Baseball opens Pac-10 by hosting in-state rival Arizona
Leading Off: Arizona State returns home to Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark after five games at Surprise Stadium. The Devils split a two-game series with Kansas State before taking two out of three from the Kansas Jayhawks. The Sun Devils begin their 27-game Pac-10 Conference schedule by hosting their in-state rival, the Arizona Wildcats, for a three-game set in Tempe. ASU clinched the Pac-10 title in each of the past two seasons against the Wildcats in the final series of the season.
Devils vs. Wildcats: The Sun Devils are 173-114 against Arizona since ASU began varsity baseball in 1959. The two teams split their four games last season, including the March 18 non-conference game where #1 ASU beat #2 Arizona 6-5 in Tempe.
Pac-10 Play: Arizona State opens up their 31st season of Pac-10 play this weekend. The Sun Devils have won eight Pacific-10 Conference championships, inlcuding the last two. ASU holds an all-time mark of 491-345 in Pac-10 play. They joined the conference in 1979.
Surprise Stadium History: With their 3-2 mark at Surprise Stadium this year, the Sun Devils are now 13-9 all-time at Surprise Stadium.
900 and Counting: By sweeping Milwaukee-Wisconsin on opening weekend, head coach Pat Murphy has reached the 900 Division I victory mark in his career. He has 592 wins at the helm of ASU, second most in school history to go along with his 910 Division I wins and 963 total wins.
Facing Tough Competition: Arizona State will play 29 games this season against teams that are currently or have been ranked at some point this season.
Rankings: The Sun Devils are ranked #6 by Baseball America, #8 by the NCBWA, #8 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, #9 by Rivals.com and #4 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.
Surprise Recap: Arizona State was held to only six hits by Kansas State's pitching, as they fell 6-2 in the opening game of the Coca-Cola Classic at Surprise Stadium. Mike Leake took the loss, despite allowing only one earned run over seven innings of work...Wednesday night the bats awoke, as ASU pounded out a season-high 18 hits in a 12-1 rout of the Wildcats. Josh Spence returned from a facial injury to pick up the win out of the bullpen, while Carlos Ramirez got the offense going with a three-run homer in the first...Seth Blair gave the Sun Devils a quality start on Friday, helping ASU to a 9-4 victory over Kansas. Jason Kipnis drove in four runs and Carlos Ramirez hit another three-run blast to pace the ASU offense...Runs were at a premium on Saturday night, as Arizona State could score only two runs in a 3-2 loss. Mitchell Lambson struck out 12 Jayhawks in 5.2 innings of relief, but was saddled with the loss...ASU won the series on Sunday, thanks to 12 runs on 14 hits in a 12-10 win. Riccio Torrez hit his first career homer and Kole Calhoun homered for the second time in Surprise, leading the way for the ASU win.
Ace In The Hole: Mike Leake continues to do amazing things on the diamond for the Sun Devils. Leake is now 4-1 on the year, picking up his latest win out of the bullpen in a 12-10 win on Sunday over Kansas. In his 31 innings of work, he has struck out 33 batters and walked only six. Of his 28 career victories in maroon and gold, five of them have come out of the bullpen. He was named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week following the DeMarini Invitational where he nearly no-hit the Missouri Tigers. Leake has started 33 career games and has 28 victories.
Pitching In: Most weeks, you can pencil in LHP Josh Spence and RHP Mike Leake as starting pitchers going in to a weekend series. But last week was no normal week, with five games in six days at Surprise Stadium. Mike Leake started the first game on Tuesday and Josh Spence came on in relief on Wednesday. Things took a stranger twist on Sunday, as Spence got the starting nod and was relieved by Leake. Leake and Spence have combined for 69 strikeouts and seven wins already this season for ASU, and both are expected to return to their normal rotation on Friday.
Not Surprising: Riccio Torrez loved hitting in Surprise during the five-game road trip. The freshman infielder went 11-16 (.688) at Surprise Stadium, driving in eight runs and scoring five times. He also hit his first career homer, a two-run shot into the bullpen in left field. He played all over the diamond, seeing time at short, second and first, the first time in his career he has ever played at first base.
Tucson Twosome Arizona State boasts two players on their 2009 roster from Tucson. Catcher Carlos Ramirez and infielder Jared McDonald both went to high school in the Tucson area, with Ramirez attending Sunnyside and McDonald going to Sahuaro. McDonald also attended Pima CC, which is located in Tucson. Ramirez and McDonald have each played in all 17 games this year, with Ramirez starting every one at catcher. McDonald has seen time at first, third and shortstop.
The Few, The Proud: The Sun Devils have a 29-man roster, one of the smallest in the country. The NCAA limit is 35, but ASU carries only 29, including one, Andrew Pollak, who is out for the season. The Devils will also lose Brandon Magee for two weeks for spring football starting the week of the USC game. It is the smallest roster in the Pac-10 Conference. Of the 29, only two have played for two seasons at Arizona State.
Two-Way Street: While Mike Leake's two-way prowess is known, several new Sun Devils are showing their versatility so far this year. Freshman Jordan Swagerty has settled in to the closer role, already recording three saves, but he also has shown a glimpse of the future at the plate. Against Oregon State on February 28, Swagerty pinch hit with ASU down by two and a man on. He stepped right in and tied the game with his first career home run, the catalyst that led to ASU's come-from-behind win. Kole Calhoun has already established himself as an everyday outfielder, but has also shown promise on the mound. The lefty has made four appearances out of the bullpen.
