Baseball travels to Oregon for three-game road set

With no single team separated from the rest of the pack in the conference standings thus far, ASU baseball views its upcoming three-game set with Oregon as a chance to distinguish itself from the rest of the Pac-12 contenders.

The No. 14 Sun Devils (16-9, 3-3 Pac-12) are set to take on the No. 23 Ducks (15-8, 3-3) Friday at 6 p.m. PT, Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m. at PK Park in Eugene, Ore.

“This is a big weekend for us,” ASU coach Tim Esmay explained. “Everybody’s kind of bunched up in the (Pac-12) right now, and we have a really great opportunity on the road to go in and play well and get ourselves in a good spot.”

Sophomore outfielder Kyle Garlick (.343, 14 RBI) and sophomore catcher Aaron Jones (.329, 19 RBI) lead the Oregon offense. In the pitching rotation, the team returned just one starter from last season, senior Alex Keudell (2-3, 2.95 ERA).

Although Oregon is coming off a sweep at the hands of unranked Texas State, the Sun Devils realize that no Pac-12 game is an easy win.

“We know we played well at UCLA,” Esmay said of the squad’s first Pac-12 series. “A couple pitches here and there, and that’s a different series. I think (knowing) all that stuff allows us to put ourselves in a good spot to go play well.”

This will be the Sun Devils’ third conference series this season and their second on the road, a fact Esmay said is sure to act as a litmus test for ASU this weekend.

“When you’ve played the first six out of nine (Pac-12) games on the road, that’s already a statement,” Esmay said. “This is a great opportunity for us to get on the road, play in somebody else’s ballpark and see what we’re made of.”

ASU is coming off a 9–5 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night at home, but Esmay remained confident that his team is continuing to take steps in a positive direction.

“I like the growth that this team has had in the last week and a half or so,” Esmay said. “I really believe that these kids are in a good mindset as far as going on the road and playing well.”

ASU ace Brady Rodgers (4-0, 1.31 ERA) will take the hill for ASU on Friday and gives the Sun Devils an advantage over any pitcher the Ducks will use. Rodgers, who leads the conference with 48 innings pitched, also provides the Sun Devils with an advantage in the series as a whole, as his ability to last deep into ballgames will enable the ASU bullpen to stay fresh for the other two contests.

The second starter for ASU should also pose plenty of challenges for the Ducks, as sophomore Trevor Williams (5-1, 1.11 ERA) has the third-lowest ERA in the Pac-12.

Oregon also has an ace up its sleeve: reliever Jimmie Sherfy. The sophomore is putting up impressive numbers in 2012 (nine appearances, 1.63 ERA, 42 strikeouts, .144 opponent batting average) after being a non-factor for the Ducks last season.

Despite just one off day between games, which ASU used to travel to Oregon, Esmay assured that the Sun Devils will be prepared when they step out on the field tonight.

“We’ll have a really good idea going into Friday where they sit (and) where we sit, and when the umpire says, ‘play ball,’ we’re going to be ready to go,” Esmay said.

 

Reach the reporter at kjnewma2@asu.edu

 

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