(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Now two weeks into the season, the No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils get set to host the Diamond Devil Classic this weekend in Tempe.
The Sun Devils will look to continue their torrid 11-1 start to the season. They have five games on the slate against the other four teams participating in the tournament. Minnesota, Houston, two against St. Francis, and Mount Saint Mary’s round out the weekend for ASU.
The Golden Gophers are the first team on the slate for ASU. While they come into the tournament with a record of 5-4 this team is nothing to scoff at.
Of those five wins, the most notable is a 1-0 win over perennial powerhouse and current top-10 team, Oklahoma.
In the circle for that two hit, 14 strikeout, shutout win was junior Sarah Groenewegen. Groenewegen is undoubtedly the ace of this staff having started six of Minnesota’s nine games this season. Not only does she boast a 2.14 earned run average, she has also racked up 52 strikeouts against a mere six walks.
Minnesota lost to the only other Pac-12 team they’ve faced this season, falling to the Washington Huskies in their first tournament of the year, that loss could very well be motivation for a hungry team.
The nightcap of ASU’s Friday double header sees it matched up against the Houston Cougars.
The Cougars are 6-5 on the year, but two of those losses came to Texas and Texas A&M which are the only two ranked teams they’ve faced this season.
The biggest threat that the Sun Devil pitching staff will have to deal with is senior outfielder Katie St. Pierre. St. Pierre comes into Tempe leading her team with a .414 batting average and 12 hits, three of which were doubles.
The Cougars as a team do not score a lot of runs, which lends itself for ASU’s dominant pitching. Regardless of who starts in the circle for ASU, they should look to quickly quiet what little offense Houston has.
Houston’s offense has yet to see a pitching staff like the Sun Devils have, and that could pay huge dividends in this game.
Of the four teams that the Sun Devils play, this is the one team they play twice.
On paper this team looks like a formidable 6-5 opponent. The Red Flash have six players hitting over .300 and three pitchers with ERAs under 3.50. However all those stats come without a single game against a team in a power five conference.
This game looks like a prime opportunity for the Sun Devils offense to get going. Early starts have been huge this season for the team as they have outscored opponents 25-0 in the first inning of games this year.
Mount St. Mary’s
A relative unknown in this tournament the Mount St Mary’s Mountaineers actually begin their season at this tournament.
Arriving via Emmitsburg, Maryland, and the Northeast Conference this will be the first action for the team in 2016.
Picked to finish 8th in their conference the Mountaineers are coming off of a season where they went 11-33, and just 4-18 away from home.
The Sun Devils have played well in the early going this season, and this tournament looks as a prime opportunity for co interim head coaches Robert Wagner, and Letty Olivarez to see how deep of a team the have and what they can do.
All of this weekend’s games can be seen on the Pac-12 digital stream.