(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The stakes of the Territorial Cup have never been higher.
When Arizona State (29-16, 11-10) travels to take on No. 20 Arizona (31-16, 14-10) this weekend at Hi Corbett Field, the race for the Pac-12 will be altered.
Much like the Sun Devils, the Wildcats are riding quite a bit of momentum coming into the series, having won eight of their last 10 conference games. For the Devils, they head to Tucson with 10 wins in their last 13 games, as well as three straight series wins.
Quite the contrast from Arizona State’s 1-5 start to its conference schedule.
The last time the two faced off, Arizona traveled to Phoenix Muni and stole an 8-0 win over Arizona State in the first of four games.
If the Sun Devils want to avoid a similar fate, it’s going to rest on arms who take the mound following Seth Martinez’s start on Friday.
On the season, Martinez boasts a 1.99 ERA, seven wins and 72 strikeouts.
Should Eder Erives be available on Saturday night, it would come down to the bats, who have been productive as of late, to help solidify two wins.
David Greer has especially starred as of late – in the last four games, he has compiled nine hits and eight RBIs, including a career-high five RBIs in last Saturday’s 9-8 walk-off win over Oregon.
With Andrew Snow still struggling with an injury and Colby Woodmansee slumping, Greer will need to spearhead the offensive production and help get a supporting cast of Andrew Shaps, Sebastian Zawada and Brian Serven going early.
The production won’t come easy against the Arizona Staff, though, a staff headlined by JC Cloney and Nathan Bannister who boast a 2.64 ERA and a 2.74 ERA respectively. Cloney has struck out 44 batters on the season, while Bannister has fanned 69.
In relief, it’s been Bobby Dalbec who has starred in a different role than anticipated.
Dalbec enters the weekend with a 2.78 ERA and eight wins in 58.1 innings pitched. The junior missed last weekend’s series against the Beavers, but head coach Jay Johnson feels he will be available this weekend.
The Arizona State staff will have its hands full with the trio of Zach Gibbons, Cody Ramer and Ryan Aguilar, who are all bating over .317 with over 29 RBIs on the year.
Gibbons and Ramer are batting .390 and .360 respectively, while Aguilar has hit six home runs and driven in 37 runners.
The bullpen of Arizona State will need to step up in this series, something that they have seldom done in their previous series.
They will also need to get it done before the ninth inning – while walk-offs send the crowd home happy, or sad, they are a very dangerous way of winning. For Arizona State, with the exception of the win over UNLV, it’s been all drama, with the four of their last five games before the Las Vegas trip ending with a walk-off victory.
This time around, the bitter rivalry will boast implications much more important than just in-state bragging rights. This time around, the winner of this series will see their postseason aspirations inch closer to becoming reality.
Arizona looks to be on the forefront of hosting a regional in the Pac-12, while Arizona State hopes to cement itself in postseason projections.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, then 3 p.m. on Sunday. All three games will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Network.