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PREMIUM SCOOP: Arizona State tidbits (3/15)
It’s good Arizona State has become immune to obstacles over the past year.
The Sun Devils already were behind some of their Pac-10 counterparts entering the 2011 season after losing all three weekend starters to the MLB draft, including Seth Blair, Jake Borup and Merrill Kelly.
The obstacles continued after the first weekend when the Devils lost ace right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers because of forearm stiffness. Rodgers, who had a tremendous sophomore campaign, threw five shutout innings in his only start of the season.
The righty returns to the mound when the Sun Devils host Oklahoma for a two-game midweek set, and ASU coach Tim Esmay couldn’t be happier to have him back.
“The biggest thing for us right now is that we’re getting Brady back, and that really solidifies our three-man weekend rotation,” he said. “He threw some really good bullpens last week and we need to get him rolling for Pac-10 play.”
Though Rodgers hasn’t thrown since Week 1, that’s not necessarily indicating he had a serious injury. The situation is quite the opposite.
“If we were in the middle of Pac-10 play, he would’ve been throwing a lot sooner,” he said. “How much time he missed pretty much was a precautionary measure. We are trying to look at the big picture when it comes to Brady.”
The Sun Devils are confident about the rest of their pitching rotation moving forward.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jake Barrett has had some consistency issues and has a 5.30 ERA in 18 2/3 innings. However, Esmay feels like Barrett is close to turning the corner as a starter.
“He was a situational guy last season and was putting out fires in the latter innings, and this year is starting, so it’s a tough transition,” he said. “I think Jake has evolved into a starter from a mental standpoint in his last two starts, and I’m liking the way he’s progressing.”
Esmay also is pleased with the progressions made by junior right-handed pitcher Kramer Champlin, who has a 3.86 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. But he will have a tough decision to make between he and Kyle Ottoson for the final weekend rotation spot once Rodgers returns to the weekend full-time.
“I really haven’t seen a horrible outing from Kramer, as I thought he hit his spots against Auburn last weekend,” he said. “The evolution with him has been solid, and I think slowly but surely he will become a very solid starting pitcher.”
Time will tell if the Sun Devils can put together an elite level rotation, but the team as a whole is in a different situation this season.
This time of year, the Sun Devils usually are crushing their opponents. This season, though, and as expected, they’ve been good, but far from great against decent competition.
Perhaps the weekend rotation returning to normal will create some stability.
It’s yet another obstacle the Sun Devils must overcome.
Purdue at No. 2 Vanderbilt: The Boilermakers might just be the elite team in the Big Ten this season. They raised some eyebrows last week with a midweek win over Louisville, and could do it again this weekend with a win over the Commodores. Purdue is 11-3 and even a midweek win over the Commodores would bolster their resume. Keep an eye on Purdue slugger Angelo Cianfrocco, who’s hitting .425 with five doubles, two homers and six RBIs, and Kevin Plawecki, who’s hitting .368 with 9 RBIs.
No. 3 Florida State No. 1 Florida: The Gators have a list of goals this season, and one of them should be finally getting the FSU monkey off their back. UF has dropped the last four contests to the Seminoles, and hopes to end the trend with Alex Panteliodis on the mound. Much has been made about the suspension of UF slugger Bryson Smith, but keep in mind he had a .345 average in only 29 at bats. FSU will send Hunter Scantling to the mound against the Gators.
No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 9 Arizona State (2): In one of the better midweek matchups of the season, the Sooners hit the road to face the Sun Devils. Oklahoma hopes to bounce back from a tough series ending loss to Arkansas-Little Rock, while the Sun Devils hope to build off a solid road series win over Auburn with right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers returning to the mound from forearm tightness.
Texas State at No. 7 Texas: The Bobcats hope to add another impressive win to their resume with a midweek bout against the Longhorns. Texas State split a pair of midweek games against Baylor and now gets its shot at UT. Don’t expect Carson Smith to take the mound for the Bobcats, while the Longhorns are expected to count on youngster Kirby Bellow. Keep an eye on Texas State slugger Tyler Sibley, who’s hitting .448 with three home runs and 10 RBIs with a fantastic .515 on-base percentage.
