(Photo: Blaine McCormick/WCSN)
There are 32 Pac-12 games in 2017 for the Arizona State Sun Devils. And although it is demoralizing to lose the first three games to open up conference play, the biggest key in the Conference of Champions is “to stay the course.”
To open up Pac-12 play, ASU (9-10, 0-3 Pac-12) got swept by the No. 1 Oregon State Beavers (17-1, 3-0 Pac-12) in a three-game series, with the Sun Devils scoring just one total run in the three games.
The Sun Devils were clearly overmatched by the Beavers’ balanced pitching staff. OSU’s Luke Heimlich, Bryce Fehmel and Jake Thompson all tossed seven or more innings while striking out 20 combined ASU batters in their three starts.
Head coach Tracy Smith described the effect that the pitching staff had on the Sun Devils’ offense, especially with the younger players.
“I think the tendency with young hitters is when you’re not having success you start to try to force some things,” Smith said. “I would say for the first time some of our guys were trying to press their at-bats a little bit and when you press in this game or when you try to force things that aren’t there it’s going to lead to less success. Our step moving forward, is to remind guys that there is a lot of season left.”
ASU will try to regroup from a tough Pac-12 opening series against the Beavers as the team heads to Los Angeles for its road-opening series against the USC Trojans (12-7, 2-1 Pac-12), this weekend.
Losses early on in the Pac-12 from a young team isn’t the end of the world and the challenge actually comes from keeping the same mentality day-in and day-out.
“We have to make sure we stay the course and get better,” Smith said.
For the Sun Devils, two left-handers will start the first two games against USC. Junior Eli Lingos will get the start on Friday evening and freshman Spencer Van Scoyoc is set to take the hill on Saturday night. Similar to last weekend, the ASU starter for the series finale hasn’t been named.
In USC’s first Pac-12 series, the Trojans beat Washington State in a three-game series this past weekend.
The Trojans pitching staff hasn’t been as steady as head coach Dan Hubbs would like, as the weekend starters have a combined 5.76 ERA. Chris Clarke, Brad Wegman and Marrick Crouse figure to start against ASU respectively.
For USC offensively, Brandon Perez and Corey Dempster have looked solid with the bat as both players are batting over .330 and will look to lead the Trojans to a series victory over the Sun Devils this weekend.
Even with ASU suffering a sweep in the Pac-12 series opener, Smith is confident in his team saying that he believes the Sun Devils should win at least two baseball games down in Southern California this weekend.
With just three out of 32 Pac-12 games done, there is a lot of conference baseball left. 29, to be exact, and the Sun Devils have time to adjust to the level of play shown in the conference.
“This game is about consistency and execution. I just want to remind our club that’s the focus moving forward,” Smith said. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the right way and you need to be able to weather the bad times as well as keep yourself on an even-keel during the good times because this game will kick you in the teeth.”