The past two season’s of ASU baseball have been one to forget to say the least. The program has finished well-shy of 30 wins and have lost more games than they’ve won.
Head coach Tracy Smith was given another opportunity this season to try and turn the program around. Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson believes the players recruited to Tempe by Smith are good enough to lead the program back to lofty heights, but the leash will likely be short.
As the 2018 calendar year winds down, Sun Devil baseball travelled to Surprise for a meeting with the Texas Rangers minor league organization. ASU faired well against players who ranged in age from 17-22, many of whom are around the same age as the Arizona State team.
Part of the game that was unique for ASU was the use of wood bats. Several of the Sun Devil players have previous experience playing in wood bat summer leagues, and they showcased a strong outing with the bats.
Hunter Bishop and Gage Workman each hammered home runs into the Ranger bullpen down the right field line. Hunter Jump, who will likely enter the season as the new right fielder and leadoff hitter, got on base twice from the top of the order.
Smith also trotted out a middle infield with a notable change. Alika Williams started at shortstop and Carter Aldrete began the game at second base. Drew Swift received a lot of the playing time last season at short, but struggled at the plate and with the glove near the end of the season.
Alec Marsh started on the mound for ASU, and retired all nine hitters he faced and struck out seven of them. Marsh was among the bright spots on the mound as his fastball sat around 92-93 mph and his breaking ball was fooling the Ranger hitters.
Boyd Vanderkooi followed Marsh by tossing two scoreless innings of his own. He dealt with some traffic on the bases, but was able to limit the damage and keep Texas off the scoreboard. Vanderkooi’s fastball velocity average 89 mph and his breaking ball had mixed results.
A couple of the newest Sun Devils also received time on the mound. Freshmen Blake Burzell and RJ Darbovich each threw two innings, but pitched to very different results. Burrell tossed two shutout innings and struck out three batters. Darbovich allowed four total runs, but only one was earned as the Rangers scored on a fielding error by Swift.
ASU will be able to trot out a starting lineup of experienced hitters including Spencer Torkelson, Hunter Bishop and Carter Aldrete. The key for ASU to turn the corner in 2019 will be to find a consistent weekend rotation, an emerging Marsh or Vanderkooi could go a long way.
The Sun Devils have one more fall scrimmage scheduled for the end of October. ASU will host CSUN on Oct. 27 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the event will be free and open to the public.