The greatest rivalry in the state of Arizona is renewed on Tuesday night as the Sun Devils battle the Wildcats in a one-game showdown on the baseball diamond.
Though the baseball games don't attract nearly as many fans as the football or basketball matchups, the teams still figure to play in front of a packed house at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson with bragging rights on the line.
Aside from the usual storylines a rivalry game carries, the Sun Devils and the Wildcats will be playing with a chance to gain an edge in the Pac-12 standings.
Each school sits at 8-7 in conference play, but the teams have arrived at their respective records in very different ways.
Arizona State lost its first two conference series of the season before taking two out of three against strong opponents like Oregon, UCLA, and USC.
The Wildcats lost their first six conference games including series sweeps against Oregon State and Oregon before hitting their stride and winning eight of their past nine contests.
While each team comes in riding a wave of momentum, Tuesday night's matchup presents challenges.
Both teams will likely pitch a third or fourth starter with critical weekend series looming, both will need their bullpens to take on big roles, and both will need their offensive stars to come up clutch in crunch time.
For these two schools, nothing compares to the feeling of knocking off a rival, and Tuesday night is the first shot for the teams to send a message this season.
Sun Devils' Keys to the Game
1. Big Hitters Need a Big Night
Trever Allen has been an offensive catalyst for Arizona State throughout the season, and over the past weekend, he left no doubt as to whom the Sun Devils' most powerful hitter is.
In four games, Allen hit .357 with five hits including two home runs to run his team lead to six homers on the season. Fortunately, Allen's production was matched by Kasey Coffman who batted .353 with six hits and five RBI.
The Wildcats are among the best hitting teams in the conference as their team average stands at .311. For the Sun Devils to snag a victory, they'll need their two top hitters to impact the game from the plate because this has the potential to turn into a high scoring affair.
2. Throw Strikes
It may seem simple, but finding the strike zone consistently has to be the Sun Devil pitching staff's top goal on Tuesday night.
Arizona is patient at the plate as the team has drawn a conference-leading 159 walks this season. However, it's what the Wildcats do when they get on base that should worry the Sun Devils the most.
Led by Brandon Dixon's 25 stolen bases, Arizona has racked up 76 stolen bases this season, which is more than triple the Sun Devils' total.
Pouring in too many strikes can lead to a disaster against a solid hitting team like Arizona, but the Sun Devil pitchers should leave chances up to their defense and force the issue on the mound.
3. Continue the Weekday Momentum
Of their 33 games thus far, the Sun Devils have played just six weekday games. Though mid-week games can tinker with pitching rotations, Arizona State has fared well and picked up five wins in those six games.
Zak Miller, Billy Young and Alex Blackford have all done a serviceable job providing the Sun Devils with strong starts during the week, and Coach Tim Esmay will probably rely on Miller or Young to make the start on Tuesday.
Last week, Miller went five solid innings and allowed three earned runs against a talented UNLV squad. The pressure of a rivalry game might change the way Esmay uses his staff, but Arizona will also be pressed into using a less experienced starter.
The Arizona State weekday wins usually feature extended bullpen performances and have twice featured extra innings, so look for guys like late-inning specialist Ryan Burr to step up if the Sun Devils are in control.