By Arizona State baseball standards, the 2022 club hasn’t necessarily lived up to the prestige and prowess that the Sun Devil program is used to historically.
However, the chance to make up for a stutter step start has now presented itself as ASU has rode a five-game winning streak to return to the .500 mark, just in time for their biggest series of the year against arch-rival Arizona.
Since Arizona State was swept by BYU at home in their second series of the season, first-year head coach Willie Bloomquist and his team have yet to return to a winning record on the season which is in large part due to the team’s inconsistency on the mound. As a team, the Sun Devils sport an ugly 6.31 ERA and an opponent batting average of .291, both marks unbecoming of a team that was considered to be a Pac-12 contender preseason.
Despite the struggles with the arms, ASU’s bats have been as advertised and kept the team within striking distance of a season turnaround. Senior leader Conor Davis is among five Sun Devil regulars (six if you include mid-season breakout Ryan Campos) with a slash line eclipsing the .300 plateau. While star sophomore Ethan Long isn’t a part of that group due to a recent slump, he seems to have broken out and returned to the electric force in the lineup seen last year, recording hits in each of his last five games.
While the Sun Devils haven’t had the success they expected this year, their rivals down the I-10 have performed up to par with the rest of the Pac-12. While the Arizona Wildcats currently find themselves outside of the D1Baseball.com Top 25, their play in 2022 has been exceptional, as their #30 RPI ranking and 7-3 mark against the Top 50, as well as 26-12 overall, suggest. Despite the loss of All-American Jacob Berry to the transfer portal, head coach Chip Hale has still seen top-tier offensive production from his big three in Daniel Susac, Tanner O’Tremba and Chase Davis. This trio together has combined to hit .332 on the year with 23 home runs and 102 runs batted in.
Containing these bats is a must for ASU to come back from Tucson with a winning record on the year. The Sun Devils should find their usual success at the plate in this series as with two of Arizona’s weekend starters in TJ Nichols and Garrett Irvin currently dealing with injuries, the Wildcats likely won’t be at full strength in this Territorial Cup Tilt.
While Kyle Luckham looked to be back on track against USC last week, ASU’s pitching behind him remains remarkably inconsistent and that is not going to fly against Arizona’s big boppers. The Sun Devils will need to continue their red-hot offensive ways to have a chance at a series victory. And with this series being against their rivals, on the road, and with a chance to return to .500 (and perhaps postseason contention), the pressure on Willie Bloomquist and this team is as high as it's been this season at Hi Corbett Field this weekend.