Following a midweek defeat to the University of San Diego, the Arizona State Sun Devils will open their 2016 Pac-12 home slate against Utah this weekend at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. After starting the season 13-3 and garnering some top-25 consideration, ASU has lost four straight games, including a sweep at Oregon State last weekend to open Pac-12 play.
Here is your series preview.
Thursday - 6:30 p.m.
Friday - 6:30 p.m.
Saturday - 12:30 p.m.
Note: Series starts on Thursday because of Easter holiday.
Arizona State Update (13-7, 0-3 Pac-12)
The Sun Devils padded their record with nonconference weekend sweeps over Xavier, Eastern Michigan and UC Davis along with an impressive midweek sweep of Cal State Fullerton. However, the Sun Devils started Pac-12 play with league favorite Oregon State and were promptly swept out of Corvallis.
ASU starting pitching struggled up north as Friday night starter Seth Martinez was the only starter to make it out of the first inning. Eli Lingos was charged with six runs on Saturday and did not record and out and Reagan Todd gave up two runs in 0.2 innings of work before being pulled on Sunday.
Oregon State is a top-5 team and a contender for Omaha this season and it was a difficult way for a young ASU team to begin conference play.
Utah Update (6-12, 2-1 Pac-12)
Utah is a big of an enigma. The Utes did not show well in the nonconference losing two games to Houston Baptist and games against Minnesota, Kansas, Saint Mary's and BYU. However, Utah began Pac-12 play by taking two games against league contender Oregon.
The Utes have hit just seven home runs as a team, with no player having more than two on the season. Freshman outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. leads Utah with a .320 season batting average while also hitting .444 in Utah's series against Oregon.
On the mound, Utah will start Jayson Rose (2-2, 3.41) on Friday, Dalton Carroll (3-2, 4.72) on Saturday and Josh Lapiana (1-3, 4.16) on Sunday.
What to Watch
Who Starts Friday and Saturday: We know that Seth Martinez will throw on Thursday and the junior right hander has been excellent (3-1, 2.08) this season. What we do not know is who will throw the final two games. Reagan Todd threw on Tuesday so he is likely out for the weekend so look for Lingos to start one of the remaining two games. If ASU considers moving a bullpen arm to the rotation, Eder Erives would be an obvious choice.
Can ASU Control a Game: While the Sun Devils started the year 13-3, they won five games in their final at-bat including the entire series against UC Davis. Utah is expected to be a bottom-feeder in the Pac-12, so can ASU control games and dominate a series against one of the worst teams in the league?
Who Plays Left Field: ASU likes what it has in centerfield (Andrew Shaps) and right field (Gage Canning), however left field remains a mystery. Daniel Williams, Tyler Williams, Ryan Lillard and even Brian Serven have seen time in the outfield spot, with no player taking command of the job. This week at practice, Tracy Smith hinted that David Greer may be the latest experiment in the outfield.
He said they could us more Ybarra at first-to get his bat. Assuming Aboites at third, Greer would need a new position. Skip hinted LF.— Dominic Cotroneo (@Dom_Cotroneo) March 23, 2016
This is a series ASU needs to win, if not sweep. The Sun Devils have played well at home this season and Utah is either the worst or second worst team in the conference. Look for ASU to take Game 1 behind a strong performance by Seth Martinez and then string together enough offense to take at least one of the final two games.