(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
David Greer and Andrew Snow shined in a 5-1 Arizona State win over Xavier to complete a four game sweep. With the win, the Sun Devils set the tone for what’s to come from a team facing expectations that are lower than what they have ever been.
From the outfield to the bullpen, plenty of questions surrounded this year’s ASU team, but most of those questions were put to bed, at least for now, after the satisfying sweep.
Undecided until yesterday, head coach Tracy Smith opted to start Todd in what was considered a tryout for a future spot in the rotation. All things considered, it looks like Todd may have passed the test. The sophomore left-hander did not allow a run in 5 and 1/3 innings, impressive for someone who had yet to see the mound during his college baseball career.
“What a difference a year makes, with growing up,” Smith said regarding Todd. “When you see confidence, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and I think what you saw out of him was a confident guy who has put a lot of hard work in from last year to this year, and the results speak for themselves.”
An even bigger unknown than the back of the rotation coming into the year was the bullpen, but that also looks like it is coming along nicely. In 13 innings, a group of eight relievers have allowed just one earned run. Roles are starting to emerge too, among those, Eder Erives seems to be the super reliever, someone who can come in to get one out in a jam or pitch multiple innings, whatever Smith needs him to do. He did that on Sunday, when he threw three shutout innings in relief, from the seventh inning to the end of the game.
“On Friday he did the same thing, where he is able to go out there and go more than one inning and be able to compete in the zone and throw hard and have his nasty slider,” Todd said. “Having him in the back of the bullpen is a great asset for us. It’s great to get out to a lead and then have Eder in the back to finish it off.”
Other relievers, including Grant Schneider and Fitz Stadler, may alternate between the rotation and bullpen, while Eric Melbostad will almost surely be working in the later innings for most of his appearances.
“We have a lot of strike throwers,” Smith said. “If you struggle throwing strikes, that sticks out. What we are trying to do is identify who are strike throwers are.”
The more certain area of strength within the team, the infield, has lived up to the hype four games into the season. David Greer, who emerged as an everyday player last season, has a hit or a walk in 11 of his 15 plate appearances, including a 2-for-3 day at the plate today. Smith mentioned Greer alongside the likes of two of his former players, Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis, as someone who is a professional hitter.
Shortstop Colby Woodmansee, whose RBI double extended the lead to 4-0, has four total doubles and six RBIs to start to season.
It’s hard to mention the infield without second baseman Andrew Snow, who has added experience to a youthful bottom of the lineup. Snow’s clutch two-run double upped the lead from one run to three.
“I was just having fun and competing at the plate,” he said. “A lot of fastballs early and a lot of freshmen on the mound for them. It was a four day weekend for them, and they kind of ran out of pitching so I saw fastballs.”
While the situation is still fluid, the starting outfielders have complemented the big Sun Devil hitters really well in the early going. Daniel Williams is hitting .333, while Andrew Shaps is batting .353 with a pair of highlight reel catches to his name. Even Gage Canning, who has only started three of the four games, has had good moments in the early going.
Overreactions cannot be made due to the youthfulness of the season, but the Sun Devils at least temporarily answered a lot of the questions that surrounded the team during the four game sweep over the Musketeers.
“I think a lot of people are overlooking us,” Todd said. “It helps motivate us and have us work harder. We have a chip on our shoulder a little bit so we are going out there competing every day and trying to get every win we can.”