ASU baseball's Gage Canning is the definition of consistency

The Sun Devils' leadoff man is off to a historic start in 2018

After a game earlier this season, ASU baseball junior center fielder Gage Canning said he felt like he could not hit, and for someone that is hitting .494, that might sound absurd.

However, the Sun Devils' leadoff man said he is always trying to outsmart the opposing pitcher and improve his swing.

“I try to think before the game how they are going to get me out,” Canning said. “(I) try to think what they are going to throw to get me out, what they tend to throw in certain counts and watch video before as well. So, I look at what they have thrown to lefties and leadoff batters.”

Even Canning himself admitted the roll he's on at the plate feels “kind of crazy”.

“Sometimes you go through times where you are seeing the ball really well, and it just seems really easy to hit,” he said.

A Career Weekend 

After hitting .769 with two home runs, one of the inside-the-park variety, two triples, eight runs scored, seven RBIs, three walks, a 1.615 slugging percentage and a .813 on-base percentage to lead ASU to a three-game series sweep of Oregon last weekend, the Pac-12, NCAA and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named him Player of the Week. In addition, Perfect Game also honored Canning.

Canning hit a go-ahead three-run triple on Friday, propelling ASU to a 7-4 win over the Ducks. Then, in an 18-4 rout of Oregon on Saturday, Canning went 5-for-5 with a walk, two home runs (one inside-the-park), five runs scored and four RBIs.

ASU freshman first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who is off to a historic start himself with 10 home runs, summed up what he thought of Canning in one word. 

“Unbelievable,” Torkelson said.

Setting the Standard

ASU head coach Tracy Smith had a hard time putting Canning’s start to the season into words but said his success is not by accident.

“It’s consistency, probably at its highest level,” Smith said. “Am I surprised? Not really. If you watch how he prepares, how he goes about his routine every day, how he practices, he is the model of what you want.”

As the team’s leadoff hitter, Canning has set the table for the middle of the order to do damage all season long, and a young ASU team has reaped the benefits of his success. 

Canning currently leads the nation in hits (43) and triples (8) and is fourth in batting average – he has one more hit than any other Division I player.

Canning finished with 74 hits in 55 games last season. The Ramona, California native already has 43 base knocks in 21 games this season.

In addition, he has recorded multiple hits in 13 games this season, including three or more in seven games. Despite hitting leadoff, he is second on the team in RBIs (20) and leads the Pac-12 in doubles, triples, hits, batting average and total bases and is second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Jake Rusnak
Graphic published on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

Gage Goes to Third

When Canning’s career at ASU ends, fans will likely remember him most for hitting triples.

After all, he is the NCAA active career leader in that category with 22, which is eight more than any other player and third in ASU history. Alan Bannister and Ed Irvine set the Sun Devil record with 26 in the 1970s.

Canning said going to third became easier after he got used to the gaps and alleys at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

“Just playing here a lot helps,” Canning said. “You know you have a shot because the gap is so deep. If they are just getting the ball or picking it up, I have a shot of going for it.”

As impressed as Smith is with Canning’s offense, he praised Canning for his defense and, in particular, a catch he made in the first inning on Saturday to save a run or two.


“That ball he ran down in the first inning, if that ball gets down, maybe it is a different ball game, just the momentum,” Smith said. “He is playing at a high, high level.”

Canning is not the most vocal player, but ASU is trending upward in large part due to his play. Freshman starter Boyd Vander Kooi and the rest of his teammates certainly know they are watching a special player.

“It’s crazy,” Vander Kooi said. “I’ve never seen it before.”


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

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