresno State over 5.2 innings.
- Hunter Jump was among the hottest hitters in the Sun Devil lineup in the last couple weeks of the 2020 season and rides an eight-game hitting streak into the season.
- In the last two weeks of action, Jump went 14-of-31 with a .452 average and was second on the team with 12 RBIs in his last 8 games. He slugged .742 in that time with a team-best six doubles.
- He leds the Pac-12 and was 27th nationally with 7 total doubles on the season.
- Jump was responsible for the game-winning RBIs in the sixth inning or later in both of ASU's first two games of the series sweep of Fresno State.
Filling the Boyd
- Boyd Vander Kooi is the veteran presence in the starting rotation for the Sun Devils this season but has provided much needed depth off the bench as well.
- The junior led the team last year with a 0.70 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. The ERA was good for 2nd in the Pac-12 despite being second in the league in innings pitched
- Vander Kooi walked just two batters to 20 strikeouts last season and the 10.0 strikeout to walk ratio was second in the Pac-12 and 31st nationally.
- His 0.82 WHIP was fifth in the Pac-12 while his 0.70 walks allowed per nine innings were third in the league and 20th nationally - but seventh among pitchers with at least 20.0 innings pitched on the year.
- In his last eight regular season appearances dating back to 2019, Vander Kooi has posted a 1.39 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched, striking out 42 with just six walks and seven earned runs allowed.
- Vander Kooi has tossed 14.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run over his last 4 appearances.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
- Saint Mary's transfer Tyler Thornton played heavily into the Sun Devil pitching rotation last season.
- Thornton was nigh unhittable in his debut as a Sun Devil, allowing just one hit in 6.2 innings of work against Villanova.
- The sophomore posted a quality start in three of his first four starts last season, the only Sun Devil to post such a feat. ASU was 4-0 in games Thornton started.
- Thornton was 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA with 25 strikeouts and seven walks in 24.0 innings pitched - tied for 6th in the Pac-12. His 25 strikeouts were 11th in the Pac-12.
- Thornton was tabbed the National Freshman of the Year (Collegiate Baseball) and National Freshman Pitcher of the Year (NCWBA) and Freshman of the Year of the West Coast Conference.Finished the year with a 10-2 record and a 2.71 earned run average in 13 starts. His 5.54 hits allowed per nine innings were ranked 11th in the country and first in the West Coast Conference and his 10 wins were also ranked 11th in the nation. Thornton's 11.08 strikeouts per nine were ranked third in the WCC and his WHIP of 0.97 was also third in the conference (27th in the nation).
Pay the Tolman
- Erik Tolman had 30 strikeouts in just 18.0 innings pitched last season - holding opponents to just .143 hitting.
- The 30 strikeouts were 5th in the Pac-12 last season while his 12 looking strikeouts were second.
- Tolman recorded 15.00 strikeouts per nine innings, a total that was 2nd in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally.
- In his three starts last year, Tolman allowed just four earned runs. He was unfazed by runners on the basepath, holding opponents to just 3-of-20 hitting (.150) with runners on.
- Tolman was deadly with two strikes to his credit this season, holding opponents to 3-for-45 (.067) hitting with two strikes.
- Tolman's 2020 debut was absolutely electric as he posted a career-best 12 strikeouts against #24 Oklahoma State - the most for an ASU pitcher since Ryan Kellogg had 12 strikeouts against Oregon on May 12, 2014. It took Kellogg eight innings to get to that mark, while Tolman was able to reach the number in just six innings of work.
- It was the most strikeouts in six or fewer innings since Mitchell Lambson had 12 on March 14, 2009 against Kansas in 5.2 innings.
- In 2019, Tolman went 3-1 with two saves and a team-best 3.38 ERA among pitchers averaging at least two innings per game and didn't allowed an earned run in 15 of his 24 appearances. Opponent's .206 batting average against Tolman last year, easily the lowest on the team.
Pounding The Zone
- ASU's new pitching coach Jason Kelly made immediate impressions on the Sun Devil pitching staff based on early returns.
- ASU was first in the Pac-12 in strikeouts (178 - 12 more than any other team in the league) and in batters struck out looking (58 - five more than any other team).
- After a fluky 18-run game against Nebraska, the Sun Devil pitching staff allowed just 12 TOTAL runs over its 5-game winning streak to end the season.
