The Sun Devils (7-2-1) have a chance to reach the ten win mark of the season against the Long Beach State Dirtbags (6-7). Last season, ASU won the series 2-1 on the road and the freshmen class will have to carry the Sun Devils this weekend in Tempe, especially on the mound.
Brandon Caudill has his own blog, Dirtbag Blues, and he has followed LBSU baseball for a few years. Lets take a moment and see how Brandon thinks the season has gone thus far.
House of Sparky: What's been the biggest surprise of the season for the Dirtbags?
Brandon Caudill: Nothing terribly surprising so far, but I do think the offense has a few more weapons than expected. With that in mind, I'd probably have to say first baseman Jeff Yamaguchi has been our biggest surprise. His glove work has been great thus far, which isn't a huge stock but is nice to see because the team as a whole has struggled defensively, and his bat has been surprisingly solid. He's hitting .333 with an OBP of .435 after producing little the first two years of his college career, and he gives us a valuable righty bat in the middle of the order.
Shortstop Michael Hill is leading the team with an 1.016 OPS after hitting really struggling as an underclassman (.179 career hitter entering the year), but he's coming off a strong performance in fall ball and was expected to have a breakout year.
HoS: What happened this past weekend against Seattle University? What was the biggest weakness for LBSU because they had big wins over Arizona and Vanderbilt and losing the series seemed unlikely.
BC: I basically threw a hissy fit on my blog over losing the series. Our offense isn't going to break any records but it has the potential to be very solid after really struggling in recent years. However, so far versus left handed pitchers we've really struggled and Seattle tossed two crafty leftys at us this weekend in Andrew Olsen and Kyle Doyle. So far this year when a LHP starts against us we're 0-4 and average just 3 runs a game. We've had issues with leaving men on base and, as mentioned before, the defense. Both of those problems played somewhat of a role in our series loss, too.
HoS: John Maciel and Landon Hunt are both upperclassmen in the rotation but why are they struggling so much? They killed it in the bullpen last year so are they forced to start because there are no other options?
BC: Maciel should be okay, I'm willing to excuse some struggles against Vandy and he wasn't really hit hard there. Against Seattle it was really just the 4th inning that did him in (though he struggled in the 6th, too). Five earned runs on nine hits certainly leaves room for improvement but he also had eight strikeouts and no walks in just six innings. I think Seattle just had a good day.
Hunt is another story. He hasn't been awful but seems to labor his way to five innings each time out. He's a little unproven at the D1 level (JuCo transfer who was used sparingly last year as the lefty specialist) and I could see him being moved to the pen later in the year if things aren't working, but we're having trouble as it is establishing all our roles in the pitching staff (thanks to pre-season Tommy john surgery to Starter Ryan Strufing and closer Kyle Freidrichs) so moving Hunt around could further complicate things. If Hunt is moved Nick Sabo, Ryan Millison, and David Hill would be options to start.
HoS: In your opinion, what would be a better win: the opening weekend win against Vanderbilt on the road or a win this coming weekend against ASU?
BC: I'd probably have to go with Vanderbilt, first because they're so highly touted this year (with good reason); second and more importantly because it would've given us some national notice. Us west coast schools tend to get overlooked by the selection committee.
That said, a road series win at ASU would be one of our biggest achievements of the year, and also look nice on a regional-bid resume. I'd gladly settle for that.
The Sun Devils take on Long Beach State University this weekend so lets check in with an expert of the Dirtbags.
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