Back on March 26, the Arizona State baseball was reeling with a 1-5 record in Pac-12 play. Fast forward seven weeks, however, and somehow the Sun Devils are right in the thick of the conference title race as they head south to face rival Arizona this weekend.
Here is your weekend preview.
Friday - ASU RHP Seth Martinez (7-3, 1.99) vs UA RHP Nathan Bannister (7-1, 2.74)
Saturday - ASU LHP Eli Lingos (3-2, 3.44) vs TBA
Sunday - TBA vs TBA
ASU Update (29-16, 11-10 Pac-12)
Barring a bad collapse in their final 10 games, the maroon and gold should hear their name called on Selection Monday for the fourth straight season. As winners of nine of their past 11 games, Tracy Smith's club has given themselves a bit of breathing room heading into the final three weeks of the year.
They can now set their sights on winning a Pac-12 title, which is now a realistic possibility after winning their last three conference series. Arizona State is currently alone in fourth place and two games behind co-leaders Utah and Washington.
Seth Martinez will get the ball from Smith on Friday night, taking his sparkling sub-2.00 ERA to the bump at Hi Corbett Field. Southpaw Eli Lingos will then get the ball for game two, and while Sunday's starter is still to be announced, expect either Eder Erives (6-1 2.82 ERA) or Zach Dixon (1-1, 4.00) to get the nod.
Arizona Update (31-16, 14-10 Pac-12)
The Sun Devils aren't the only team in the Grand Canyon State to heat up at the right time. The rival Wildcats are also 9-2 in their last 11 and could be the only regional host west of Texas if they finish strong.
Arizona's hot play as of late can be directly linked to an offensive outburst at the plate. The team leads the Pac-12 in batting average with a .293 clip and RBIs with an impressive 265.
Maroon and gold-clad fans most certainly remember the 8-0 beating that the Wildcats gave Arizona State just over two weeks ago back in Phoenix. The Sun Devil offense figures to be coming into this weekend looking for revenge after being bested for nine straight innings by their rival's fourth-best starting pitcher.
Since Jay Johnson's team has an RPI in the 20s, a series loss wouldn't do much damage to the Sun Devils postseason hopes. Even if they leave Tucson with just one victory, ASU's RPI should still improve from its current standing at No. 50.
Arizona is nearly locked into the field of 64 at the moment, but this weekend is still huge nonetheless. The three games against Arizona State will be their final chance to polish that regional-hosting résumé, as the Wildcats finish the year with games against Oregon (currently 22-21), Abilene Christian (13-31), and Hawaii (18-24).
Arizona leads the all-time series against the Sun Devils, 244-214.
The maroon and gold split a pair of games in Tucson against the Wildcats last season.
Arizona's Zach Gibbons leads the Pac-12 in batting average. He has started all 45 games this year and is hitting .390.
Friday and Saturday's games will start at 7:00 PM, while Sunday's series finale is slated for a 3:00 p.m. first pitch. All games will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.