Watching balls scorch past their mitts and by their bats all weekend, the Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team got a feel for the heat.
No. 7 ASU finished off a season-opening four-game sweep of the Panthers by de-icing UWM 11-0 at Packard Stadium on Sunday afternoon in front of nearly 2,600 fans.
The Sun Devils (4-0, 0-0 Pac-10) outscored UWM 53-9 over the four games set.
ASU is not getting carried away, however, with sweep.
Because of the Midwestern winter climate, it was UWM’s first outdoor baseball experience of the year.
“There was a lot going in our favor,” ASU coach Pat Murphy said. “We were the home team, they were coming out of the cold weather. [The Panthers] just weren’t ready.”
Still, it was the first Division I regular-season action for 21 players on the Sun Devil roster, and it was a shimmering debut for many.
Chandler-Gilbert Community College transfer Carlos Ramirez made his presence felt. The junior catcher and cleanup hitter hosted a Rio Salado launch party, crushing four bombs over the weekend onto the street that runs past the ballpark.
“I am just thankful to get this opportunity to play,” Ramirez said. “I got a few pitches to hit and luckily the barrel hit the bat.”
Ramirez hit a towering two-run homer in the bottom of the third inning on Sunday to give the Sun Devils a 4-0 lead.
Ramirez also tripled off the fence in right field in the fourth. The catcher finished the series 8-for-14 with seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs.
Such gaudy numbers are old hat for savvy Sun Devil vets.
Junior center fielder Jason Kipnis found himself locked in from the get go.
Kipnis went two-for-four on Sunday including a first-inning double off the fence in right field and a fourth-inning fly ball turned double in the fourth.
The lazy pop that dropped was a fortuitous cap to a jam-packed weekend.
“Things are falling for me,” Kipnis said. “When things fall in place, it’s a great feeling.”
Kipnis finished the series going 12 for 17 with eight extra-base hits, three home runs and two steals.
He was also one of many Sun Devils who flashed the leather on Sunday, making a basket catch near the left-center field fence off a sharply-hit ball in the top of the fifth.
“I owe the recognition of the fence to [sophomore Matt] Newman,” Kipnis said. “He was talking to me and letting me know how much room I had. Got a good jump on it and got a good read.”
While ASU had their moments in the field, they still left room to improve defensively, committing eight errors over the four-game set.
Luckily, the ASU pitching staff held UWM at bay all weekend. The Sun Devils used four pitchers on Sunday for the shutout.
Senior Jason Franzblau got the start, and struck out three in three innings, while Newman, junior Kole Calhoun and freshmen Mitchell Lambson and Jordan Swagerty allowed a combined two hits while striking out six.
The Sun Devils finished the series allowing one earned run over the 36 innings.
“They all know the game of baseball and they make me look good,” Ramirez said. “They hit their spots. To build a team you need good pitching, and we feed off our starting pitching. [They all] did their job.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com.