ASU Baseball: Season in Review Part 1

Arizona State had patches of success this season, but ultimately, many fans will consider this a down year. - ASU Athletics

Many will consider this season a disappointment for ASU Baseball, but the Sun Devils actually outperformed many of our preseason expectations.

Few baseball programs in the country have the proud tradition that exists at Arizona State. The Sun Devils have been nationally ranked in each of the 54 seasons they have competed, and this year was no exception.

Despite late-season struggles and a failure to advance past regional play, Arizona State still won 37 games and received impressive seasons from a number of quality freshmen.

The staff at House of Sparky has decided to break our "Season in Review" piece into a roundtable format, as we had a number of writers follow the team closely this season. We will debate a few different categories over the next few days, and we will also talk about what to expect next season.

"Best Game"

Kerry Crowley: For me, the best game of the season is a no-brainer. Ryan Kellogg's no-hitter at Oregon State is not only the greatest Sun Devil accomplishment of the season, but one of the best feats we saw in all of college baseball this season. For a freshman to pitch in such dominating fashion on the road is special in itself, but when it comes against one of the best teams in the country, it's a crowning moment. Kellogg's freshman season showed immense promise, and his no-hitter was quite the start to what will be a great career as a Sun Devil.

Cody Ulm: You nailed it Kerry. The only game I'd say that could hold a candle to it was ASU's 6-5 11-inning victory over Oregon back in early April. Walk-off victories are always exciting, especially when it's a freshman delivering the blow for the second time in three games (RJ Ybarra). Plus it was Esmay's 150th win and it helped propel the Devils to a huge series victory. But at the end of the day, nothing top's Kellogg's no-no on the road. HE WAS TWO ERRORS AWAY FROM A PERFECT GAME. Simply remarkable.

Ryan Bafaloukos: Can't disagree with either of these guys. What Ryan Kellogg did against Oregon State was nothing short of incredible. Against the eventual Pac-12 champion on the road and facing a loaded lineup. The walk-off victory against Oregon was huge, as it compelled ASU to a big series win and it started off the great season of RJ Ybarra. The freshman catcher was one of the biggest surprises of the year.

"Biggest Surprise"

Kerry Crowley: The consistency of Ryan Burr at the back end of the bullpen was definitely a pleasant surprise. When Ryan Kellogg earned a spot in the starting rotation, we knew the kid could perform with the best of them. What we didn't know is that another freshman pitcher would also have a breakout season. Burr didn't just handle the closer job, he took ownership of it and was lights-out all season long. We've seen pitchers like Trevor Williams make a successful transition from the 'pen to the rotation, and I hope we see that from Burr next year.

Ryan Bafaloukos: I will go with two major surprises from this year's club. The first has to be Ryan Kellogg. For a freshman to post a regular season record of 11-0 in the Pac-12 is remarkable. The start to his season was the best start to any season I can remember from an ASU pitcher. My other big surprise was the play of third baseman Michael Benjamin. He went from hitting 8th in 2012 to leading ASU in hitting this season. He started every game at the hot corner and provided leadership on and off the field.

Cody Ulm: Beyond Burr and Kellogg, how about RJ Ybarra? Everyone was hyping up our young arms but not a soul acted like we had any freshman impact bats. Yet that's exactly what Ybarra was. Ybarra's .313 average was top-15 in ASU history for freshmen and he showed more pop than anyone expected with five home runs, seven doubles and 22 RBI in 37 games (22 starts). Obviously Kellogg and Burr are complete studs but I didn't think we'd find our perfect transition from Max Rossiter this quickly.

"Player of the Year"

Cody Ulm: It's gotta be Michael Benjamin. Even when it seemed like nothing else was working in the lineup, Benjamin always came through. He led the conference in slugging (.569), total bases (132) and hits (81) and was the only Pac-12 player to finish top-4 in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, hits and home runs (and props to Sun Devil athletics for that gem of a stat). The Devils were defensively challenged at times this season but without Benjamin's veteran play, their defense would have been downright anemic.

Kerry Crowley: My first instinct is to choose Ryan Kellogg because of his fantastic efforts as a freshman, but instead I'm going to agree with Cody and pick Michael Benjamin. Benjamin was a catalyst for a Sun Devil offense that needed veteran leadership and consistent production at the top of the order. Yes, other Sun Devils were statistically better, but I don't think any hitter had as well-rounded of a season as Benjamin. He hit for contact, he hit for power, and he always put together a good at-bat and these are things that can't be overlooked.

Ryan Bafaloukos: While I believe Michael Benjamin and Ryan Kellogg are both great choices gentlemen, I am going to go with someone off the beaten path, right fielder Trever Allen. The redshirt-sophomore led ASU in home runs and runs batted in while playing an excellent right field. Allen also led Arizona State in doubles and was a perfect 7-7 in stolen base attempts.

Stay tuned as the staff will discuss our "Biggest Disappointment" and our "Expectations for Next Season" tomorrow.
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