Duel in the Desert this weekend
After sweeping their third series of the season, Arizona State (15-5, 4-2 Pac-12) will play host to in-state rival Arizona (16-7, 3-3) in the latest edition of the Territorial Cup series.
It will have been 696 days since the foes have taken the field against each other. The most recent coming in 2019, when ASU won all four meetings.
Here is where both teams stand going into this weekend’s dual in the desert:
The Wildcats have risen from No. 21 to 16 in the national rankings (per BaseballAmerica.com) this past week. They are coming off of a series home win against the nationally-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Sophomore righty Chase Silseth has been dominant for Arizona to start the year. He currently leads the Pac-12 with a 4-0 record and has struck out 46 opponents in a team-high 37 innings. Silseth has been the team’s Friday night starter this year, so it will be interesting to see if they keep him in that slot with the series starting Thursday.
Since the NCAA froze eligibility and the MLB Draft was shortened to five rounds, it paved the way for a few key vets to return. This includes right-handers Vince Vannelle (1.88 ERA, 4 saves) and Preston Price (2.45 ERA, 28 Ks).
This tandem is more than certain to make an appearance out of the bullpen at some point this weekend, especially if the bats stay hot for the Sun Devils. Speaking of red-hot bats, the Wildcats boast on of the hottest bats in college baseball right now. Look at their ranks nationally:
Cats are currently Top 10 in the nation in:
— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) March 31, 2021
Freshman catcher Daniel Susac was also named this past week as both the Perfect Game and Pac-12 Player of the Week. Susac has gone ten for his last 18 (.555 AVG) with four homers and ten RBIs.
Susac, who was named the Preseason Newcomer of the Year by Baseball America, will look to remain hot against a dominate ASU pitching staff that seems to have a lot clicking right now.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Tracy Smith’s squad is riding high after holding a Washington State team that was averaging 8.5 runs per game, to just four total runs the entire weekend (all coming from the same inning).
Though this Sun Devil staff is short a few arms due to Tommy John Surgery, many guys have been stepping up so far in the early going. Most notably of them, is Justin Fall.
In his last three starts, Fall has tallied 17.1 innings, while allowing four earned runs and striking out eleven. The left-hander from Toms River, New Jersey will most likely start the series finale on Saturday.
On the offensive side, we have seen Sean McLain, who is fourth in Pac-12 batting average at .414, extend his hitting streak to 18 games. We have also seen the emergence of Kai Murphy at the plate.
— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 28, 2021
Murphy had four hits and four RBIs this past weekend against Washington State, with two of those hits going for extra bases. The Sun Devils, however, are going to need a total team effort if they are going to get past the Wildcats in what may be their toughest test of the year.
The series will get started at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Thursday night at 6 p.m. local time. It will run through Saturday, but then the teams will travel down to Tucson for a midweek game on Tuesday, April 6.