15-0 Sun Devils are rolling following 2 losing seasons
With the exception of Spencer Torkelson’s bat, things were pretty quiet the last couple years at Arizona State.
Not anymore: The Sun Devils are creating buzz as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in Division I, along with North Carolina State.
Arizona State has won 15 in a row for its best start since the 2010 team opened 24-0, and the Sun Devils were as high as No. 9 in the major polls on Monday.
“For me to sit here and act like we’re shocked, I’m not going to say that,” fifth-year coach Tracy Smith said. “We didn’t expect to be 15-0, but we certainly expected to be in a pretty good place this year.”
Smith’s first two ASU teams made NCAA regionals, but he said the culture wasn’t right at one of the blue-blood teams in college baseball. NCAA sanctions in 2010 had long-lasting effects and, with the support of athletic director Ray Anderson, Smith reorganized with players who were better fits on and off the field.
“We were playing five to seven freshmen last year — very talented kids — but they were freshmen and we took our lumps big time,” Smith said.
The Sun Devils have won five national championships and have been to 39 NCAA Tournaments, so their fans weren’t thrilled with 23-32 records each of the last two seasons. Torkelson was a bright spot, leading the nation with 25 homers as a freshman. This season, Torkelson is batting .387 with two homers and 20 RBIs. Hunter Bishop, who batted .250 with five homers as a freshman last year, is now at .414 with eight homers and 22 RBIs batting third, behind Torkelson.
The Sun Devils are second nationally with their 10.7 runs per game, .354 average and .557 slugging percentage. Their 2.10 team ERA ranks eighth.
Friday night starter Boyd Vander Kooi (2-0, 3.92 ERA) has been impressive after missing much of last year to injury. No. 2 Alec Marsh (4-0, 0.94) has been dominant and No. 3 RJ Dabovich (4-0, 2.22) has been as good as hoped after spending his freshman season in junior college.
The Sun Devils open Pac-12 play this weekend against Washington State. The schedule has been mostly light, with 14 of the 15 games at home. Smith makes no apologies. He said it’s impossible to know how good an opponent will be when games are set up years in advance.
“We’re doing what we should be doing given how we play,” he said. “We’re pitching the baseball well, we’re picking the baseball up defensively. Look, it doesn’t say on the baseball it was hit by LSU or Notre Dame. It’s the baseball coming at you. You make the play or you don’t.”
IN THE POLLS
Vanderbilt (13-3) remained No. 1 in the D1Baseball.com and Baseball America polls. Florida State (13-1) stayed atop the Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll. D1Baseball.com has UCLA (11-3) and Oregon State (12-1-1) Nos. 2 and 3; Baseball America ranks UCLA and Stanford (12-3) second and third; and Collegiate Baseball’s 2-3 are North Carolina State (15-0) and Oregon State.
A week after losing a series to rival South Carolina, Clemson posted a stunning weekend sweep of North Carolina. Logan Davidson’s two-out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Tigers a 5-4 walkoff win Sunday and punctuated the Tigers’ first three-game sweep of the Tar Heels since 1997.
TAKING OUT FRUSTRATION
Texas Tech homered 11 times and collected 64 hits and 59 runs over five games last week. Highlighting the offensive eruption were six homers in a 15-10 win over Wichita State on Saturday, three coming in the first inning. The previous weekend, Texas Tech managed a combined seven hits and three runs in losses to Mississippi State and Nebraska.
Alabama (15-2) outscored Northern Kentucky 34-6 in a three-game sweep and has won 11 straight, its longest streak since 1999. The Crimson Tide is coming off back-to-back losing seasons and is picked last in the SEC West. Only one of the Tide’s opponents so far is higher than 111th in the RPI. Alabama will get a better measure this week when it opens SEC play on the road against a Mississippi team ranked as high as No. 9.
San Jose State left-hander Andrew Mitchel set the national season high for strikeouts with a career-best 18 in a complete-game 4-1 win over Air Force on Friday. The last San Jose State pitcher to strike out as many in a nine-inning game was Jim Visher, who fanned 20 against Cal State-Hayward in 1964.