Two rangy freshman infielders ready to make impact for ASU baseball

The Sun Devils hope Alika Williams and Drew Swift can help minimize errors in the infield

ASU baseball head coach Tracy Smith said he feels the team has "four shortstops," speaking of the athletic prowess of the starting infield.  

The Sun Devils' fielding struggles last season affected the pitching staff's ability to keep the team in games. So, while Smith said pitching woes were highly criticized last season, for example, when the infield executes a routine double play, it gives the pitcher more confidence to pitch to contact instead of trying to strike everybody out. 

“Better range certainly gives you options,” Smith said. “Just the athleticism it is kind of fun to see that we are back to guys in the infield with range, to where if we are pitching properly and we are positioned properly, it lessens the chance of the offense to get a hit.” 

Sophomore Carter Aldrete has made the move from first base to man the hot corner at third this season. Smith said freshman Spencer Torkelson will take over at first base moving forward after junior infielder Jeremy McCuin started the season at first base but struggled at the plate this past weekend against Miami University.  

Smith believes what will help the Sun Devils' defense improve are two freshmen who are similar in both skill set and appearance. Starting second baseman Alika Williams and shortstop Drew Swift will man the middle of the infield for ASU.  

Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ben Greenspan, who works mostly with the offense and catchers, said he has never seen two players that have so much in common. 

“Not since I have been coaching in every regard, not just as a player, but work ethic and everything, they are fairly similar,” Greenspan said. 

Swift and Williams met each other in June during pre-MLB Draft workouts at Petco Park in San Diego, and both said it was almost as if they were looking in a mirror at themselves. 

"Hey, this guy looks like me," Swift said to himself after looking at Williams. 

“We were just like, ‘Wow, am I watching myself right now,'" Williams said. 

Swift and Williams are similar in many ways, although, Swift is 6 feet tall, and Williams is 6 feet 2 inches tall. They have similar facial features, similar hitting approaches and both can play second base and shortstop. 

“We have the exact same body type," Swift said. "So, just to know that someone plays exactly like you it’s easier to kind of get a chemistry between us." 

Both Swift and Williams are highly competitive athletes, but they also have great sportsmanship. That is what Greenspan, who helped bring both to ASU, said he appreciates about them.

“They’ve embraced the competition between them,” Greenspan said. “There is no ego with either of those guys. If Drew makes a great play, Alika is the first guy to give him a high five and vice versa. We're lucky to have such high-character guys with the talent that they have.” 

Swift and Williams had their struggles in the field against the RedHawks during opening weekend. Swift committed two errors and Williams had one, but both made great plays as well.

Greenspan said making mistakes early on should not come as a surprise from two young players competing in their first collegiate games. 

“Any time you have youth, you are going to go through some growing pains,” Greenspan said. “But, both are winners, both played on successful teams (in high school and travel ball) and both started at short from a young age. I think that gives them the foundation to be successful early on here rather than someone who did not do it at such a high level.” 


Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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