Weekend Preview: Unranked Sun Devils stumble Into Surprise

Posted: Updated:
Trever Allen and company looked to regain their winning ways in Surprise By Brad Denny Trever Allen and company looked to regain their winning ways in Surprise By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona State baseball team’s season has been plagued by just a few bad innings.

In the eighth and ninth innings of their Valentine’s Day season opener against Baylor, the No. 18 Sun Devils allowed seven runs and blew a 7-2 lead to lose, 9-2.
In the fifth inning against New Mexico last Tuesday, the Devils watched the Lobos turn a tight 2-1 game into a 7-1 deficit, one that they would not overcome.
In the third inning against Long Beach State on Friday, the Devils coughed up seven runs on three hits and four walks and eventually lost 11-0 to the Dirtbags.
And in the first inning against UC Irvine on Saturday, the Devils gave up three runs on five singles en route to a 5-2 loss.
Those innings are the reason why Arizona State has lost their number 18 ranking.  They are also the reason why the Sun Devils have started a program-worst 3-4 (.429%) heading into a tournament they have hosted in Surprise for the last 12 years.
That said, head coach Tim Esmay knows this weekend will be a tough one, albeit four one-game home series.  “People don’t look past Arizona State,” Esmay noted.  “We know everybody’s going to give us their best bull.”  The coach also is not concerned about dropping out of the national rankings, saying “I’ve been here long enough to know that those [rankings] come and go.”
When asked if he was worried about sophomore right-hander Ryan Burr’s first two collegiate starts, in which he went 6.1 innings total with a 0-1 record and a 9.95 ERA, Esmay said simply, “No, not at all.  What I’m worried about is that he’s putting too much pressure on himself.  I want him to relax and understand what he’s all about.”  The change that Esmay wants Burr (0-1, 9.95 ERA) to make is in his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation, an experiment that the righty is two weeks in to.  “He’s still making adjustments as far as going from throwing everyday in the weekend to just once a weekend and how do you prepare yourself.”  Coach Esmay also noted that the coaching staff has identified “a couple…little, minor things” in Burr’s mechanics that they have been working on with him.
Right fielder Trever Allen noticed an overall surge at the end of the road trip that he and the team hopes will follow them to Surprise.  “Everything went well.  Brett [Lilek] pitched well.  Our whole team played good ‘D,’ we hit well, so going into this weekend, I think it’s just that.  Just ride that, just keep doing that and having fun.”  The team had a lot of fun in Sunday’s 7-2 win over Wright State, going 10-for-36 at the plate in a game that saw every starter reach base and four record multiple hits (one of the four being Allen).
The weekend may be an important weekend for freshman right-hander Hever Bueno, who has seen ninth-inning action but has yet to record a save.  “This weekend will be a test.  That’s four games in four days,” Esmay said.  “For the first time, I think, we’re going to have to see him…respond more than once in a weekend and so we’ll see how he handles that.”  In three appearances this year, only three batters have reached base against Bueno in the 2.1 innings he has thrown.  
With a four-game slate as opposed to three, Esmay said either junior right-hander Darin Gillies (0-1, 8.59) or senior right-hander Zak Miller (1-0, 7.50) will join the rotation and pitch on Thursday.  Friday through Sunday will see sophomore gunslingers Burr, Ryan Kellogg (0-1, 5.73) and Brett Lilek (1-0, 1.80) in their usual spots.
The Sun Devils will kick off the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic on Thursday against Santa Clara University (5-4).  They then face Gonzaga (2-6) on Friday, Oklahoma (5-3) on Saturday and No. 11 Oklahoma State (8-1) in the Sunday finale.  All four games are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. MST, pending the finish time of the preceding Spring Training games.