(Photo: ASU Athletics)
It’s finally upon us: the 40th and final opening weekend at Packard Stadium. Starting Friday, the No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils will host the Baylor Bears for a three game series. These two teams haven’t met since 2006 at the Houston Regional, but ASU leads the series 4-1 when in Tempe.
As always, the pitching matchups will be pivotal. Friday night pits ASU’s Ryan Burr against Baylor’s Dillon Newman. Burr, a sophomore, was the closer for the Sun Devils last season, compiling an ASU-freshman-record 12 saves, striking out 60 in 45 innings with a 2.20 ERA. Newman, a right-handed senior, will be looking to build upon his 12-start 2013 campaign where he had a 2.91 ERA. The Texas-native fanned 52 in 77 and one-third innings.
On Saturday, southpaw sophomore Ryan Kellogg will take the mound for the Sun Devils, facing off against fellow lefty Brad Kuntz. Kellogg put together a stellar freshman season, complete with a complete-game, no-hit shutout against Oregon State. The Canadian amassed 54 strikeouts in 103 innings, finishing the year with a 3.15 ERA. Kuntz, a redshirt junior, is coming off a 2013 season where he medically redshirted. His career stats at Baylor include a 4.18 ERA in 64 and two-thirds innings with 68 strikeouts.
Sunday’s game will see another sophomore lefty for ASU, Brett Lilek, taking on right-hander Austin Stone. In 20 innings last season, Lilek struck out 17 with a 4.05 ERA. The Bears’ Stone, a junior, threw 55 and one-third innings in 2013 with 43 strikeouts and an improved 3.74 ERA.
Since ASU has two inexperienced starters, the bullpen will be key. Burr’s career high in innings pitched is three, and Lilek only made 11 appearances due to injury. Darin Gillies, Eric Melbostead, Mark Lambson, and a group of promising freshmen make up the Sun Devil bullpen.
On the offensive side, ASU is returning a few big bats, including last season’s home run and RBI leader Trever Allen. Last year’s team average was .288 with 49 homers and 600 hits. Baylor lost their most dynamic offensive weapon from last year, Nathan Orf, but home run leader Grayson Porter returns. The Sun Devils should have a definite advantage at the plate, as last season the Bears got 496 hits while batting .266 collectively with 20 home runs.
If ASU’s more inexperienced starters can produce early and get backup from the defense, the Sun Devils should be able to start off Packard’s final year with a series win. The series is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
You can follow Madison Romine on Twitter @madisonjromine or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org