One year ago today, the Arizona State baseball team traveled to Los Angeles knowing it would likely host a regional if it was able to come away from a series with USC with a pair of victories. They only got one win, however, on that weekend at Dedeaux Field, sending them to a challenging regional hosted by Cal State Fullerton.
52 weeks later, the scene is eerily similar for the Sun Devils (33-19, 13-12 Pac-12). As unlikely as it might have seemed earlier in the season, Tracy Smith's team could very well host a regional next weekend with a series victory against the Trojans (26-27, 13-14).
Here is your weekend preview.
Friday - ASU RHP Seth Martinez (9-3, 2.04 ERA) vs USC RHP Joe Navilhon (5-4, 3.38 ERA)
Saturday - ASU RHP Jordan Aboites (6-1, 3.65) vs USC RHP Kyle Davis (5-8, 4.70 ERA)
Sunday - TBA vs TBA
The maroon and gold are one of the hottest teams in the country, having won six consecutive series. In addition to their hot play on the field, they have also received some generous help from some of the other competitors to land a host site out west.
UC Santa Barbara did not submit a bid to host, and the same goes for Long Beach State, whose ballpark will be undergoing renovations as soon as the regular season ends.
Another note: Troy Buckley tells me @LBDirtbags did NOT bid to host a regional. Blair Field undergoing Phase 2 of renovation projection.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) May 24, 2016
Washington's RPI is down to No. 48 (compared to ASU's ranking of 34), and Arizona has dropped back-to-back weekend series (one of which came at home against ASU).
The only other team in the running - Cal State Fullerton - had dropped three of its last four games before righting the ship last night with a win against the Titans. They are also 10 spots lower in the RPI than Arizona State and were swept by the Sun Devils earlier in the year.
Yes, things are looking good for Arizona State, but there is still work to do. In addition to what this series could mean for hosting, the club is still in the race to be a co-champion of the Pac-12.
"As long as we mathematically have a chance, we're still playing for something," Smith said after last weekend's series at UCLA.
For that dream to be realized, a sweep of USC is necessary, as are a pair of wins from the Huskies in their three-game set at Utah. In that scenario, the Sun Devils, Utes, and Huskies would share the conference crown, but Washington would still receive the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
- Arizona State leads the all-time series against the Trojans, 105-100.
- Sunday's series, and season, finale will serve as Senior Day for the Sun Devils. Jordan Aboites, Chris Beall, Eric Melbostad, and RJ Ybarra will all be honored before the game.
- USC's David Oppenheim and Jeremy Martinez are first and second in the Pac-12 in batting average. Oppenheim is hitting .385 with 24 RBIs and Martinez is at .375 with a monster 39 RBIs.
- Friday and Saturday's games will start at 7:00 PM, while Sunday's series finale is slated for a 2:00 p.m. first pitch. All games will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.