(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Arizona State (13-7) opened up conference play last weekend in Corvallis riding an eight-game winning streak that featured four consecutive walk-off victories.
Heading into this weekend, the script has flipped.
The Sun Devils will take on the Utah Utes (6-12) at Phoenix Muni this weekend in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
Last weekend at Oregon State, ASU had its starting pitching exposed after what had been a blistering start by a unit entering the season with minimal expectations.
Opening Day starter Hever Bueno is still dealing with a forearm strain and according to Tracy Smith, relief innings this weekend might even be optimistic.
Therefore, Smith will likely give Reagan Todd and Eli Lingos one more shot to prove that their performances in the Oregon State series were in fact just outliers in what has been an otherwise solid start to the year.
Last weekend, Todd and Lingos pitched for a combined 2/3 of an inning, yielding five earned runs.
Should Smith elect to make a change, look for Eder Erives to be the first in line for a starting nod.
This season, Erives has appeared in eight games, earning three saves and racking up 24 strikeouts.
Seth Martinez, who has been relied upon as the team’s ace with Bueno sidelined, should take the mound to start the series on Thursday.
Martinez boasts a 2.08 ERA in five starts to go with a 3-1 record.
Utah will look to combat the Arizona State pitching staff via the trio of DaShawn Keirsey Jr., Kellen Marruffo and Hunter Simmons, who lead the team in batting average with marks of .320, .314 and .314 respectively.
Keirsey Jr. has scored seven runs on the season, the second-best mark on the team.
For the Utes, after the aforementioned three, most of the team has struggled to produce on offense, scoring just 64 runs on the season. In contrast, the Sun Devils have seen 92 runners cross the plate.
The production at the dish continues to come through Colby Woodmansee, David Greer and Andrew Snow.
To this point, Woodmansee has started all 20 games, posting a .384 average to accompany his 11 doubles and 19 RBI – all team bests.
Snow and Greer have also played vital roles in anchoring the infield while there have been inconsistencies just about everywhere else.
Greer and Snow enter the series batting .363 and .314 respectively.
Left field will be another position to keep an eye on in this series, as Smith has acknowledged a competition of sorts between Ryan Lillard, Coltin Gerhart, Tyler Williams and Daniel Williams. To this point, Smith understands that the position won’t be the most talented from a batting standpoint, but he continues to wait for someone to separate themselves in terms of defensive ability.
In this series, look for Lillard and Gerhart to be first in line to start – both players have shown flashes at the plate and can provided solid defense at the very least.
The Sun Devils enter the series in search of their first Pac-12 win, hoping to get back on track after being derailed last weekend.
If the team wants to claw its way back into the conference conversation, it will start with a strong showing against a Utah team that has encountered its own struggles.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.