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Baseball opens season with dominance of Western Michigan

Abe Ruiz bats in a game against Western Michigan on Feb. 18. Ruiz had six RBI is the Sun Devils 10-0 win on Friday. (Photo by Tyler Emerick)
Abe Ruiz bats in a game against Western Michigan on Feb. 18. Ruiz had six RBI is the Sun Devils 10-0 win on Friday. (Photo by Tyler Emerick)

Across Rural Road from Packard Stadium sits the area of land where the ASU football team practices.

On that side of ASU athletics stands a new coach preaching a high-octane offense, but back on the west side of Rural, the ASU baseball team is already lighting up the box score with crooked numbers of its own.

The final scores of its opening weekend read more like football totals than baseball.

The No. 15 Sun Devils (3-0) outscored visiting Western Michigan 40-2 over a three-game series to open the 2012 season with a sweep.

“We played strong and took advantage of their mistakes,” ASU junior center fielder Andrew Aplin said. “That’s Sun Devil baseball. All our guys made the most of their opportunities.”

The offense began early Friday and didn’t let up until the Broncos (0-3) were on the bus Sunday leaving for the airport.

ASU senior first baseman Abe Ruiz, making only his fourth start since his freshman year, didn’t waste any time getting started in a monster opening night. In his first at-bat, he hit a two-run homer in the second inning to deliver the first runs of the season for the Sun Devils.

One inning later, after junior second baseman Joey DeMichele’s RBI double, Ruiz hit another two-run bomb to give the Sun Devils a 5-0 lead.

Ruiz drove in two more runs in the fifth inning with a single to right field to top off his six RBI night.

“Obviously it’s a great way to start the season,” Ruiz said. “I feel like there’s a weight off my shoulders a little bit. I’ve had my adversity, and I feel like it’s made me the player and person I am now.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers picked up where he left off last season with six shutout innings and seven strikeouts to earn a 10-0 victory. Between Rodgers and the three relievers who finished off the game, the Sun Devils’ pitching staff held Western Michigan to just five hits.

“My arm felt great, the defense was good and the offense provided me with a bunch of runs,” Rodgers said. “When you combine all that, it makes it easy on a pitcher.”

Saturday was much of the same for the Sun Devils. After tacking on four runs in the first two innings, sophomore third baseman Michael Benjamin blew the game open in the third with a three-run homer toward Rio Salado Parkway. Aplin, the next batter up, continued the power tear with a solo long ball to right field.

“I always get made fun of because I love home runs, but I never hit any,” Aplin said. “I was a little nervous the first night, a little stiff, but I relaxed and it led to some good results.”

An inning later, the Sun Devils scored four more times highlighted by a two-RBI single from sophomore catcher Beau Maggi.

In the first appearance of his collegiate career, freshman left-handed pitcher Adam McCreery threw four innings of two-hit, five-strikeout baseball to receive the win. Freshman right-handed pitcher Darin Gillies also tossed three shutout innings to help seal the 13-0 victory.

Western Michigan finally got on the board Sunday with an unearned run allowed by an error and a sacrifice fly in the second inning. The Sun Devils didn’t trail long though, responding in their half of the inning to tie the game up with an RBI single from sophomore left fielder James McDonald.

Still tied in the fourth, the Sun Devils put up five runs thanks to five walks and three hits. An inning later, ASU scored another five times to again reach double digits, thanks in large part to a two-RBI single from freshman second baseman Drew Stankiewicz.

Leading by 13 in the seventh, freshman designated hitter Nathaniel Causey hit a triple off the wall to drive in two more for the Sun Devils.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Trevor Williams got the start and delivered four innings of two-hit work for the win.

“He made some good pitches but was challenged a little bit,” coach Tim Esmay said. “He’s in a new role starting now. He has to pace himself. He’s a work in progress, but his first outing out there was good.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Jake Barrett closed out the weekend with a clean ninth inning to finish the 17-2 win. It was his first appearance since injuring his arm May 15 last season.

“I thought he threw easy out there and the velocity was good,” Esmay said. “Everything you look for to see if he’s healthy was there today.”


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