In the last five seasons, no ASU baseball team has lost more than three straight games. On three occasions, the program dropped three in a row, but never four.
The No. 11 Sun Devils (8-3), currently losers of two consecutive games, will try to avoid that black mark when they travel to Long Beach State this weekend for a three-game series.
After winning its first three games in the Coca-Cola Classic last week, ASU lost Sunday in 11 innings to Saint Mary’s and then fell Tuesday at home against Texas Tech. By the time Sunday rolls around, the Sun Devils will have played eight games in 11 days.
“This part of the schedule is tough on any team,” coach Tim Esmay said. “Even when you’re a veteran team, it’s hard. Then, when you have a bunch of newbies, you really have to be ready every day.”
The Dirtbags (4-8) have lost five straight, but the Sun Devils will be the fourth top 25 team they’ve played in 2012. Last season in Tempe, ASU swept Long Beach State and won each game comfortably.
ASU junior right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers (3-0, 0.00 ERA) will get the first crack at ending his team’s losing streak Friday. In 22 innings this season, the Sun Devils’ ace hasn’t allowed an earned run, while walking just two and striking out 24.
ASU’s starters for the rest of the weekend will be junior right-handed pitcher Alex Blackford (0-0, 2.30 ERA) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Trevor Williams (3-0, 1.06 ERA). The Dirtbags will counter with right-handed pitcher Shawn Stuart (1-0, 4.91 ERA) on Friday, right-handed pitcher Matt Anderson (0-0, 2.00 ERA) on Saturday and left-handed pitcher Ryan Strufing (2-0, 1.83 ERA) on Sunday.
The Sun Devils might also receive extra help in the form of players returning from injury. ASU freshman left-handed pitcher Adam McCreery, who hasn’t thrown since the second game of the season, is close to returning along with senior right-handed pitcher Joseph Lopez.
The most impactful return, however, will be from ASU junior shortstop Deven Marrero. After injuring his ankle last Saturday, Marrero sat out Sunday and Tuesday, but will likely be ready to go in California.
“He will be good,” Esmay said. “He moved around at about 90 percent (on Tuesday.) So with another couple days off, he’ll be fine.”
Still working on rehabilitating a shoulder injury, ASU sophomore reliever Mark Lambson, who hasn’t thrown this year, won’t be available.
“We’re working to see where treatment goes,” Esmay said. “It’s a process, but I don’t see him being released to throw a ball this weekend.”
Two key Sun Devils who will be in action against the Dirtbags are junior second baseman Joey DeMichele and junior left-handed pitcher Matt Dunbar.
DeMichele was honored Tuesday by the Pac-12 as the conference Player of the Week after driving in 10 runs the previous week. His .524 batting average is second in the nation.
Dunbar, a junior college transfer, started Tuesday against Texas Tech and threw three frames without allowing a run. On the season, he has pitched 9.2 innings and only gave up three hits.
“You can tell he’s been in the fire before,” Esmay said. “He has handled the pressure and minimized damage. Every time he’s gotten in trouble, he’s gotten out of it.”
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