Photo: ASU Athletics
The Sun Devils stayed strong in Knoxville taking two of three games and proving why they should be ranked in the top-25.
The Sun Devils suffered their second loss of the season over the weekend trip to Tennessee, but ASU baseball has now won 14 consecutive series in the month of February.
This weekend the Sun Devils will play four games in Surprise, Arizona as part of the Coca-Cola Classic. The tournament will be headlined by preseason No. 1 Arkansas, who the Diamond Devils will play twice. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets take a look at what happened last weekend.
Pitching was one of the main focuses and Arizona State answered correctly to most of the multiple choice questions over the weekend. Despite passing the class, ASU is still one step away from being a serious threat.
Question 1: Who should replace Darin Gillies as the Sunday starter?
A. Ryan Burr
B. Ryan Kellogg
C. Alex Blackford
D. Brett Lilek
Correct Answer: B
It is early to tell whether or not freshmen lefty Kellogg will pan out as an immediate starter, but he has showed early signs of dominance this season. He earned his first collegiate win out of the bullpen during opening weekend and that was good enough for professor Tim Esmay to start the 6-foot-5 hurler on Sunday.
Kellogg ate up five innings of work, allowing just three hits and one earned run. Arguably the more impressive stat line was the freshman's command on the mound as he struck out six batters and did not allow a walk. He allowed the only run of the game in the opening frame, but went on to retire 12 of the next 14 batters before being pulled in the sixth inning.
The Canadian native was drafted in the 12th round of last year's MLB draft, but Kellogg is only helping his early draft stock by claiming a starting rotation spot after only six games. Do not be surprised if Esmay gives Kellogg extra credit and promotes him to the Saturday starter if he keeps this up in the near future.
Question 2: Who can step up for the Sun Devils on a crucial road series?
A. The freshmen class
B. Trevor Williams
C. Trever Allen
D. All of the above
Correct Answer: D
Friday night take two this season was more what the Sun Devils expected from ace Trevor Williams. The hard throwing right hander led Arizona State through seven strong innings without giving up a run and striking out eight Volunteers. He was only one punch out away from typing his career high.
ASU's young bullpen was far more composed this weekend than they were on opening night. The bullpen threw just under ten innings in Knoxville and they only had two unearned runs and a dominant 13 strikeouts.
While fans were waiting to see No. 20 come back to life on the mound, a couple of freshman batters saw some action this past weekend. Most notably, first baseman Tony DiMartino blasted his first home run of his career and David Graybill knocked his second double of the season. Center fielder Johnny Sewald also went 2 for 4 on the weekend with a swiped bag.
Do not forget about sophomore outfielder Trever Allen, who smoked his second home run of the weekend in route to the series-clinching game on Sunday. Allen is one of only three positional players on ASU's roster to start in all six games this season. After tallying his offesnvie numbers from the weekend, he now leads the team with two home runs, seven RBIs, one triple and a perfect fielding percentage.
Allen's numbers are noted this week and he should continue to be an asset to the Sun Devils in the batting lineup. Though Allen is not your stereotypical batting nerd who can rattle off base hits in every at bat like, he is a very good test taker who has proven that he can hit under pressure. The right fielder was the teacher's pet because of the way he handled himself during stressful times.
Question 3: Does sophomore Adam McCreery deserve to be the Saturday starter?
A. Absolutely not!
B. Umm, of course what are you thinking? Why wouldn't he?
C. Maybe we should test this one out
Correct Answer: C
This was one of the few mistakes Arizona State made over the weekend, but it turned out costly. Sophomore McCreery only appeared in five games his entire freshman year due to a nagging arm injury and he suffered his second straight rough outing.
There is no doubt that McCreery can throw gas, but his accuracy was a poor as a middle school kid throwing balled up paper into trash cans. The La Verne, California native barely made it into the fifth innings before professor Esmay gave the duties over to Blackford.
He gave up six hits, seven runs (only four of them earned), and walked or beaned five batters. It seemed like McCreery could never find any rhythm and though his job is not in jeopardy yet, there are a couple of middle relief pitchers who could compete for a starting spot.
Regardless, McCreery still brings plenty of upside to this Arizona State program and he did record seven of his 17 outs on the ground so it shows that he is trying to keep the ball low in the zone. Fortunately, it is still early in the season and he should have at the very least one more start to prove if he belongs in the weekend rotation.
Question 4: Do the Sun Devils have momentum heading into the Coca-Cola Classic?
Correct Answer: A
Not much to say on this true or false question besides the fact that ASU made so much improvement over a seven-day span. The team skipped eight grade and "leap frogged" its way into high school.
The pitching staff averaged over nine strikeouts per game against an SEC opponent on the road and they did not allow the Volunteers any breathing room to get back in the game. It would have been more rewarding to sweep Tennessee, but the boys showed some heart by rebounding from an 11-2 loss with a 5-1 win the next day.
All NCAA baseball eyes will be on the maroon and gold when they take on the Razorbacks because it could be a battle between two potential regional host schools.
Arizona State received a 75 percent on the test. Though they have a chance of slipping just outside of the top-25 polls before Thursday, the Sun Devils are more than capable of redeeming themselves against some quality opponents at the neutral site.
Let's see if Kellogg's start was a fluke and also which Sun Devil will step up at the plate because it's going to be an action-packed weekend in Arizona.