(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Arizona State has had a bounce-back season this year, but a three-game series against No. 3 UCLA will be the Sun Devils toughest challenge.
The most intriguing matchup of this series will be ASU’s offense, hitting .304 on the season, versus the fantastic pitching staff of UCLA, which has a sparkling team ERA of 2.20.
As for specific performers, UCLA is loaded with premier talent and depth. Grant Watson leads the starting pitchers with a 1.90 ERA, while Cody Poteet and James Kaprielian both come in with ERA’s below 2.40. Griffin Canning has an earned run average of 2.97, the highest of any UCLA starting pitcher but incredibly impressive for a Sunday starter.
For the bullpen, the Bruins rely heavily on David Berg, Grant Dyer, and Tucker Forbes, all of whom have had excellent seasons.
Ty Moore has been Mr. Everything for the UCLA offense, as he leads all batters with a .363 average, 62 hits and 44 RBI. Chris Keck is the main power threat for the Bruins, as he posseses a .521 slugging percentage, 14 doubles and six home runs. Other key batters to watch are Kevin Kramer and Luke Persico.
Implications on Conference Standings
Entering this weekend, UCLA (34-11, 16-5) possesses a two-game lead over the Sun Devils (29-15, 14-7), who are in second place in the Pac-12. Although it just lost the series to Cal (its first conference series loss of the season), ASU still stands a half game ahead of the Golden Bears in the conference standings.
The only way the Sun Devils can take over the conference lead this weekend would be through a series sweep, which is unlikely based on the past history between the two teams and the overall prowess of the Bruins–a team that is 11-0 in weekend series in 2015.
With only nine conference games remaining for both teams, this series has enormous implications and will ultimately give an idea as to who has the inside track in the pursuit of a conference championship.
ASU-UCLA Recent History
ASU and UCLA have both almost always been strong competitors in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament. Last season was a down year for both teams, but the Sun Devils ended up taking two out of three from the Bruins in Los Angeles.
In 2013, UCLA won its first and only College World Series to date. ASU, however, won the season series that year, beating the Bruins at Packard. UCLA’s only victory of the series came in extra innings.
Both teams appeared in the College World Series in 2010, with UCLA finishing as runner-up in the tournament. Although UCLA ultimately ended up making it further than the Sun Devils, ASU continued its dominance over the Pac-12 rival, sweeping the season series.
Since the 2009 season, ASU holds an 11-7 series lead over UCLA.
The first pitch for game one of the three-game set is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 at Phoenix Muni. Seth Martinez will take the hill for the Sun Devils.