The Arizona State Sun Devils are set to begin conference play after sweeping the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. and finishing the nonconference season with a 26-3 record.
The Sun Devils will play in their first true road games this weekend as they travel north to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. The Beavers, who have not played a single home game all season, have struggled early on and enter the weekend at 9-13, however, ASU head coach Craig Nicholson is not taking the them lightly. Nicholson called this a potential trap for the Sun Devils who are coming off what he believes is their best weekend of the season.
“I know [the Beavers] have struggled a little bit and you can’t go off their record. Once conference play starts anything can happen,” Nicholson said after practice on Tuesday. “We got to make sure that we go in there and we’re focused and that we’re not taking anything for granted and we’re not worrying about what they’ve done so far this year and that we’re worried about what we’re doing and where we’re going and what we’re capable of.”
Last season, the Sun Devils swept the series against the Beavers, who were ranked No. 23 at the time, outscoring them 21-5 in Tempe. Only four players on Oregon State’s active roster played in last year’s series, none of them pitchers.
“The big thing for us it to worry about ourselves and not who we’re playing,” Nicholson said.
Conference play also presents a different challenge to the Sun Devils and how they prepare during the week. Unlike nonconference play when the Sun Devils would play five or six opponents over a weekend, they will now face one opponent three times, something coach Nicholson admits he prefers.
“It’s kind of nice to prepare for one team,” Nicholson said. “And now the thing you have to be able to do is be able to make adjustments or anticipate their adjustments from one day to the next. But it’s good just in terms of you can spend the same amount of time or even a little bit less time preparing and you have way more information on the team that you’re going to play. I think it does help with preparation for sure.”
When asked if he had looked at any other opponents on the conference schedule Nicholson said the Pac-12 is the best conference in softball and he expects the Sun Devils to be challenged but they need to remain focused on one opponent at a time. Starting pitcher Mackenzie Popescue echoed that sentiment as well.
“We’ve looked at the schedule but the most important game is the next one,” Popescue said. “We’re not looking ahead. We’re just looking at the first game against Oregon State.”
The tough road through the Pac-12 conference begins for the Sun Devils on Friday afternoon as they take on the Oregon State Beavers at 1 p.m. in Corvallis.