You’ve heard this statement by now: ASU Baseball’s 2020 roster was the deepest and most talented roster that Tracy Smith had put together in his time in Tempe. It now just tastes more like vinegar for fans to utter those words with the campaign being cut short and canceled.
Had it not been? The sky was the limit. Especially those June powder blue skies overhead TD Ameritrade Ballpark in Omaha.
The offense was explosive after the first five games of the year, tallying five or more runs in 11 of their final 12 contests. And that was with potential first round picks Alika Williams and Gage Workman not even hitting their full strides yet. Spencer Torkelson looked destined for yet another monstrous year, on pace to shatter collegiate walk records. Drew Swift was swinging a red-hot bat, leading the squad in hits and average. Trevor Hauver was providing Torkelson with all of the protection in the world, while also stringing together a 15-game hit streak that will now forever sit right at that, halted of further progression.
On the mound, an area where the Devils have had shortages of arms in previous years, they almost had too many in 2020. Five starters were being used during non-conference play, and tough decisions (in a good way) were going to have been upcoming if the season had continued. Cooper Benson was named 2020 the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball for his limited yet impressive first season. Boyd Vander Kooi was almost untouchable with a 0.77 ERA. Erik Tolman was punching hitters out left and right, Tyler Thornton was a model of consistency, and Justin Fall, when bringing his “A Game”, may have possessed the most overpowering stuff of all of them. All complimented by a rejuvenated bullpen with a handful of freshman eating up the late innings with the exception of RJ Dabovich who was quickly turning himself into one of the best closers in all of college baseball.
The pieces were all in place. The maroon and gold had the firepower (and the record to show for it at 13-4, ranked 9th in the Nation per D1Baseball) to match up with anyone, including the blue bloods such as Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State that they may have seen in the College World Series.
Imagine this possible scenario. Say Fall had been moved to the bullpen at the start of conference play and adjusted to the role well. Late in a postseason game, an opposing team needs a small rally down a run or two, but they’re asked to face Fall in the eighth (a lefty with a heavy 95+ MPH fastball), and then Dabovich in the ninth (a righty with a 95+ MPH fastball and wipeout off-speed) and an offense that likely would be in full stride one through nine in the order? Quite the frightening thought.
But unfortunately, that’s all it is now.