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ASU-UCLA series preview

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Madison Romine and Ben Margiott discuss this weekend’s match-up between two baseball power houses in the Pac-12.

Another week means another series against a top-10 opponent for ASU. This week, the No. 24 Sun Devils (13-7-1, 2-4 Pac-12) play host to the No. 7 UCLA Bruins (17-4, 5-1).

ASU is coming off a 1-3 week that included losses to Texas Tech and No. 3 Oregon State and a no-hitter thrown by freshman Ryan Kellogg. UCLA just defeated California, winning the series 2-1.

The pitching matchups should be fantastic. On Thursday, it’s a duel between two junior right-handers, UCLA’s Adam Plutko (2-1) and ASU’s Trevor Williams (3-2). Plutko owns a 3.47 ERA with 24 strikeouts and eight walks in 36 and one-third innings pitched. Williams has a 2.36 ERA, striking out 36 and walking seven in a team-high 42 innings.

Friday will have junior Nick Vander Tuig (4-2) on the mound for the Bruins, while freshman sensation Kellogg (5-0) will make his first start after throwing a no-hitter in his first complete game last week. Tuig, a right-hander, has a 1.50 ERA, fanning 24 and walking four in a team-high 42 innings of work. Kellogg, a lefty, has a conference-leading 0.71 ERA with 23 strikeouts and five walks in 38 innings on the mound.

Saturday’s finale will pit UCLA junior Grant Watson (5-0) against struggling ASU sophomore Adam McCreery (1-3). Watson has a 1.13 ERA, and the lefty has struck out 25 and walked only three in 39 and two-thirds innings. McCreery, the 6-9 southpaw, has an ERA of 7.04 with 16 walks and 15 strikeouts in 23 innings of work.

Out of the bullpen, look for UCLA’s David Berg. Berg has posted an 0.76 ERA, second-best in the Pac-12, in 23 and two-thirds innings in relief for the Bruins. Berg has also recorded 29 strikeouts and four walks. ASU’s bullpen has a number of different options, including freshmen standouts Brett Lilek and Ryan Burr, and also upperclassmen Darren Gillies and Matt Dunbar.

ASU’s offense has five different players with at least 50 at-bats hitting over .300 and seven players with at least 50 at-bats recording 20 or more hits. Jake Peevyhouse leads the team with a .339 batting average. Trever Allen has 17 RBIs and four home runs, both team-leading numbers. Allen, Michael Benjamin, and James McDonald all have 24 hits.

The Bruin’s offense only has six players with at least 50 at-bats, and two of them hit over .300. Brian Carroll owns a .351 batting average, while Pat Valaika leads the team with 27 hits, two homers, and 21 RBIs. Three Bruins have 20 or more hits: Carroll, Valaika, and Kevin Kramer.

In a matchup between top-25 teams for the second straight week, ASU and UCLA seem evenly matched on paper. Pitching is going to determine this one, where the Bruins own the better record and the Sun Devils possess the more explosive offense.

The Friday and Saturday games can be viewed online at Pac-12.com

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