- ASU held opponents to 5 runs or fewer in 16 of the first 17 games of the year.
- The Sun Devil pitching rotation had as effective of a 11-game stretch to open the season as it had in recent memory. The Sun Devils did not allow more than five runs in each of the first 11 games, the first time accomplishing that feat to start a season since having 12 such games in 2009.
- Each of ASU's five separate starting pitchers recorded a quality start in their first outing of the season (3 or fewer earned runs in 6.0+ innings of work). ASU's five consecutive quality starts were the most since a seven-game stretch in 2011 (one game against Fullerton and series against Arizona and Oregon).
- ASU's 11 quality starts through the first 17 games were notable as it took until the March 30 of 2019 to reach the feat.
- ASU's 18 strikeouts against #24 Oklahoma State were the most against a Power Five program since March 21, 1998, against Cal. It was the most, period, since a 21-strikeout effort in 2001 against a now defunct Southern Utah program.
Looking at the Bright Side
- The loss of the 2020 season was tough to swallow for many across the nation, but especially for a promising Sun Devil program that was primed for a College World Series-type run. But while the Sun Devils lost some significant bats and infield defense following the season, the shortened 2020 Draft left a talented pitching staff mostly unscathed.
- Only closer RJ Dabovich was (114th overall selection of the fourth round) lost and while ASU will have to find a way to replace his production (4 saves, 0.77 ERA, 17 strikeouts in 9 appearances and 11.2 innings), the Sun Devils return every starter for the 2020 campaign from a team that posted a 3.56 era with 178 strikeouts to just 67 walks and a just a .224 average against.
Feeling the Draft
- Despite the draft being shortened to five rounds from 40 due to the fallout from COVID-19, the Sun Devils made history as ASU's five draft selections through the first four rounds marked a program record. Previously the record was four, which had occurred six times in history and most recently in 2012 (Deven Marrero, Brady Rodgers, Joey DeMichele, Jake Barrett).
- The five selections in the 2020 MLB Draft were the most of any program. ASU has had at least five MLB Draft selections if 49 of the 56 all-time draft years since Sun Devil alumnus Rick Monday was selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the 1965 MLB Draft. It was ASU's third consecutive season with five draft picks and the fourth season in the last five years with the total.
- The haul brings ASU's all-time MLB Draft selections to an NCAA-leading 447, including secondary phase and January drafts throughout history. ASU's 156 draft selections since 1999 are also the most of any team in the nation.
- Sun Devil Baseball bookended the opening round of the 2020 MLB Draft as Spencer Torkelson was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Tigers while Alika Williams was chosen 37th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Competitive Balance Round A with the final selection of the first round.
- Torkelson became the fourth Arizona State baseball player to go No. 1 overall in program history, easily an NCAA-high – two more than any other program. He joins Rick Monday (1965), Floyd Bannister (1976) and Bob Horner (1978) to earn the prestigious designation out of ASU.
- It was the seventh time in ASU history that the program recorded two first round selections (including supplementary rounds) - tied with Stanford for the most multi-pick years in NCAA history. The last time it occurred was 1997 when Ryan Bradley and Dan McKinley were selected 40th and 49th overall in the supplemental rounds. It is the first time with at least one of the players going in the non-compensatory first round since 1994 (Antone Williamson (4th) and Jacob Cruz (32nd)).
- With Torkelson becoming Sun Devil Baseball's fourth No. 1 overall pick, Arizona State now ranks tied for fourth among all NCAA programs for most No. 1 overall draft picks from a single program among the major sports (MLB/NBA/NFL/NHL). Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC football have all had five No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. Sun Devil Baseball is the only NCAA baseball program in the Top-10.
- Torkelson was the 22nd first round selection for the Sun Devils in program history (June draft only, no supplemental rounds) – good for the second-highest tally in NCAA history (Stanford's 23). With supplemental rounds included, Torkelson and Williams mark 30 first-round selections - one behind Stanford for the most in the NCAA. The duo marks the 51st and 52nd first round selections in program history with the supplementary, January and June Secondary phase drafts included as well.
- Torkelson's selection marks the second consecutive season that a Sun Devil has gone in the first 10 picks of the MLB Draft, joining Hunter Bishop's 10th overall selection by the San Francisco Giants last season. Torkelson is the 14th Top-10 pick in Sun Devil program history - the most of any program in the NCAA.