ASU Baseball: Series Preview vs. Bethune-Cookman

Photo: ASU Athletics

Arizona State opens the 2013 season at No.16 in the collegiate polls and they take on a team from Florida at home.

Pitching Matchups
Friday:
ASU - RHP Trevor Williams (12-2, 2.05 ERA)
BC - RHP Montana Durapau (4-7, 3.86)

Saturday:
ASU - LHP Adam McCreery (2-0, 1.32 ERA)
BC - LHP Ali Simpson (2-1, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday
ASU - RHP Darin Gillies (1-4, 5.03 ERA)
BC - RHP Scott Garner (4-4, 6.00 ERA)

The 2013 season officially kicks off on Friday against Bethune-Cookman and this is the first time the two teams have faced each other in program's history.

The Sun Devils open the season as the sixteenth best team in the country according to Collegiate Baseball, but there are still some glaring questions entering this season.

Despite the phenomenal freshmen class, Arizona State will look to its returners on the opening day starting lineup. Baring some setback, it appears as if the newcomers will begin as role players off the bench for the opening weekend.

The Sun Devils are 3-0 during Tim Esmay's head coaching tenure in their season openers and that number should go up to four with ace Trevor Williams on the mound. He was recently listed on the NCAA's Golden Spikes Award watch list, an award given to the best amateur baseball player in the country. The biggest concern could be on the Saturday and Sunday starters because they cannot work the bullpen too much against a team like Bethune-Cookman.

Sun Devil fans need to see six quality innings from both Adam McCreery and Darin Gillies. Gillies surrendered two runs to the alumni and had a bit of a control issue so lets hope that's not the start of another plus-5 ERA year. Fortunately, the Sun Devils are deep in terms of young arms so Esmay is more than willing to give one of his new recruits a chance to steal a spot in the starting rotation if someone consistently slips up.

The maroon and gold's job this weekend is to find some consistency in the starting lineup as well. Defensively, there are not many holes in this Sun Devil team. But at the plate, it could be a different story.

Captain Max Rossiter and third baseman Michael Benjamin both hit above .320 last year and Nathaniel Causey has good pop on his bat considering over 25 percent of his hits were for extra bases.

Both infielders Rouric Bridgewater and Drew Stankiewicz will bat near the heart of the order and they will be crucial to this team's batting success. Bridgewater can have the most raw power on this team, but it won't matter if he can't get on-base. He only drew two walks in his 52 at bats and needs to anchor the batting in 2013. Trevor Allen had a mediocre year at the plate as well, and he needs to assume a big time leadership role and bat around .300. This is a Sun Devil team that does not have much homerun power, so getting on-base and playing effective small ball will be the difference in the first month of this season.

Bethune-Cookman University is a quick team though and they will not go down without a fight. Last year, they won their seventh consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and swiped 102 bases in the process. Their bullpen is not very deep, however, as they have a handful of pitchers with 4.00 ERAs and worse. The Sun Devils will need to work deep into the count and force the Wildcats to use their bullpen early in the weekend.

Arizona State can easily open the 2013 season with a sweep at home, but they need to stick to the fundamentals of getting on base, moving base runners by any means possible and finding some confidence on the mound. Incase the starting pitching isn't throwing its best stuff this weekend, the Sun Devils bullpen is one of the strong points this year so they have a crutch to lean on.

The first game starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night and then back-to-back afternoon contests to wrap up the weekend. Saturday's game starts at 1 p.m. and Sunday's first pitch is at 12:30 p.m.

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