With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Arizona State is currently on the outside looking in for the race to be one of the 16 Regional hosts. However, that can change with a sweep of Washington State this weekend at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Cougars were largely considered to be one of the worst teams in the conference heading into the season, and not much as changed three months later. They do own a road series win over California, something the Sun Devils were not able to accomplish, but currently sit in 10th place after losing four of their last six Pac-12 games.
Inconsistency in the pitching staff has been the team's main problem. Donnie Marbut's club can usually rely on one shutdown performance per weekend, but an inability to get an extra win has resulted in five league series losses. Their top pitcher has been usual Saturday starter Joe Pistorese, who currently owns a 7-4 record and the only sub-3.00 ERA of the three weekend starters.
Washington State is led at the plate by senior Ian Sagdal. The middle infielder is one of just two players batting at a clip higher than .300, and his 32 RBIs lead the team by far. The Cougars oftentimes find themselves overwhelmed by the arms they face in conference play, and an inability to protect Sagdal in the lineup is one of the main reasons for their struggles.
Hoping their struggles continue at least one more week are the maroon and gold. Head coach Tracy Smith is remixing his pitching staff for the weekend, partly because of the Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule and partly due to the team's recent struggles.
Typical No. 2 man Ryan Kellogg will get the nod in the series opener, while junior southpaw Brett Lilek has been moved up to go in game two. Seth Martinez, who has served as the team's ace for the majority of the season, will start Saturday night's series finale.
The move will be seen by some as a desperate attempt to get back in the hunt to host a regional, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Their 30-18 record is slightly worse than the teams around them competing for the final hosting spots, and an RPI rank in the low 20s is not doing them any favors either.
A sweep this weekend is very possible though, and three wins would get Arizona State right back in the conversation. The series will begin tonight at 7:00 PM, and those not in attendance can catch the action on the Pac-12 Networks.