ASU will have an entire week off of conference play as the Sun Devils hit the road to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face No. 9 Oklahoma State in a three-game series beginning Friday.
But the mentality inside coach Tim Esmay’s clubhouse is that the Cowboys (32-13, 13-5 Big-12) are as worthy an opponent as the best of ASU’s Pac-12 foes.
“This is like a Pac-12 weekend,” Esmay said. “Especially this time of year, we have to be focused. They have a good idea about us, and we’ll have a good idea about them. It will allow us to play the same (way) mentally as we do in (conference), because that’s exactly how this weekend is going to be.”
OSU sits atop the Big-12 standings and presents a demanding road test to the Sun Devils (24-17, 12-9 Pac-12) that, in addition to being a playoff primer, will provide a huge boost to ASU’s postseason resume.
“This is a high RPI weekend for us,” Esmay said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re playing the right teams, and give yourself an opportunity to (move up).”
Not to mention, the Cowboys will be out for blood, and to defend their home turf after falling 6-1 to ASU in the Sanderson Ford Classic at Surprise Stadium on March 2.
“We beat them pretty handily the first time we played them,” Esmay said. “You’ll see more of their bullpen, and it will be a good challenge for us. They’ll be ready for us, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Freshman right-hander Seth Martinez, who picked up his third win against New Mexico State on Tuesday, said the Sun Devils realize the importance of playing on the road in preparation for a postseason that they will likely spend entirely away from the confines of Packard Stadium.
“(Playing away from home) helps get experience playing away games, and getting used to the away crowd,” Martinez said. “Oklahoma State is known for having a good crowd.”
Martinez said that his teammates share his viewpoint that the upcoming OSU series is a must-win.
“Everybody wants to beat us, but (we’ve got to) have the humility to know that we can beat them, too,” Martinez said. “It’s a series we have to win, and we’re going to come out grinding.”
A roller coaster season has seen ASU’s offense ignite, only to have the bullpen blow comfortable leads. When the starting pitching has been on, the bats have faded away quietly, highlighting an inconsistent year for a team now four games back of conference-leading Washington.
However, Martinez said that it won’t take much for ASU to put together both phases down the stretch of the team’s playoff push.
“I think we’re right there,” Martinez said. “We’re real close, and soon as we get that extra win, we’ll be rolling.”
ASU will send sophomore left-hander Brett Lilek to the mound to face OSU at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium on Friday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m PST.
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