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Hunter Haas growing into ASU baseball's 'lockdown' third baseman

The freshman infielder has adjusted to a new position this spring after being recruited as a shortstop


ASU freshman infielder Hunter Haas (14) throws to first against Utah on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix. ASU won 5-0.

Freshman Hunter Haas knew he needed to learn a new position to crack ASU baseball's lineup. 

After being recruited as the second-highest ranked shortstop from Arizona in his class by Perfect Game, he now thrives at third base. However, his success at the hot corner did not come without growing from early mistakes while learning the position.

In the ninth inning of his fourth game at third base, Haas charged in on a bunt, fielded the ball cleanly and delivered a throw to first base to get an out. However, he did not look toward second base, missing the chance to potentially start a double play. This was not an official error but a missed opportunity. 

The runner on second eventually scored, leading the University of Hawai’i to take a 3-2 lead. ASU lost the game by that score.

Haas found himself in a similar situation three games later against Nevada. Haas ran up to field a bunt once again, glanced toward second, saw he did not have a play and threw to first. The subtle look showed growth from a previous mistake.

With redshirt junior Drew Swift solidified at shortstop for ASU, Haas needed to adjust to third base, which requires faster reaction times, longer throws and making different reads. Haas has worked with associate head coach Ben Greenspan on his footwork, reactions, backhands and picking hops.

So far, head coach Tracy Smith has been pleased with his development.  

"How can you not make a case that Hunter's really played a lockdown defense?" Smith asked on March 14. "Does he have maybe the arm of (former Sun Devil third baseman) Gage Workman? No. But he's fielding everything and is being accurate with his throws."

Haas has started all 17 of ASU's games this season and has made 30 assists with no errors. 

He admitted he was unsure what his role would be entering the spring, considering he was a freshman and working at a new position. 

Smith said Haas is someone who puts in additional time after practices to master the spot, so much so that he has to kick him off the field. That work has led him to lock down the position.

"The best part about him though, too, is he's never satisfied," Smith said. "So, he's going to keep working. He's one of our hardest workers. And if you take that skill level, that talent, with that type of drive, sky's the limit for him."

Haas' offensive production cemented his spot in the lineup. He leads the team with 12 RBI and possesses a .779 OPS, leading to Smith consistently batting him second in the order. 

Haas' combination of strong hitting and continued work improving third-base defense has helped make him a more complete player. 

"I'm so proud of him already," Swift said of Haas on March 14. "He's grown just from the fall into the spring. He's going to be a really good player. He's always taking extra reps and stuff like that. When you have guys like that in your program, that's when you take a jump."

Defense is integral to ASU's success moving forward after three starting pitchers went down for the year for Tommy John elbow surgery. With the need for less-experienced arms to step up, the Sun Devils' pitching carries a higher risk of variability from game to game.

READ MORE: ASU baseball to work around losing its third pitcher for the year to elbow injury

Smith said he simply wants his pitchers to throw strikes and force other teams to beat them. That puts a large responsibility on the defense to stay sharp and make tough plays to limit opponents' scoring. 

Haas isn't worried about doing his part, along with the rest of the defense.

"I think all of us combined, like all eight of us on defense, we don't think anyone can get past us," Haas said. "I know me and Swift think no one can hit it by us on the left side, so that's just kind of our mindset."

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