Cue the Derek-Jeter-diving-into-the-stands highlights.
With junior Josh Spence on the mound to close out a two-run lead in the top of the ninth on Wednesday, freshman first baseman Riccio Torrez made a play that could help define the kind of team No. 3 ASU (20-5, 5-1 Pac-10) may have to be this year.
After the leadoff man reached on an infield single, the following Cal-State Fullerton hitter popped a foul ball toward the CSF dugout on the first-base side, seemingly well out of play.
Torrez stuck with it, however, drifting near the fence of the CSF dugout. As the ball came down through the glare of the Packard Stadium lights, Torrez leapt off his feet horizontally, extending his glove and diving almost all the way into the CSF bench. While Torrez didn’t make the catch, the effort was meaningful.
“That was more of a statement,” ASU coach Pat Murphy said. “That is how we are going to compete. That’s what it is all about.”
It wasn’t trite coach speak. Sun Devil fans may have to come to terms with the idea that ASU’s offense will likely not produce like recent clubs. Given the youth of the team — a squad with the least amount of returning starters out of the top 100 according to Murphy — the Sun Devils will have to be less glitter and gold and more guts if they want a third straight Pac-10 championship.
“This stadium is not used to this 3-1 stuff,” Murphy said, referring to the low score of Wednesday’s win.
ASU’s team batting average once again dipped below .300 after Wednesday’s game.
When the Sun Devils went below .300 last month it was the first time they had done so that late in the season in more than a decade.
With a Friday and Saturday night pitching combination of Spence and junior Mike Leake, all the ASU offense has to do is come up with the timely hits.
After struggling in three of four games to get the critical knock, freshman Zack MacPhee unleashed his first career home run, which turned out to be game-winning contact.
“MacPhee just shows that [resiliency],” sophomore pitcher Seth Blair said. “He hasn’t been swinging the bat so well the whole year, and he finally got a pitch, stayed back and hit it out.”
ASU will hope to take the momentum of their comeback win against CSF into a Major League Baseball stadium on Friday.
The Sun Devils will play a three-game set against Pac-10 foe Washington with Friday’s game taking place at Safeco Field.
The Huskies are 10-15 on the year. While UW doesn’t have a top 100 Baseball America prospect, they do possess a decent lineup with sophomore centerfielder Pierce Rankin (.323, five home runs) and junior outfielder Kyle Conley (316, nine home runs). UW also features four relievers with ERAs lower than 3.5, but the Huskies do not have a starter with an ERA below four.
ASU will start Leake and Spence on Friday and Saturday, and Blair on Sunday. Blair pitched seven innings of no-earned-run baseball on Wednesday after poor outings in his previous two starts.
Bailing on the Boss
Murphy’s favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen, who is purportedly featured on a Murphy tattoo, will coincidentally be playing in Glendale when the Sun Devils play UW this weekend.
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