(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils will face off against the No. 1 Texas Christian Horned Frogs this weekend in one of the most anticipated series in this college baseball season.
Led by head coach Jim Schlossnagle, TCU is coming off a 2014 College World Series appearance, the 2nd in school history. The Horned Frogs lost five of their top six hitters from last season, however, so they have lots to make up offensively.
The Horned Frogs carry a 4-0 record into the three game set. They swept Southern Illinois in a trio of blowouts and defeated UT Arlington 4-1 on Tuesday night.
ASU is currently 3-1, but have had a significantly more challenging schedule. The Sun Devils took two out of three at home against then-No. 5 Oklahoma State and followed that up with a comeback win on Wednesday against Oklahoma.
Friday’s pitching matchup is a very anticipated one, with Preston Morrison facing off against Brett Lilek. Morrison threw seven shutout innings in his first start of the season, while Lilek had a bit of a tougher time and was unable to get out of the fifth inning.
On Saturday, Tyler Alexander is the TCU expected starter while Tracy Smith will start Ryan Kellogg. The left-handed Kellogg tossed five innings and gave up three runs in his first start of the season, which resulted in a win over Oklahoma State.
While the starters on Sunday remain to be decided, Alex Young and Darin Gillies are the perceived top candidates. Gillies needs a strong outing to remain in the ASU rotation after surrendering five runs in his first start.
Despite the major changes offensively, TCU has still managed to average nine runs per game, including scoring 16 in one of the wins over SIU.
Junior shortstop Keaton Jones is a player to look for. So far, he’s hitting .375 with one home run, although is not known for his power.
A player that is known for his power is Evan Skoug. A catcher who passed up going pro to play at TCU is the only big power threat in this offense. He has struggled this season so far, hitting just .188, while getting on base at just a .278 clip.
The Horned Frogs power was rated just a 35 on a 20-80 scale by D1baseball.com. The lack of pop in this offense should help Lilek and Kellogg, who don’t allow many home runs to begin with.
Junior Nolan Brown and center fielder Cody Jones are two hitters that have gotten off to hot starts. Jones is especially hot to start the season, batting .600 while hitting in the middle of the order.
ASU has not obtained the same run production that TCU has, but is still putting up better numbers than expected. Two fast-starting hitters have been shortstop Colby Woodmansee and center fielder Johnny Sewald.
Woodmansee’s heroics and surprising power have been the key to his hot start. His two home runs already match his total from last season, and looks primed to move his way up to the middle of the ASU order.
The junior Sewald has always been very consistent throughout his career. To this point in the 2015 season, he has hit .471 and stolen two bases while starting all four games in center field.
Very few non-conference series’ will have the hype of this one, and for good reason. The excellent pitching, coaching and depth of both teams will make all three games competitive.
The series kicks off at 6:30 on Friday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.