While all eyes are on the gridiron this week with the Pac-12 football season kicking off, Tracy Smith and the Arizona State baseball staff are preparing for a 2021 season that will feature a cast of many unfamiliar faces.
Making a Good First Impression
Smith praised a number of players who have stood out in fall practice thus far. Most notably, newcomers Kai Murphy and Joe Lampe have caught the eye of the sixth-year skipper.
“He is very very fast, probably our fastest guy on the team,” Smith said of the redshirt freshman, Lampe. “He’s been playing all over in the infield and has seen some outfield time as well.”
Murphy, son of legendary Sun Devil coach Pat Murphy, has also made his mark on the coaching staff.
“We thought he’d be coming in here as a pitcher,” hitting coach Michael Earley said. “Then he sent me some video of his hitting over the offseason and I thought, ‘this guy can really hit.’”
The Oregon State transfer has earned some outfield reps in addition to his pitching work.
Filling the Void
One thing that was made clear by the staff is that it is impossible to replace the production of Spencer Torkelson. The man tasked with assuming the first base duties is 5th year senior transfer Connor Davis.
“You just can’t completely replace a guy like that,” Smith said of Torkelson. “But (Davis) has been a critical addition.”
“Conor can hit it almost as far as Tork from a raw power standpoint, just not quite as often,” Earley said. “I was honest with the team. I told them I don’t see anyone hitting 20 home runs. The offense will be more of a Swiss Army knife this year.”
Drew Swift will return to anchor the offense, and freshman Jack Moss has been making a name for himself during the limited fall practices. For a program known for scoring tons of runs, the Sun Devils will need to get creative to live up to that reputation.
On the Bump
While there was plenty of turnover among position players, the pitching staff will feature much of the same cast we saw in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
“We’ve got a great group, a lot of guys have taken the next step with their stuff,” pitching coach Jason Kelly said. “(Erik) Tolman has gained some velocity, and Justin Fall has really refined his sinker.”
One of the strengths of last year’s pitching staff was the bullpen, specifically flame throwing closer RJ Dabovich. Dabovich was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the draft, but Kelly is encouraged by what he has seen so far out of his potential replacements.
“Best case scenario is we have four or five guys with five saves each,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition right now.”
Although first pitch is still over three months away, it’s evident that the 2021 Sun Devils are chomping at the bit to get going. After 2020 was cut short with ASU ranked in the top-10, this group will surely be hungry to make a deep postseason run.