For a team to make a run to Omaha and the College World Series, having a reliable pitching staff is key. But over the past two seasons the Sun Devils have lacked just that.
In their two wins over Oklahoma State this weekend, however, the Arizona State rotation may have established a building block going forward this year.
On Friday night, junior Sam Romero stepped into the role for the struggling sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc. Head coach Tracy Smith got what he needed from the Phoenix College transfer in the series opening win.
Romero finished his first career start going six innings, allowing one run on five hits, and striking out seven Cowboy batters.
“Yeah, most definitely, it’s fun,” Romero said on if he’d be comfortable being the Friday night guy going forward. “I thought I could eventually work my way into the starting rotation, and it just happened to be today [Friday], it was a good experience, a good night.”
Senior Eli Lingos matched Romero’s start in Saturday night’s 14-2 win with a solid outing of his own. Lingos threw 5 2⁄3 innings, limiting Oklahoma State to one run and two hits while also setting his season-high with seven strikeouts.
The senior was asked about his responsibility as a leader for the Sun Devil rotation.
“You always kind of take the success and failure of the staff, everyone takes it personally,” Lingos said. “You all feel it whether it’s you pitching or someone else, you kind of all feel it.
“Getting the message across and people understanding the importance of staying consistent on the mound, and how much that helps defense and offense too.”
With guys such as freshman starter Boyd Vander Kool, who play a large part for Arizona State’s pitching despite his young age, Lingos points out the key for the younger Devils on the mound.
“You got to keep their confidence up,” he said. “Because a lot of them it’s their first time competing at this type of level. You feel the nerves a little bit, but you just got to keep everyone confident and show them if you trust your stuff you’ll be alright.”
Romero, Lingos, and Vander Kool are far from being considered a dangerous rotation in college baseball. Romero has only started one game, Lingos had a similar beginning to his 2017 season and Vander Kool has a lot to prove even after two dominant performances.
Despite all of that, Smith and Co. have started to build confidence behind their pitching staff.
“We’re going to shrink the staff,” Smith said. “My baseball mind said the numbers will start to improve a little bit because I don’t know there’s too many teams in the country that will be 10 or 12 deep in terms of pitching staff.
“Once you let things kind of play out early in the season, define roles for guys, I kind of expect us to be much sharper on the mound, it’s starting to play itself out a little bit.”