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Sun Devil baseball looks to bounce back during trip to Washington

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To Seattle

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

Coming off a disappointing four-game series against in-state rivals Arizona, which included the wrong end of a 14-2 rout on Tuesday, Arizona State (16-8, 5-4 Pac-12) will look to turn things around this weekend in Seattle in a three-game series against the more manageable Washington Huskies (10-14, 2-7).

Here’s where both team stand as they look to get back on track midway through the season.

Washington Huskies

Sometimes, it helps to play a team that just got smacked around. Good teams will look at the disarray across the diamond and smell blood in the water. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they too got shelled in their last game. A 13-2 loss which dampened an otherwise strong road series against No. 10 UCLA.

Before winning their first two games against the Bruins, the Huskies had lost their last seven games. Is this a team on the verge of turning things around? Or were those two games closer to a fluke? Let’s take a deep dive into the lineup to find out.

Pitchers

Logan Gerling will get the ball for the Huskies on Friday night. The redshirt junior from Gig Harbor, Wash. is coming off a dominating performance against the Bruins on April 1. Gerling threw 7 innings, allowed only one run on three hits, and struck out four batters.

Tyson Guerrero will toe the rubber Saturday evening. Like Gerling, Guerrero is in his first full season with the team, having transferred in this year from Washington State. Also like Gerling, Guerrero had his best start last Saturday against UCLA. The redshirt sophomore pitched 4.1 innings and allowed four hits. The Bruins got to him in the top of the fifth, knocking in a run and launching a grand slam before he was taken off the mound.

Arizona State has not hit with power this season like in years past, that could change the second time through the lineup on Saturday.

The Sunday starter for the Huskies has not been posted, and it could depend on who they need from the bullpen the first three nights. Jack Enger has started six games, but recorded only one out last Sunday before he was pulled after allowing three runs to cross the plate. If Huskies skipper Lindsay Meggs wants to go in a different direction, perhaps Adam Bloebaum will get the start. The redshirt freshman from Raleigh, N.C. has thrown 24.2 innings and is second place on the team in strikeouts with 26.

The bullpen is a source of strength for the Huskies. Local boy Dylan Lamb was dominant on Saturday night against UCLA. He pitched 3.2 innings, gave up no hits and allowed just one baserunner. Davis Delorefice recorded a clutch four-out save to secure the win on Friday night, requiring only 15 pitches to shut down any hopes of a Bruin comeback.

Batters

During the seven-game losing streak, the bats were quiet for the Huskies, as the team only scored above three runs just one time. They woke up for 15 runs in two games against UCLA, but were outmatched by a strong Bruin pitching performance by Sean Mullen on Sunday.

Braiden Ward leads the team in average at .308. He also is a true base stealing threat, with 16 successful steals in 18 tries.

Will Simpson was seeing beach balls come at him last Friday and Saturday as he went 5-8 with three RBIs.

Christian Jones is another player that might give the Sun Devil pitching staff some trouble, as he has hit .259 with 10 RBIs so far this year.

Behind those three, there is a drop off in production for the Washington lineup. No other player hits over .215 with more than 40 plate appearances. The team as a whole has hit just nine home runs all season.

Arizona State Sun Devils

The Sun Devils enter this weekend series still trying to figure out their identity. After losing two of their best pitchers on the same day to Tommy John surgery, there is a vacuum of quality innings from the Sun Devil pitching staff that has needed to be filled. There was also a mass exodus of quality bats that left for the professional league after last season, especially on the power side with the loss of Spencer Torkelson.

A new offensive approach which is dedicated to increasing appreciation for small ball has been in the works all season long. This weekend, the Sun Devils will look to continue to make steps in the right direction to inheriting that identity.

Pitchers

Boyd Vander Kooi and Cooper Benson are out for the season with elbow injuries. Fortunately for the Sun Devils, left-handed pitcher Justin Fall has been a revelation. ASU head coach Tracy Smith was originally going to have Fall come out of the bullpen this season, but after Benson and Vander Kooi were ruled out, Fall has looked like a born starter.

This season, Fall is 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but he rarely misses his spots. In 31 innings pitched, he has allowed just 24 hits, eight of which came in his win over Arizona last weekend. He’ll get the ball to start Saturday evening.

Tyler Thornton has been another Sun Devil pitcher who has stepped into a larger role. In 34 innings pitched, Thornton has a 4.24 ERA and 40 strikeouts.

His last start, which came a week ago against Arizona, was a struggle from the start. He gave up two home runs, walked three, and allowed a total of six hits. That game was more of an abberation for the normally steady Thornton, and he’ll look to return to form Friday night against the Huskies.

The bullpen for the Sun Devils is led by Ethan Long. He leads the team with four saves and has not allowed a run in 6.2 innings of work. He has not pitched in almost a month, however, as Smith has used him on the offensive side.

Will Levine was very impressive last Sunday in the Sun Devils lone win over Arizona. Taking over from Fall, who threw six innings, Levine limited the Wildcats to only three hits and one run to secure the save.

Batters

Sean McLain’s 18-game hit streak turned to 22 games after the Arizona series. He is one of the hottest bats in the PAC-12, if not the country. The redshirt freshman from Tustin, Calif. leads the team in average at .412, and has driven in 12 runs.

Joe Lampe has been the most visible sign of the team’s new extra bases offensive approach. Gone are the days of slamming baseballs over the Phoenix Municipal Stadium wall. In is the new wave, ushered in by Lampe, who can turn a routine single into a double in a heartbeat if the outfield lags for just a second.

This season, Lampe has stolen five bases, one behind Hunter Haas for the team lead.

The aforementioned Ethan Long, the Shohei Ohtani of this team, is second in batting average at .340.

Shortstop Drew Swift, now one of the senior members of the Sun Devil lineup, has been consistent all season long, batting .337 with a team leading two triples. He is second in the team in walks with 11, one behind Hunter Jump.

Game Times/Where to Watch

Friday night’s game will begin at 7 pm and will feature Tyler Thornton against Logan Gerling.

First pitch Saturday is 5 pm, Justin Fall will pitch for the Sun Devils against Huskies starter Tyson Guerrero.

Sunday is TBA vs TBA, that game will take place in the afternoon, first pitch at 12 pm.

All games can be seen on the PAC-12 Network and PAC-12+.