(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
With the college baseball regular season dwindling down, Arizona State will have some extra energy and added motivation when the University of Arizona comes to Phoenix Municipal Stadium ahead of a three-game series.
After wrapping up four games in the Pacific Northwest, the Sun Devils are home and are ready for the Wildcats.
ASU went 2-2 on their trip to Washington as they lost a series to Washington Huskies two games to one before taking down Seattle University in a midweek contest.
The Sun Devils now have a record of 23-26 with just six games remaining on their schedule. It’s this weekend against the rival Wildcats and then a three-game set against last year’s Pac-12 Conference Champion, the Utah Utes.
While Arizona is No. 15 in the country, rivalry games and series are often times closer than pure talent. There is extra motivation and fire – which ASU has already shown this season.
While the Sun Devils were demolished by a score of 11-2 in the first game against U of A this year at Hi Corbett Field in the beginning of April, the team returned and upset the Wildcats in a close game that ended 14-13 in favor of ASU.
UA is having a very successful season as they have already reached the 30-win mark but only have a .500 winning percentage in the Pac-12.
Arizona has an overall record of 33-17, which is good for third best in the Pac-12 behind Oregon State with 42 wins and Stanford’s 34.
In the Pac-12 the Wildcats are 12-12, which has them at fourth in the conference standings.
They have a chance this weekend to move past UCLA (third in the standings) if they can sweep the Sun Devils this weekend.
Among UA’s core non-pitchers who have played in 75 percent of games, five out of the eight players have batting averages over .300, led by JJ Matijevic, who is batting .402 with ten home runs and 57 RBI’s in 2017.
Matijevic, UA’s first baseman, holds the seventh best batting average in the country and
The ASU pitchers will have to work hard to contain the Arizona offense and if they can keep Matijevic quiet, the Sun Devils will have a much better chance to perhaps steal a few wins about the highly-ranked Wildcats.
ASU does have offensive weapons of its own as Gage Canning’s batting average currently sits at .337 with a .533 slugging percentage.
Zach Cerbo and Lyle Lin have also both been very solid, batting at .303 and .319 respectively.
Connor Higgins and Eder Erives figure to be impact players in this series as the Sun Devils will try to cool off the Wildcats’ bats.
It’s going to be a fun series at Phoenix Muni with two teams battling it out to see who can win the season-series with it currently tied at one game apiece.
ASU has already clinched the Territorial Cup for 2017, so that coveted trophy will not be competed for this weekend.
With Arizona getting ready for postseason play, ASU will look to get closer to .500, needing to go 5-1 in the remaining six games of the postseason. Even though on paper the Wildcats have much more firepower than the Sun Devils, you better believe Sun Devil head coach Tracy Smith will have his team ready to compete against its biggest rival.
Rob Werner is an ASU Baseball beat writer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. For more coverage you can follow Rob on twitter @robwerner28.