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ASU – Bethune-Cookman series preview

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WCSN’s Allyson Cummings hosts the 2013 opening weekend preview alongside Ryan Hill and Benjamin Margiott.

All of the hard work the Sun Devils baseball team put in this offseason is about to be put on display Friday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils take on the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats in their season opener.

ASU is looking to come out and silence their critics and debunk the preseason rankings. Despite being the opening series, the Sun Devils need to be firing on all cylinders when facing this Bethune-Cookman team.

SUN DEVILS

The Sun Devils have a lot of talent and a lot of mystery in their lineup. It is still unclear who will start for the Maroon and Gold but head coach Tim Esmay gave the fans a taste of what it could look like.

In the annual Alumni game, the outfield from left to right for the Sun Devils was sophomore Jake Peevyhouse, Junior Kasey Coffman and sophomore Trevor Allen. Allen and Coffman each played a bulk of the 2012 season for ASU with 37 starts and 39 starts respectively.

Around the infield it will most likely be Michael Benjamin at third base, Drew Stankiewicz at shortstop, James McDonald at second base and Rouric Bridgewater at first. McDonald and Benjamin started in 55 and 35 games respectively. Benjamin was third on the team in batting average and was slotted at the lead off role for the current Sun Devils in the Alumni game.

McDonald was a constant in the Sun Devils line up last season having 32 starts in left field, 21 starts at designated hitter and two starts at third base. He earned Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention and looks to make a bigger impact in 2013.

The only solidified thing about the 2013 Sun Devils is in the front end of the rotation and the man behind the dish. Preseason All-American Trevor Williams will be the Friday night starter and the Ace of this ASU pitching staff. Last season, Williams had 2.05 ERA, which was third in the Pac-12, and was 12-2 with 59 strikeouts.

The big sophomore lefty Adam McCreery looks like he will be the number two guy in the rotation. McCreery saw limited action for the Sun Devils in 2012 as he battled injuries but posted a 1.32 ERA in 18 innings pitched. Look for McCreery to light up the radar gun this season. He has topped out at nearly 100 miles per hour.

The rest of the rotation is unclear as well. Esmay said that the younger guys will be put into the fire early and often. Look for sophomore Darin Gillies to be the Sunday starter and Matt Dunbar to be the new closer for the Devils. Freshmen Ryan Burr and Brett Lilek will more than likely come out of the pen as both them have shown they can throw smoke and hit their spots.

WILDCATS

Last season, the Wildcats made it to a regional but were swept by the Florida Gators in the Gainesville regional. One might remember the Wildcats for having a no-hitter thrown against them by UF’s Jonathan Crawford.

The Wildcats graduated their top hitters in shortstop Brashad Johnson and pitcher Jairo Acevedo. Johnson batted .336 with two homeruns, 34 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.

In his junior year, Acevedo made a move to the mound and in his senior campaign he batted .321 in 38 plate appearances. He primarily came out of the bullpen and had 2.63 ERA in 38 appearances with 25 strikeouts and 41 innings pitched.

The Wildcats also lost their Friday night starter in Rayan Gonzalez who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 21st Round. Gonzalez posted a 9-2 record for Bethune-Cookman in his senior year along with striking out 82 batters.

Despite losing some key pieces, the Wildcats return outfielders David Lee, Brandon Turner and Josh Johnson. They batted .306, .292 and .291 last year. Bethune-Cookman also returns senior Gabriel Hernandez who started 11 games for the Wildcats and posted a 2.92 ERA.

The Wildcats are in the same boat as the Sun Devils with youth being their biggest issue. Bethune-Cookman has nine freshmen and 5 junior college transfers this season with lots of holes to fill.

EXPECTATIONS

The Sun Devils have to stay loose in this game. It is the first regular season game they have played in since The U of A series in Tucson last May. They have to realize that they don’t have a large margin of error.

This series is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Sun Devils will travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers who play in a tough SEC conference, and then have the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise against the No. 2 team in the country, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

ASU has to make sure they have their game tight in this series. It is not by any means a tune-up weekend but ASU has to figure out what works for their team and what doesn’t. Also look for this 2013 Arizona State team to use their freshmen in this Bethune-Cookman series in tight spots. The Sun Devils should take care of business this opening weekend and silence their critics.

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