(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Arizona State baseball is firing on all cylinders. The Sun Devils (13-10, 5-1) have won three in a row, including two straight wins against No. 4 Oregon State and an eight-run trouncing of in-state rival Arizona. The team has outscored opponents 24-11 in its last three games.
A three-game road stint against the defending champs.
The Sun Devils will travel to Southern California this weekend, where they will be hosted by the No. 14 UCLA Bruins (15-8, 5-1) at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The matchup will feature a battle of two scorching hot teams, as UCLA has won eight of their last nine games and three straight. The Bruins are also 4-0 away from home, with close wins against Cal and USC.
With only two everyday players boasting a plus-.300 batting average in catcher Shane Zeile (.393) and centerfielder Brian Carroll (.301), UCLA has been relying on the same force that propelled them to a College World Series Championship a year ago—pitching.
Right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian, who was nearly unhittable as a freshman relief pitcher, occupies the mound as the Friday starter. Kaprielian, like his Friday counterpart Brett Lilek, is UCLA’s swing-and-miss pitcher. The sophomore has 42 strikeouts (14 more than the next closest UCLA pitcher) in 39 innings, and boasts a 2.97 ERA.
On Saturday, the Bruins will likely send Grant Watson to face Ryan Kellogg for the Sun Devils. Watson has arguably been even more dominant than Kaprielian, as he has held opposing hitters to a .177 batting average and leads the staff with a 1.76 ERA and four wins.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Cody Poteet has received the last four Sunday starts for UCLA and has fared nicely. Poteet is 2-1 on the year and 3.41 ERA in 27 innings of work—significantly better than the 4.71 ERA of Darin Gillies, ASU’s Sunday starter.
Junior David Burg began the season as the Sunday starter for the Bruins; however, similar to Ryan Burr, opted to anchor the bullpen as the closer. Burg now has seven saves.
UCLA’s experienced and talented pitching staff will square off against a Sun Devil offense that is scorching. In yesterday’s matchup, the Sun Devils bombarded Arizona for ten runs on only six hits in the bottom of the sixth.
A total of six Sun Devils had multi-hit games, most notably first baseman Nate Causey who went 4-for-5. In his last six starts at first base, Causey has gone a blistering 14-for-24 and has pushed his team-leading average to .415.
Right fielder Jake Peevyhouse has also quietly crept his way back into the starting lineup for the Sun Devils—a hot bat tends to accomplish such feats. At one point in the season, Peevyhouse was hitting .093. However, the junior has revitalized his approach and confidence and has raised his batting average to .231.
The Sun Devils and Bruins will begin series play on Friday at 6 p.m. with Brett Lilek delivering the first pitch. The teams will square off again on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu