(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
Following their heartbreaking 13-12 loss to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Tuesday night, Arizona State will try to regroup and refocus this weekend when they welcome the CSU Bakersfield Road Runners to Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
This will be the final non-conference series for Tracy Smith and Co. for the rest of the season, save for a mid-week road tilt with the University of Seattle on May 16th.
The Sun Devils come in with a record of 16-19, and are 5-10 in the Pac-12. The weekend off from conference games relieves some of the pressure following Tuesday’s ninth inning meltdown, however the Road Runners will still pose a great challenge.
Sitting in third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with a record of 6-6 and an overall mark of 20-12, CSUB poses the same problem that plagued ASU against UNLV: they can hit.
Boasting three players with averages of .388 or higher (David Metzgar, .388; Andrew Penner, .409; and Ryan Grotjohn, .452), the ASU bats will need to show up in support of their pitching staff it would appear to have a chance at winning the series.
Other offensive notables for CSUB include Max Carter, with a .352 average, 24 RBI and a .428 on-base percentage, along with four players having at least 24 RBI (Carter, Metzgar, Grotjohn and Mahlik Jones).
In terms of the pitching staff, the Road Runners are led by Carter, a two-way player in every sense of the word. In eight games started in 2017, Carter holds a 6-1 record, 2.34 ERA, two complete games and just 11 walks in 57 and 2/3 innings pitched.
The other two supposed starters in the series, Jones and Garrett Nimmo, have a combined ERA of 6.16 and have allowed 24 extra-base hits between the two of them. The biggest weapon out of the Road Runner bullpen is closer Naithen Dewsnap, with seven saves and 35 strikeouts in 26 and 2/3 innings pitched.
As for ASU, the team’s success this weekend will most likely hinge on starter Eli Lingos to deliver a solid outing on Friday to set the tone for the rest of the weekend rotation, which has yet to be determined as of Friday morning, along with their offensive forces, most notably Lyle Lin, Zach Cerbo and reigning Pac-12 Player of The Week Gage Canning.
First pitch for Friday and Saturday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium is set for 6:30 PM, and the series finale will get underway Sunday at 12:30 PM.
Bobby Kraus is a baseball beat reporter for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @bobbykraus22