The No. 1 team in the country enters ASU’s home field this weekend as the Sun Devils host UCLA at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for three games.
The Bruins pitching staff leads the Pac-12 in ERA and strikeouts and they have not lost a series yet in conference play.
It’s a tall task at hand for ASU, who went 7-9 in the month of April. The Sun Devils are looking to make statement wins with Nebraska, Arizona, No. 2 Stanford, and Cal still on tap during the rest of the regular season.
Prior to this weekend’s series, head coach Tracy Smith spoke to the media to discuss where a variety of topics. Here were some of the notes, quotes, and storylines heading into the top-25 tilt:
Wiping Away Washington
After a sour series in Seattle where ASU fell upon a series loss against a Washington squad with a sub-.500 record in Pac-12 play, the Devils are looking to erase the tough weekend.
In Saturday’s one-run 10-9 loss to the Huskies, ASU regained a lead twice after trailing. In a seesaw affair, they just couldn’t hang on. Nevertheless, moving on from the three days in the northwest and having a quick memory was something that occurred quickly as the team responded with a win the following day.
“What we tried to say is this season is a 55-game season. Every game is a whole separate deal in itself,” Smith said. “I have trusted in this group and they have done a really good job of approaching every single game...The next game is the most important game. That’s all we talked about was saying, ‘Hey man, it’s over. It’s done.’ I really appreciated their maturity and how they handled Sunday and came out and played after arguably one of the toughest losses I’ve seen.”
Looking for the Marsh Bounce Back
Junior ace Alec Marsh has been virtually lights out all season for ASU. However, over the last two weeks, he has fallen upon a slight rough patch. Last Friday against Washington, he suffered possibly his toughest outing of the year, going just two innings while allowing nine runs.
Regardless, Marsh still has the most wins on the staff and his solid performances have been one of biggest constants for the maroon and gold. There is no greater chance for a redemption game than facing one of the best teams in the country on ASU’s home field.
“I just chalk it up to, it’s just one of those days,” said Smith discussing Marsh’s last game. “He’s confident and were confident and looking for him to come out and be ready for us on Friday.”
Facing Ryan Garcia
Great offense versus great pitching. That’s what fans can expect to see if they head out to a game this weekend. For UCLA, their ace pitcher is junior Ryan Garcia. He holds a 1.10 ERA and has struck out 69 batters while only walking 15. Simply put, Garcia is one of the best pitchers in the country.
He will collide with ASU’s potent offense that is batting .318 as a unit. Mix fire with fire.
“You are probably going to get a few opportunities so you have to take advantage of those opportunities. Our situational hitting, we need to make sure that we are really good on that,” said Smith of facing UCLA’s staff. “It’s just doing the little things right because they are not going to beat themselves. That said, I don’t think there are a lot of offenses like ours so we are not going into this going, ‘Geez, we have no chance to score.’ We are pretty confident in what we do offensively and we are looking forward to that matchup.”
Dabovich on the Back End
After coming off an injury, sophomore pitcher RJ Dabovich returned to the bump to throw 1.1 innings of shutout baseball to close things out at Washington on Sunday.
Before getting hurt, Dabovich was usually penciled in as a Sunday starter. Now he might shift into a different role, helping out the bullpen in the late innings if need be. Smith noted he could be used to close things out, especially if ASU has a lead in the latter stages of a game.
As the old college baseball saying goes, take care of business on Friday and Saturday, then worry about Sunday when it gets there. Therefore, Dabovich could be used as the Swiss Army Knife. Whatever it takes to get a win.
“I think if RJ can be a viable option and maybe a weapon...I think it only makes it better,” said Smith of possibly having Dabovich close. “Now you are asking a Brady Corrigan, a Tolman, a Burzell, and a Romero to get you to that ninth inning with maybe a guy that has more shut the door stuff...Now we kind of just need to see how it plays out...Hopefully we can use that formula multiple times this weekend.”
Game one between ASU and UCLA is slated for tonight at 7:00 p.m. MST.