TEMPE, Ariz. -- The season starts on Friday for Arizona State baseball, but Ryan Burr just wants to play already.
Burr will get the ball on Friday to kick off the last season at Packard Stadium, and the 6’4” sophomore is anxious to make his first collegiate start.
“I’m always anxious to get out there,” said Burr. “It’s that time again in Tempe. The Devils are back.”
Need more proof? Burr tweeted this on Monday:
Can it just be Friday yet? So anxious. Ready to roll.— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr303) February 11, 2014
Associate head coach and pitching coach Ken Knutson intends to keep a very close eye on Burr’s pitch count, saying last week that he would like the righty to throw around 80 pitches. How many innings that winds up being depends on Burr’s ability to mix his mid-to-high 90s fastball with his changeup, slider and curveball.
The lineup that head coach Tim Esmay used to open Saturday’s alumni game will most likely be the starting lineup when the Sun Devils take the field against the Baylor Bears. That lineup, listed below, features six sophomores and four natural left-handed batters, plus one switch-hitter.
This starting nine gives the Sun Devils a multitude of power hitters from third in the order all the way to eighth. Arizona State hit 49 home runs last season, and Baylor’s opponents only averaged 20. The Devils also had significantly more extra-base hits than the Bears – 193 to Baylor’s 100.
The visiting and unranked Baylor Bears finished last year with a 28-29 record. They went 6-14 on the road, including a 0-3 start at UC Irvine to kick off the 2013 season. Including Big 12 Championship play, Baylor had an even 5-5 record against ranked teams last season. The Bears were ranked sixth of nine Big 12 teams in the conference baseball coaches’ preseason poll.
The Sun Devils will face Bears RHP Dillon Newman on Friday. Newman, a senior, started 12 games last season in which he went 3-4 with a 2.91 earned run average. Of the 280 opponent at-bats when Newman was on the mound last season, only five resulted in walks.
In Newman’s junior year transition from the bullpen to the Friday night starter, he and Bears pitching coach Trevor Mote have worked on budgeting his inventory of pitches. The righty throws five pitches: two- and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup. Sun Devil hitters will have to be aware of Newman’s off-speed pitches, especially his changeup.
The pitching matchups for the rest of the weekend will be redshirt junior LHP Brad Kuntz vs. sophomore LHP Ryan Kellogg on Saturday and junior RHP Austin Stone vs. sophomore LHP Brett Lilek on Sunday. Kuntz utilized his aforementioned redshirt season last year, while Stone went 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 16 appearances (11 starts).
It will be interesting to see how Baylor uses its bullpen this weekend. Like the Sun Devils, the Bears are taking the “bullpen by committee” approach to begin the season. Baylor head coach Steve Smith has not confirmed a closer yet, but he will turn most to seniors Doug Ashby (1.90 ERA last season), Bobby McCormack (1.80) and Josh Michalec (2.64), along with freshmen Nick Lewis and Kyle Ott.
Baylor’s starting nine will feature senior Grayson Porter, who led the team with five home runs last season. Porter’s batting average last year was a low .229, but the outfielder/designated hitter looks to have made his game more complete over the summer. In 49 games for the Kelowna Falcons of the West Coast League, Porter batted .316 (T-3rd on team) with four home runs (T-2nd) and 29 runs batted in (T-1st). He also recorded a team-best 35 runs and 62 hits. It would suit the Sun Devils well to not let Porter, the Bears’ power bat, produce at a similar rate.
Arizona State can win the series by… using its power on offense and playing near-perfect-or-better defense.
Baylor can win the series by… chasing Arizona State’s less experienced starters early and handing leads to its bullpen.
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 2:30pm MST.