(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Only a day removed from its sweep of No. 23 Cal State Fullerton on the road, Arizona State (10-3) will return home for a three-game series with UC Davis (5-7).
This season, the Sun Devils are 7-1 at home, the lone loss coming against Nevada on Feb. 23.
The Aggies are riding at the heels of an 11-inning victory over South Dakota State at home on Wednesday.
With both team’s having taken part in extra innings already early on in the week–not to mention the fact that head coach Tracy Smith was forced to deploy a combined 11 pitchers in the midweek series with Fullerton–some fatigue wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.
However, given that Hever Bueno’s return seemed like a possibility early on in the week, Friday night could feature his return to the mound.
Bueno has been sidelined with a muscle strain–his last outing was on opening night when he went for 5 1/3 innings, giving up just two hits, one run and six strikeouts against Xavier.
Should Bueno’s return warrant a deep run into the game, most of the pitchers featured on Tuesday and Wednesday would have an extra day to recoup.
The situation might also open the door for the pitching debut of Andrew Shaps, who Smith pegged as the lead man for the closer job this spring.
Due to his heavy workload in the outfield and his pitching arm needing more time to mold into game form, Shaps has yet to pitch.
Third baseman Jordan Aboites returned from his recent suspension on Tuesday and earned the starting nod on the mound. In the six games since he was suspended, Smith has leaned upon freshman Jeremy McCuin to man the hot corner.
In his five starts, McCuin boasts a batting average of .190 and two RBI. However, Smith still felt as though McCuin’s plate approach and defensive ability in the Eastern Michigan series was enough to earn extended reps, or even send Aboites to the bullpen completely.
The question as to who will keep the job at third base should be illuminated at some point this weekend.
For UC Davis, the drop off in terms of offensive production is steep after redshirt sophomore Alex Aguiar, who is batting .348 with two home runs and five RBI.
Beyond Aguiar, no one other than Mark Cardinalli, who has started just eight games, is batting over .300.
On the mound, the Aggies are a bit stronger.
The one-two punch of Nat Hamby and Chris Brown have anchored the team’s starting pitching, entering the contest with an ERA of 1.88 and 2.16 respectively, in addition to a combined 23 strikeouts in five starts and nine appearances.
In the bullpen, Robert Garcia has been lights out in his six appearances, giving up just five hits and no earned runs.
Garcia leads the team in strikeouts with 24.
For Arizona State, a win in this series could mean an entry into the top 25. A poor outing, though and the Sun Devils would be beginning the rigors of conference play trending in the wrong direction.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s game will get underway at 12:30 p.m.