Debuts: 17 members of the Sun Devils made their ASU debuts so far in 2009. Only Andrew Pollak (out for the season) and Jeff LusardiJake Borup, who returned to ASU in 2009 after spending the last two years on a mission. Borup is the only player who was at ASU in 2006, a season he redshirted. (redshirting) have not played this season. Included in that group is RHP
Family Ties: Sophomore OF/LHP Matt Newman has Maroon and Gold in his blood. His father, Randy, was a pitcher for the Sun Devils in 1981 and 1982, winning 15 career games and the 1981 National Championship. Redshirt-freshman catcher Andrew Pollak is the brother of former Sun Devil football great Mike Pollak, who played center for the Devils from 2004 to 2007. Mike was a two-time All-Pac-10 performer and currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew wears number 76, the same number Mike wore on the gridiron for ASU. UTL Mike Murphy is no relation to head coach Pat Murphy, although he is the first player named Murphy Pat Murphy has ever coached. Assistant coach Josh Holliday is the son of former Oklahoma State head baseball coach Tom Holliday and the brother of current Oakland A's outfielder Matt Holliday. Freshman OF Johnny Ruettiger is the nephew of Rudy Ruettiger, the former Notre Dame football player who had a movie about his life made.
Devil Ties: While in Surprise, head coach Pat Murphy visited the Seattle Mariners training facility in Peoria to meet with former Sun Devil great and current Seattle Mariner manager Don Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu played four years for ASU from 1982 to 1985, earning All-Pac-10 honors in each of his final three seasons. He is the first former Sun Devil player to become a manager in Major League Baseball and the first Asian-American manager in MLB history. Murph also visited with many Mariners players and coaches, including future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. Wakamatsu presented Griffey with an ASU Baseball cap, which the slugger displayed in his locker.
Brotherly Love: In addition to the previously mentioned family connections on ASU, the Sun Devils boast a pair of brothers who will see time next to each other in the infield. Junior Raoul Torrez mans the hot corner for the Devils, while his brother Riccio, a freshman, handles the shortstop position. The Torrez brothers are the fifth set of brothers to suit up for the same Sun Devil team, and became the first to start next to each other on the diamond. The other Sun Devil brothers to play on the same teams are Kevin and Pat Dukes (1980-81), Dale and Larry Eiler (1976-78), John and Tom Sain (1973) and Brett and Greg Bordes (2005-06).
School Ties: Many players on the ASU roster are quite familiar with one another. The Sun Devils have five student-athletes who were all teammates at Brophy Prep in Phoenix. RJ Preach, Raoul and Riccio Torrez, Drew Maggi and Matt Newman all played together on the Brophy baseball team.
Double Duty: Freshman OF Brandon Magee is no stranger to ASU athletics, having played football in the spring. The linebacker, who missed four games due to injury, recorded 11 tackles playing mostly on special teams.
2009 Pre-Season Honors: Arizona State was well represented on the pre-season All-American lists. Both Mike Leake and Jason Kipnis were named First Teamers by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball. Leake earned First Team honors from Baseball America as well, while Kipnis made the Second Team.
Field of Dreams: The Sun Devils will play at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, on April 3 when they face the Washington Huskies in the opening game of a three-game Pac-10 series. It will be the third Major League park ASU will have played in since 2007, joining Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) and Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Pac-10 Picks: The Sun Devils were picked to win the Pac-10 Championship for the third straight year. ASU and UCLA each got three first place votes, but ASU had more total points than the Bruins. This is the second time in school history Arizona State has been picked to win the conference, with the first time being 2007.
Leader of the Pac: Since the 2000 season, Pat Murphy and the Arizona State Sun Devils have been the most consistent program in the Pac-10 conference. Since 2000, ASU leads the Pac-10 in wins (401), conference wins (139), NCAA Tournament appearances (9), Top 25 finishes (9), All-Americans (25), draft picks (72) and is tied with Stanford for First Team All-Pac-10 players (35). The Devils have won three Pac-10 titles since 2000, including the last two.
Milestone Markers: Pat Murphy is approaching a significant milestone in his career, as he is 8 wins shy of 600 victories as the Arizona State head coach. His 592 wins at ASU is second most in school history, trailing only Jim Brock's 1,100...With his win against Kansas, junior RHP Mike Leake now has 28 career pitching victories. That is the fourth most wins at ASU in the Aluminum Bat Era (1974-Present). Leake is one win shy of Ken Jones for this place.
Inter-Conference Battles: In addition to facing the schools in the Pac-10, the Devils will also take on teams from nine different conferences in 2009. ASU will face three teams from the Big 12 (Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State) and one each from the SEC (Arkansas), Horizon (Milwaukee-Wisconsin), Mid-American (Northern Illinois), Patriot (Holy Cross), Big West (Call State Fullerton), WAC (Hawai'i), West Coast (San Diego) and Big South (Winthrop).
Honoring Pat Tillman: Former ASU football player and American Hero Pat Tillman had strong ties to the ASU Baseball program. In addition to his brother Kevin playing for ASU, Pat became extremely close with head coach Pat Murphy. Murphy wears jersey #42 in honor of Tillman, and in January 2007, Murph donated $100,000 to the baseball program for the construction of the Tillman Training Room, a room that will honor both Pat and Kevin and their commitment to both Arizona State University and the United States of America. The team wears a memorial "PT*42" patch on their jerseys in honor of Pat.
Maroon and Golden Anniversary: Arizona State is celebrating 50 years of Sun Devil baseball in 2009. The first season of varsity baseball was in 1959, when head coach Bobby Winkles led the Sun Devils to a 28-18 record. ASU was an independent program until joining the Western Athletic Conference in 1963. Arizona State has won five national championships, 19 conference championships, played in 20 College World Series, had 90 Major League players and has had 106 All-Americans in 50 years.