ASU baseball's Ethan Long on a tear at the plate to finish season

The freshman, who sports the fifth-best slugging percentage in Division I baseball, hit 15 home runs within a 15-game span

Since ASU freshman designated hitter Ethan Long was in seventh grade, he's had a goal board for what he wants to accomplish at each step of his baseball career. 

Long says writing down these goals helps him visualize completing them, something that has worked well for him up to this point ever since he started doing it as a teenager.

Once Long committed to ASU, he jotted down another set of goals: winning Pac-12 Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Year, along with rewriting the program's freshman home run record set by former ASU first baseman and No. 1 pick of the 2020 MLB draft Spencer Torkelson.

"I've always looked up to him as a player, but it's also like I want to be better than him at the same time, which is really hard because he's a great person but also a great player," Long said at a press conference on May 19 about the former Sun Devil who he is already drawing comparisons to from his coaches.

Long is batting .355 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI this season and has already won Pac-12 Player of the Week three times. He was also named the College Baseball Player of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Perfect Game for the week starting May 10. 

But at one point this season, those goals didn't seem achievable. Long entered the Sun Devils' April 16 game against Stanford with just one home run and 12 RBI. But from there, his power surge began. 

From April 16 to May 16, Long hit 15 home runs, totaled 40 RBI and helped lead the Sun Devils to a 12-6 record during that stretch. The surge helped him produce what is now the fifth-best slugging percentage in Division I baseball.

According to Long, that hot streak coincided with a session with his personal hitting coach who also happens to be his father.

"He knows my swing best because I've been hitting with him since I was three years old," Long said. "After the Washington series, I was not real happy with how I was doing at the plate, I wanted to get better. So I asked him to come here for a (batting practice)."

Long also had a conversation with ASU hitting coach Michael Earley, who pointed out he was swinging too hard.

"The biggest thing was just him trusting that he can take a nice and easy swing and still hit it over the fence," Earley said at the May 19 press conference. "You know, just getting him to understand that it doesn't need to go 600 feet, he just needs to go about 370 to 420."

Earley said that Long's competitive fire has spread to his teammates during this stretch.

"It's no secret he's carrying us and the guys are feeding off of it," Earley said. "The way he competes and how he acts and brings the best out of everyone — he's the real deal when it comes to competing."

In his first season with the program, Long leads the Pac-12 in home runs and is fourth in RBI.

Many of Long's home runs during this time, like the walk-off home run on May 14 against Oregon State, have come at key moments.

"His home runs and what he's been doing offensively is not at an insignificant time," ASU head coach Tracy Smith said at the May 19 press conference. "They've been big hits, they've been big home runs that bring us from behind, big home runs to put us on top."

Led by Long, the Sun Devils have persevered through an injury-riddled start to their season to find themselves in fourth place in the competitive Pac-12. Along the way, the Sun Devils have developed a special level of camaraderie that Long has played a huge part in developing, his coaches said.

"Words can't even describe how fun it's been," Long said. "Off the field, we're just a family. We hang out with each other day in and day out off-field, so this team is something special and we like to have a lot of fun together."


Reach the reporter at ltochter@asu.edu and follow @Leo_Toch on Twitter.

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