ASU baseball embarks on first road trip at Tennessee

Junior infielder Michael Benjamin takes a swing during the Feb. 16 match against Bethune Cookmam. The Sun Devils won, 15- 7. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

Junior infielder Michael Benjamin takes a swing during the Feb. 16 match against Bethune Cookmam. The Sun Devils won, 15- 7. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

When the ASU baseball team left Tempe on Thursday morning enroute to Knoxville, snow was on the ground just miles away.

Snow in the Phoenix area was a rare sight, and another rare feat will occur when the Sun Devils (2-1) make their earliest road trip to face Tennessee.

Senior catcher Max Rossiter is eager for the earliest matchup on the road since 2003 and face the Volunteers (1-3).

“I’m excited,” Rossiter said. “Especially since the first road trip is to an SEC school. I think we are going to go over there and show them what the Pac-12 is all about, and I’m just really excited.”

Like in Tempe, the weather in Knoxville looks rough.

The forecast for Friday and Saturday calls for rain, but Rossiter said it won’t affect the team’s preparations.

“We have to be prepared for everything,” Rossiter said. “Snow, rain, if it’s hot or cold, it doesn’t really matter. We still have to play the same way.”

The bats, including Rossiter’s, were alive opening weekend for the Sun Devils. They amassed 26 runs over the three-game series against Bethune-Cookman.

Production was widespread as six freshmen earned their first career hits. ASU coach Tim Esmay said he plans on keeping the same approach on the road.

“Really, all the freshmen that came in played pretty well, so now it’s just a question of like how you saw on Saturday,” Esmay said. “Let’s give a couple of guys an opportunity to start and see how they settle in.”

Freshmen pitchers Brett Lilek, Ryan Burr and Ryan Kellogg also performed well during opening weekend.

After sophomore pitcher’s Darin Gillies’ poor outing Sunday with six walks in just over an inning of work, Esmay is going to give Kellogg his first career start on Sunday. Kellogg pitched four scoreless innings Saturday to pick up his first career win.

“That’s a part of this whole deal right now,” Esmay said. “Trying to figure out guys with roles, guys who keep roles, roles change. Obviously, we are going to make some decisions as a staff on what we are going to do to set it up for this weekend, and I thought that Ryan Kellogg threw really well, and he showed us he could be in the mix starting, so I imagine we would go down that path and give him that opportunity.”

Starting pitching was a big issue opening weekend as no starter reached the sixth inning, but Rossiter said he expects improvement this weekend.

“I think we have to relax,” Rossiter said. “I think we were pressing, so we just have to relax and throw strikes.”

Like the Sun Devils, the Volunteers are a very young team.

They started five freshmen in their opening day lineup and Esmay says the similarities between the two clubs are stark.

“They are kind of in the same boat,” Esmay said. “We are kind of alike. We both have young, talented kids that are still trying to figure out Division I.”

Esmay said Tennessee’s lack of experience could benefit the Sun Devils’ veteran pitchers, especially junior Trevor Williams.

“You will see a more settled Trevor Williams as he learns the role of Friday starter,” Esmay said.

Williams will open the series Friday against Tennessee senior pitcher Zack Godley.

 

Reach the reporter at dsshapi1@asu.edu