ASU Baseball is in the home stretch of a successful season. The Sun Devils now have 30 wins on the season and are three games above .500 in conference play. They were ranked inside the top ten for a couple of weeks, but the Sun Devils haven't showed their full potential just yet.
Earlier this year, the Friday and Saturday night games were almost a walk in the park considering the way Trevor Williams and Ryan Kellogg were throwing.
Those two mixed with a dominant bullpen made Arizona State a threat against any opponent. This past weekend, the pitching suffered a bit of a slump and will need to finish strong in its final 11 games of the season.
I'm not saying anyone should panic yet, but this past weekend should be noted if fans want to see this team compete in the NCAA post season.
Williams couldn't quite keep up with Mark Appel's seven innings and 13 strikeouts on national television and Ryan Kellogg allowed seven runs for the second time in his freshman campaign, but the Sun Devils' offense kept them in all three games and they helped the team win its third straight Pac-12 Sunday game.
Arizona State allowed 22 runs on the weekend, but they matched the Cardinal with 22 of its own. This Sun Devil team has some consistency problems as it has already won five games against top-ten opponents, but they lost two of three to unranked opponents in Washington State and Stanford at home. No disrespect to either of those teams, but they are not the powerhouses in the Pac-12 this season.
The Cardinal proved that nobody is untouchable in the ASU pen, including Ryan Burr who gave up three walks and two runs in his two and two-thirds innings on Saturday to go along with a purple baseball bruise on his upper thigh from a comebacker.
Following the extra innings, series-clinching victory by Stanford, reliever Matt Dunbar said, "They are playing tough. All we can do is tip our hats to them."
Dunbar, like the rest of his team, was upset at the way Saturday finished. ASU lost by one and left the bases loaded to end the game in the eleventh. But the Sun Devils were not about to suffer their first sweep of the year.
"Definitely a lot of learning experience, a lot of growing. (We) just have to put it behind us and move on to the next one," Dunbar stated.
To Dunbar's liking, the team would respond and avoid the sweep. Typically ASU struggles on Sundays, but the bats came alive for 11 runs including back-to-back-to-back home runs by Max Rosster, RJ Ybarra and Trever Allen in the second inning to put the team up 8-2.
Zak Miller pitched a solid outing as he went five innings, giving up three runs. However, the Sun Devils' bullpen gave up five runs over the final four frames.
The brightest spot of the weekend had to be sophomore Darin Gillies who picked up the save on Sunday and appeared in two games without allowing a run. To make things better, he struck out four of the six Cardinal he faced.
The maroon and gold still have three game series against California, Arizona and Washington. As good as the lineup is from top to bottom of the order, the pitching staff cannot falter as much as it did this weekend if they expect respect from the rest of the Pac-12 and the NCAA elites.
Stanford was the first team to really figure out the Sun Devils pitching, but is this the beginning of a bad trend? Coach Tim Esmay certainly hopes not. One thing is for certain, a series victory against California (21-26, 9-15) could get the Sun Devil back in the fast lane.