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Young baseball squad will get feet wet in home opener

Freshman infielder Riccio Torrez makes a throw during a practice earlier this season at Packard Stadium.(Damien Maloney/The State Press)

The No. 7 ASU baseball team celebrates its 50th season by welcoming in a new opponent.

The Sun Devils open up the 2009 baseball season today with a four-game set against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a team ASU has never faced.

Saturday’s doubleheader is set for 1:00 p.m., with the second game beginning 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first. Sunday’s game will start at noon.

The returning Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, junior Mike Leake, will take the mound in the opener, followed by junior Josh Spence and sophomore Seth Blair.

Leake will open the season, having been cast a first-team pre-season All-American by Baseball America. Leake finished last season with an 11-3 record and recorded more than 100 strikeouts in 120 innings.

“What this kid has done in two years, both years his team finished in the top 10 in the country and both years this kid is at the forefront taking on every big assignment. He’s really special,” Head Coach Pat Murphy said.

The Sun Devils will roll out an almost entirely new line-up for opening day.

The projected starters for Friday include sophomore Matt Newman in right field, junior Jason Kipnis in center field, junior Kole Calhoun in left field, junior Raoul Torrez at third base, freshman Riccio Torrez at shortstop, freshman Zach MacPhee at second, junior Jared McDonald at first base and junior Carlos Ramirez as catcher.

With a combination of 15 freshman and transfers, the Sun Devils are aiming to find cohesion before the Pac-10 schedule begins.

ASU will be at home for 22 straight games before heading to USC to face the Trojans for a three-game trip on March 27.

Though the conference schedule will offer a challenging slate of contests, ASU coach Pat Murphy said his team’s early opponents will provide a good measuring stick.

“[Non-conference teams] don’t agree to come here unless they think they have a chance to win. Every game out will be tough, and I mean that. There’s no one playing a better schedule,” Murphy said.

The first pitch at Packard Stadium tonight is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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