There is a lot of buzz surrounding the Arizona State (30-16, 14-10 Pac-12) baseball program as of late, and the squad looks to continue to build on its success as it travels to USC this weekend for a meeting with the Trojans (22-23, 10-14).
The Sun Devils enter the weekend ranked at No. 25 in the country according to D1Baseball.com, becoming the fourth Pac-12 program to join the rankings. This recognition comes after a series win against Oregon State, who was ranked in some outlets.
The Trojans, on the other hand, are coming off a midweek loss to Fresno State. USC entered the bottom of the ninth up 10-7, but the Bulldogs scored six runs in a final frame that was capped-off by a walk-off grand slam.
Losing close games has happened way more than it should have this season for USC. They are currently 14-12 in games decided by three runs or less. This is a team that also ranks in the bottom-half of the Pac-12 in nearly every offensive category.
The only exceptions are where they lead the conference in strikeouts (lowest amount at 310) and sacrifice hits (30). This is a team that will try to find any way to score a run, so expect them to move around on the bases a lot too.
USC is the only Pac-12 team that has two left-handed pitchers throwing the two most innings on the team.
It is almost certain that ASU will run into junior Isaac Esqueda (71.2 IP) and sophomore Alex Cornwell (68 IP), who have combined to allow eight homers on the year in their 25 starts as a duo.
The only other team in the league with two southpaws in the starting rotation is Washington. When ASU faced the Huskies in mid-April, they scored nine runs on eight hits in the combined 8.2 innings where the lefty starters threw.
Of the two homers surrendered in that series by left-handed starters, Ethan Long was surprisingly not one of them.
The true freshman had a clean sweep of all the National Player of the Week honors, as well as winning Pac-12 Player of the Week for the third time in the last four weeks.
Long now leads the Pac-12 in home runs (16) and the entire country in slugging percentage (.838), after homering in 15 of his last 16 games. The freshman two-way player (oh that’s right, he pitches too) has also led the way for a red-hot Sun Devil offense.
Just nine games into May, ASU already has 20 home runs and an on-base percentage of .403.
Both of those numbers are the highest of any month all season for the Sun Devils and if they can continue that success at the plate, there is a good chance they move up in the Pac-12 standings.
There is currently a three-way tie for fourth place in the Pac-12 between ASU, Oregon State and UCLA (who the Sun Devils will host next weekend). The Beavers will play Arizona and UCLA will host California, so they will be some key series to watch this weekend as well.
As for ASU, they will start their three-game bout with the Trojans on Friday night at 6 p.m. local time, followed by games on Saturday and Sunday.