2003 Season in Review

With an abundance of returning starters and added depth, and after achieving the first 50 win season since 1988, the consensus of the Sun Devil faithful was that it was a trip to Omaha or bust for the 2003 season. Unfortunately, the later happened and the season has been perceived as another underachieving year in Pat Murphy's tenure here in Tempe. DevilsDigest reflects on the 2003 ASU baseball season.

It can be said that ASU should have received one of the eight national seeds, and thus hosted the Super Regional. However, when the team did not receive the seed, they knew the challenge that lied ahead - go into a stadium where the home team had lost only twice all year long, and beat them twice in three games. ASU came within one game of going to the College World Series, but were simply outplayed in a game that Cal-State Fullerton seemed to want more. With another season in the bag, and another season being sent home without reaching Omaha, many people are starting to get a feeling that Murphy may not have what it takes to bring this team back to the glory days of coaches Winkles and Brock.

ASU was lead by First Team All-American SS Dustin Pedroia and 2nd Team All American 1B Jeff Larish. Pedroia achieved Co-Pac 10 Player of the Year status while hitting .404 on the season. For the second straight season, he started every game of the year (68 games). He led the Devils in runs scored with 83 and hits with 120. Pedroia also broke the single season Pac-10 record with 34 doubles on the year. 1B Jeff Larish had a breakout sophomore season, slamming a team high 18 home runs and 95 RBI's. Larish had an amazing four grand slams on the year, as ASU as a team pounded out an NCAA record 14 on the year. Larish is only the second player in ASU history to join the 70-70 club with 95 RBI's and 78 walks.

Joining Pedroia and Larish in the infield were 3B Dennis Wyrick, 2B Steve Garrabrants, and C Tuffy Gosewisch. Wyrick tied for the lead in triples with four on the year, while batting .345. Garrabrants, who achieved All Conference status this season, hit eight home runs with 59 home runs in 62 games played. His 23 stolen bases also lead the team. After a slow start, Gosewisch took over the catcher position and excelled at the end of the year when it most counted.

Also seeing time in the infield were Frank Mesa, Mike Guerrero, and Joel Bocchi. Mesa, started out as the starting 3B, started 36 games and scrapped out a solid .364 average. Guerrero played in 54 games on the year, and Bocchi started 22 games at catcher.

Jeremy West saw most of his time as the designated hitter. West hit 17 home runs, for a career total of 36, which is good for eighth all time in ASU history. He also ended the season with a 24 game hitting streak and a .381 average. His 71 RBI's were second on the team, while slugging out a remarkable .693 slugging percentage.

With Rod Allen struggling in the outfield, Travis Buck's play compensated for Allen's shortcomings. Buck, a Freshman All-American, started 65 games, hit four home runs and drove in 46 RBI's with a .326 average. Allen didn't have the season he was projected to have after being named a Pre-Season All American. He had a .305 average with six home runs in 46 games played.

Right Field was occupied by Andre Ethier, who started in 67 games on the year. His .377 batting average with 10 home runs, 68 RBI's and four triples led him to All Conference honors. Ethier ended the season with a 23 game hitting streak. He also had the honor of being the first Devil drafted in this year's draft, going to the Oakland Athletics in the second round. Junior Nick Walsh and freshman Ryan Bosch also saw time in the outfield, with Walsh playing a lot of CF.

Whenever a team wins 54 games in a season in College Baseball, it is evident that you are blessed with a strong pitching staff. That actually may have been an understatement for the 2003 Sun Devils. ASU was sparked by the arrivals of Ben Thurmond, Beau Vaughan, and freshman Erik Averill, who helped ASU fans forget about the early departure of ace Mike Esposito last year. Thurmond, who arrived via Winthrop went a perfect 8-0 with a 2.73 ERA and led the team with 16 starts. Vaughan led the team in wins with a 10-6 record, strikeouts with 105, and innings pitched with 92 1/3. Averill was 8-2 with a 2.66 ERA, starting in 15 games and had 86 innings pitched, both second on the team.

Mark Sopko, Robbie McClellan, and Jered Liebeck all split time between starts and coming out of the bullpen. Sopko started in seven games, while appearing in 25, recording a 3-2 record with a 2.30 ERA, good for second on the team. McClellan finished with a perfect 7-0 record with a 3.70 ERA, starting four games on the year. All but eight of Liebeck's 21 appearances were starts, as he was 8-0 with a 2.88 ERA. He also pitched the only complete game on the year.

The ace of the staff this year was Ryan Schroyer. The closer lead the team with nine saves, and went 5-2 with an amazing 1.53 ERA. Three pitchers who were key in the middle relief were Brett Bordes, Carlos Arguello, and Bryce Kartler. Local product Bordes appeared in 28 games and went 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA. Arguello was instrumental late in many games, had a 4.88 ERA in his 23 appearances, with a 3-0 record. Kartler did not perform up to the level that many had hoped this season, appearing in 25 games.

The Devils had 12 players drafted this year, with just five of those being seniors; it appears that the 2004 Devils may have a different look from this year's team. Underclassmen that seem as they will not donning the maroon and gold next year are Andre Ethier, who was selected in the second round by the Oakland A's and Jeremy West, who became a Red Sox in the seventh round. Other underclassmen drafted were Garrabrants (9th rd), Ryan Schroyer (11th), Sopko (21st), Allen (22nd), and Guerrero (42nd).

Next year's squad will not have the leadership it enjoyed this year, but it does return both of its All-Americans. With the solid high school players that could end up in Tempe combined with those who redshirted, and the solid nucleus of returning players, this team will primed again to make a run at that elusive trip to Omaha in 2004.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories