It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic turnaround at the plate than the one Ethan Long has had over the Sun Devils’ first 25 games of the season.
After struggling so much at the plate at the beginning of the season that head coach Willie Bloomquist faced questions about demoting his No. 3 hitter, Long has caught fire over the past few weeks. His performance was rewarded on Monday as he was named Pac-12 player of the week, becoming the first Sun Devil this season to win the award.
The conference nod took into account Long’s past four games against Grand Canyon University and the University of Washington, in which the sophomore torched opposing pitching to go 9-for-17 over that span. He also had a .526 on-base percentage. 1.118 slugging percentage, scored 6 runs, notched 6 RBIs, and hit three of his four home runs on the season.
Although those three homers all came in ASU’s two losses over the past week, Long was also a big part of the Sun Devils’ victories over UW on Friday and Saturday. In the former game, he reached base three times and scored every time, including on Conor Davis’s game-tying double in the bottom of the third on Friday before Jacob Tobias’s two-run home run put ASU ahead for good. Long’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game also gave the Sun Devils a lead they would not relinquish.
“He’s done a really good job,” ASU hitting coach Travis Buck told reporters on Sunday. “Utilizing the whole field, hitting early in counts... if our guys can follow suit in that regard, we’re going to be just fine. We’ve been extremely impressed how he’s kind of bounced back.”
Long becomes the second ASU player to win a weekly award, joining Adam Tulloch, who won Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week on March 14. In a cruel twist of irony, Long and Tulloch have been on opposite trajectories since then, as the lefty starter who opened the season as the Sun Devils’ ace has allowed a combined 13 runs over just 6.1 total innings in his last three starts.
Long will look to continue his hot streak as the Sun Devils take a one-game road trip to play UNLV on Tuesday, with first pitch from Las Vegas scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Arizona time.