No. 11 Cal State Fullerton at No. 18 Texas A&M: This is a surprisingly huge midweek bout for both clubs. The Aggies haven’t recorded any marquee wins this season and desperately could use a victory over the Titans. Fullerton, meanwhile, hopes to bounce back after getting swept at LSU last weekend. The game features a solid pitching matchup between Fullerton’s Jake Floethe and Texas A&M’s Ross Stripling.
No. 13 Arizona at Wichita State (2) If you’re looking for some good pitching in the middle of the week, you’ll get it here. The Wildcats are the kings of the two-game midweek series so far this season. They’ve split midweek sets with Rice and UNLV, but hope to go 2-0 on the road against the Shockers. Wichita, meanwhile, hopes to bounce back from a tough series loss at Tulane.
Georgia Southern at No. 14 Georgia Tech (2): It’ll be very interesting to see these two clubs match up in the midweek. Don’t look for Eagles ace pitcher Matt Murray to start either game, but there’s a chance he could enter in relief. The two clubs split the last two-game midweek set and it’s worth noting that Georgia Southern slugger Eric Phillips is hitting .517 with six doubles and 15 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Georgia Tech freshman pitcher Matt Grimes, who starts the front end of the two-game set.
Alabama vs. Auburn: It wasn’t long ago the Crimson Tide appeared be in dire straits. But now things are looking up for Mitch Gaspard’s team, partly because they’ve played weaker competition, but also because they’ve established some consistency. Alabama has won seven of its last eight, while the Tigers hope to bounce back from a hard-fought home series loss to Arizona State.
Florida International at No. 23 Baylor: The Golden Panthers hoped to have a successful trip to the Lone Star State, but they’re 1-3 entering the midweek bout against the Bears. The Bears are coming off a fantastic week that included a 5-0 and have a solid offense with Chris Slater, Brooks Pinckard, Jake Miller and Max Muncy leading the charge. Look for this to be a very offensive contest between a pair of solid clubs.
East Carolina at Elon: The Phoenix squandered an opportunity to win a huge midweek game over North Carolina last weekend, but hopes to change the trend with a win over the Pirates. ECU is coming off a solid 2-1 week at home, while the Phoenix could use another marquee victory with Jake Luce leading the way at the plate. Luce is a guy to watch, as he’s hitting a team-high .429 with 11 RBIs. He also has a fantastic .507 OBP.
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 20 Tulane: The Green Wave is aiming for revenge when these two teams meet Tuesday night. The last time the teams met, the Lions captured a dominating 13-1 victory. The Green Wave is playing a much better brand of baseball these days with fantastic pitching leading the way. SELU, meanwhile, continues to be one of the more consistent teams this season.
Coastal Carolina at San Diego (2): Both teams could use a marquee midweek series win. The Chanticleers have two games against the Toreros before heading up the road to play Pepperdine. San Diego will send freshman right-handed pitcher Dylan Covey to the mound. Covey missed his start last weekend because of a diabetic reaction, but is back on against the Chanticleers. The righty has been just OK this season, tallying a 5.21 ERA in 19 innings and holding team to a .239 average.
Louisville at USC (2): The Cardinals had a fantastic start to their West Coast road trip with a series sweep over Pepperdine. They hope to continue their successful ways against the Trojans, who are coming off a solid 2-1 record at the Dodgertown Classic. The Cards have the edge in the pitching department with a 1.20 staff ERA, but must be more consistent at the plate with just a .241 batting average.
James Madison at No. 4 Virginia: The Dukes have played a surprisingly awful non-conference schedule this season, and desperately need to earn a midweek win over Virginia. The Dukes, a mid-major, currently have the nation’s No. 247 schedule. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, hope to continue their consistent ways after hitting the road last weekend and sweeping a solid Clemson club.
Kent State at Pittsburgh: The Golden Flashes have earned some headlines this season with a trio of weekend starters leading the way, but the Panthers also have been solid despite not earning a plethora of headlines. The Panthers are 8-4 and have a fantastic leading hitter in Kevan Smith, who’s hitting .441 with two homers and nine RBIs. It’s a solid northern battle between a pair of solid clubs.
Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at email@example.com