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Sun Devil baseball utilizes line-up substitutions to find the perfect starting nine

ASU stands with a 20-21 record after sweeping UCLA, their first sweep over Los Angeles since 2010

ASU sophomore outfielder Kien Vu (11) batting on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. ASU won 8-3.

The Sun Devils have had their share of many underperformers this season, from the pitching staff to their bats. After growing tired of the same old thing, ASU switched its order and saw the growth of the underdogs along with a more potent offensive showing.

The Sun Devils turned their season around this weekend, sweeping the UCLA Bruins. ASU only allowed six runs during the entire series and 26 runs of their own. Since the Sun Devils' series sweep against Cal Berkley, they've had seven games hitting above .300 and nine below, with the lowest average being .107 during a 10-0 loss to Utah. The rest ranged between .200 and .286.

Recent superstar sophomore outfielder Kien Vu believes their new technique of incorporating different line-up rotations has been a big part of this positive turnaround.

"Everyone came into the season knowing that it wouldn't be the same nine every day," Vu said. "Hitting during the fall in different orders made us more versatile players. Moving around in different spots in the line-up plus on the field prepared us for times we would switch throughout the season."

The benefits of putting in new bats in the order have helped this team find hidden gems on the bench. Now, effort is being put into finding the most consistent and producing starting players with the most offensive success.

Vu has claimed himself as a diamond in the rough and a solid spot in the order after spending the beginning half of spring in the dugout. He has the highest batting average on the team, leading at .449 with a 1.306 OPS, 35 hits, and six home runs so far this season. Earning "Player of the Series" with their recent victory by way of the broom against UCLA for ASU's most complete series of the year.

"Vu has the same energy off the field versus when he's not playing," senior pitcher Connor Markl said. "That's such a huge assessment to his character and why he has had so much success. He's not always in the line-up, but he's always producing. Going through the wringer, he keeps the same energy, and it's very cool to see."

Vu wasn't the only one who has grown from this team experiment, as graduate student Eamonn Lance and senior infielder Mario Demera have also seen an impact on the team as of late.

Eamonn is batting at .258 with an on-base percentage of 1.020 and 10 RBIs since facing Cal Berkley. Being a good pitch hitter for the team, head coach Willie Bloomquist sees his spot in the line-up to be more continuous as the team moves forward.

"He's a nice edition and a guy that everyone likes," Bloomquist said. "They get behind him, and as long as he continues what he's doing, I'll admit he deserved a shot prior in the season. The fact that he's producing gives us another bat off the bench, which is tough to do if you haven't hit after a few games."

Demera has been seen as a more consistent defensive player. He has played 15 games with a 1.000 fielding average and a batting average of .232, with 13 hits over the last 14 games.

Nearing the end of the season, ASU continues to strategize different methods to incorporate into the game style to end the season with a winning record. The team plans to add more small balls to make the opposing team’s defense work and find a balance between swinging for the fences and getting the ball in play.

Using both a mix and matching of the batting order and small ball, Arizona State hopes to see a brighter future ahead for both this season and the next.

"Even though we're trying this out, I don't think the line-up we put out at the start of the season was bad," Vu said. "Those were the guys who proved themselves as winners in the fall but unfortunately fell short of their own expectations. It can only go up from where we're all at now."

The Sun Devils rally up for their next four opponents in Phoenix for a nine-game home stretch. The first series is against USC, and they are playing three games this weekend to wrap up games in April.

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

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