(Photo: Gabe Mercer/WCSN)
After a 4-1 start to the 2016 season, highlighted by an opening weekend sweep of the Xavier Musketeers, the Arizona State Sun Devils are heading west for their first road trip of the young season to take on the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
Head coach Tracy Smith will be without his preferred Friday starter for this series as junior Hever Bueno is going to be sidelined due to the apparent arm injury he suffered on opening night. Smith will turn to his Friday starter from periods of last year as Seth Martinez will open the series, followed by Eli Lingos and Reagan Todd.
The pitching staff as a whole will not have an easy weekend against the LBSU offense, which is coming off a 10-1 victory against UCLA earlier this week.
Martinez and Todd both had impressive openings to their seasons, with Martinez allowing four hits and one unearned run in seven innings, while Todd lasted 5 1/3 innings with three hits, no runs and five strikeouts. Lingos picked up a win as well over the weekend, matching Todd’s length of 5 1/3 innings, scattering eight hits and allowing two runs.
The biggest threats in the Dirtbags’ lineup so far in 2016 are Garrett Hampson, who is batting .500 through the first four games of the season, and Lucas Tancas, who leads the team with six RBI.
Hampson is coming off a very productive 2015, posting a .296 average with 17 RBI and a .368 on-base percentage. Hampson also poses a major threat on the base paths, swiping four out of five chances so far this year and was 18 for 22 last season.
The Sun Devils boast some dangerous hitters of their own, with Colby Woodmansee, David Greer and Andrew Snow leading the way.
Woodmansee leads the nation in doubles (6) after the first full weekend of the season, and Greer is hitting at a .533 clip with an on-base percentage of .619.
The hot hitting of ASU poses an interesting challenge to the Dirtbags’ pitching staff, as Tanner Brown, Darren McCaughan and Dave Smith each have an ERA of 1.69 or lower after their first start of the season. Smith picked up the victory against UCLA.
Even with the starting pitching success, the Sun Devils will want to focus on scoring as many runs as possible off the Dirtbags’ starters because the bullpen has not given up a run so far this year, and has surrendered only four total hits. Ty Provencher and Austin McGeorge highlight the returners for the LBSU relievers.
These two teams are battling in a three-game series for the second time in as many seasons. The Sun Devils took two of three from the Dirtbags last March at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. ASU leads the all-time series at 40-11.
First pitch from Blair Field on Friday is at 6 p.m. PT (7 p.m. MT), followed by a 2 p.m. start on Saturday and a 1 p.m. start to close out the series on Sunday.