(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
Sometimes, the success of the team is correlated with the success of one player. After all, the Los Angeles Dodgers rode the frenzy of success that Yasiel Puig had all the way to the National League Championship Series. A similar phenomenon appears to be underway for Arizona State baseball team and junior outfielder Jake Peevyhouse.
On March 22, the Sun Devils were entering the Saturday tilt of their weekend series against Oregon State having lost four of their last five. The team was 1-3 in conference play and had Coach Tim Esmay criticizing their undisciplined approach at the plate.
At nearly the exact same time, Peevyhouse was mired in a horrendous 1-for-21 slump and had lost his starting position in right field.
Nearly two weeks later, it is safe to say that both Peevyhouse and the entire team have been rejuvenated.
“[I am] just relaxing, not trying to do too much,” Peevyhouse said. “Just focusing on stuff I can control and having a quality at-bat. Working the count, or finding something I can barrel up and not trying to do too much with it.”
“I was working with Coach [Mike Benjamin] a lot when I was struggling when I wasn’t playing. He pointed some stuff out I was doing wrong. I was really closing myself off so I couldn’t stay through a ball. We worked on that and it seemed to really help.”
Over the last six games, Peevyhouse has been scorching hot. He has raised his once-awful .093 batting average to an astounding .264 (.14 higher than his career best). In fact, Peevyhouse now leads the team in Pac-12 play with a .429 conference average and six doubles.
As the adage goes: hitting is contagious.
“We’re finally getting the clutch hits and making all the plays,” Peevyhouse said. “We’re not giving away games; we’re not beating ourselves anymore; we’re finally getting breaks that are going are way instead of have everything go against us like it was at the beginning of the year.”
Thanks in large part to the success of Peevyhouse, the entire Sun Devils lineup is starting to heat up. As a result, ASU has now won five of its last six games and appears primed for more with eight consecutive games at Packard Stadium.
“[We have to] just keep riding the momentum that we have,” Peevyhouse said. “We’re starting to play some really good baseball so [we have to] just keep that going. Easier to win at home than on the road, so hopefully it translates pretty well.”
Yet as many saw with the 2013 Dodgers, success for one player may come at the expense of another. Likewise, Peevyhouse’s reemergence has rekindled the battle for playing time. With Johnny Sewald all but cemented in center field, three outfielders—Peevyhouse, Trever Allen and Christopher Beall—are vying for two spots in the starting lineup.
It was the infield that was generating the headlines at the beginning of the season, as there was little disclosure as to who would start at first base, second base and third base.
With those spots seemingly secured, the attention has now shifted to the outfield.
Peevyhouse’s early season struggles opened the door for sophomore Chris Beall, who has capitalized immensely and hit .344 in 64 at-bats.
Right fielder Trever Allen, like Peevyhouse, has seen his fair share of struggles. Considered to be the Sun Devils top MLB draft prospect at the start of the season, Allen has underwhelmed with a measly .237 batting average. Yet, as if in sync with Peevyhouse, Allen may have regained his stroke when he went 3-for-5 with a home run against UCLA on Saturday.
Peevyhouse, however, is not concerned about playing time. Instead, doing what is best for the team is the focus for the revitalized lefty.
“Control what you can control,” he said. “[Coach Esmay’s] thing is ‘Make it tough on me to take you out of the lineup.’ Keep working every day. Show that you’re not worried about winning or losing a spot. Regardless of your position, go out every day and give it your all.”
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu