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ASU Baseball: UCLA Preview

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Top-ranked Bruins come to town

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

After going 7-9 for the month of April — dropping road series to USC and Washington, two inferior foes with sub-.500 Pac-12 records — Arizona State returns home in attempt to get themselves back on track to host an NCAA Tournament regional. Their opposition? The nation’s top-ranked ball club in the form of the UCLA Bruins.

Game 1: Friday, May 3 (7:00 p.m. Pacific Time)

Game 2: Saturday, May 4 (3:00 p.m. Pacific Time)

Game 3: Sunday, May 5 (2:00 p.m. Pacific Time)

A Look at Arizona State

The Devils are coming off a gut-punching series defeat in Seattle, which included a 12-inning loss where they twice regained the lead. This marks their third conference series loss in their last four weekends after winning their first three. In spite of the tough trip, the maroon and gold hit eight home runs in the trio of Washington games, including three on Sunday’s win. It was highlighted by Hunter Bishop’s 18th bomb of the year where he slugged one off the top of the batter’s eye in straightaway centerfield.

Key Player to Watch

Spencer Torkelson: Remember when Sun Devil fans were scratching their heads with a sliver of concern due to the nation’s reigning home run king only collecting two in his first 17 games? Well, that’s long in the rearview mirror. Torkelson is on an absolute surge over the last month, muscling 12 round trippers in his last 19 games. He now ranks third in the Pac-12 (only trailing the leader Bishop by three) and is tied for 15th in the country.

In a series against the conference’s top-ranked pitching staff, Tracy Smith will turn to some Tork Bombs this weekend to help anchor his offense.

A Look at UCLA

The Bruins have been scorching hot as of late, taking 17 of their last 19 contests. They are lethal on both sides of the baseball, as they have six players hitting over .300 and have scored five or more runs in their last six games. To complement that their pitching staff leads the Pac-12 in ERA (2.62) and strikeouts (438). They have not lost a conference series all year and have already emerged victorious in weekends with Oregon State No. 3 and No. 2 Stanford (maybe that explains part of their No. 1 ranking).

Key Player to Watch

Ryan Garcia: If you want to put a face to the name of the Pac-12’s strongest pitching staff, Garcia makes up a significant portion. He ranks fourth in the nation with his 1.10 ERA (leads the conference) to go along with three different 10+ strikeout outings while surrendering a measly four earned runs in his last 41.1 innings. While he threw less than five innings in each of his first three outings of the year, he has been borderline unhittable since the start of league play, including a complete game shutout against Utah his last time out.

Friday Night’s Probable

5/3 vs UCLA

RHP Alec Marsh (71.1 IP [12th Start], 8-2, 3.03 ERA, 26 BB, 62 K’s, .236 BAA)