ASU baseball strives to capture league crown

Amid their post-season ban, ASU baseball is ready to move forward and spend the season on their main goal: winning the Pac-12 title. Although understandably frustrated over this fortune, the team has not allowed this setback to alter their attitudes about the upcoming 2012 season.

"I look at this as an unusual circumstance," head coach Tim Esmay confessed, "but by any means this has not changed who we are. How we're preparing hasn't changed. We are still excited about this season. When the fans come out next week for the opening game, they're going to see Sun Devil Baseball. The same Sun Devil Baseball they've been used to for the 50 years we've been playing baseball here.

"We're going to continue to play that well."

Junior pitcher Brady Rodgers echoed similar feelings.

"The team chemistry and our attitude is still the same (without the opportunity of post season play)," Rogers claimed. "It's still super high. We can focus even harder on the conference. It's going to be tough."

Winning the Pac-12 championship is the attainable goal for this Sun Devil baseball team, as they are considering it their College World Series. Last season, ASU tied for second in the Pac-10, after capturing the league championship three years straight.

"That's always what we play for," junior shortstop Deven Marreo explained. "But that's as far as we're going to go. We're definitely going to win that. That's on everybody's mind and what we're striving for."

With five Pac-12 teams having a Top 25 preseason ranking, ASU is looking forward to the challenges that await. With Stanford at No. 2, Arizona at No. 5, UCLA at No. 14, and Oregon State at No. 23, winning the Pac-12 title will be no cakewalk for No. 17 Arizona State.

"Everybody is overlooking us," Rodgers commented. "They're looking at Stanford because they have a bunch of returners and we have a bunch of new guys. That leaves a chip on our shoulder. I think we're going to make some noise."

Regardless of the lack of post-season play, Coach Esmay expects hype to surround a few of his players. Junior Deven Marrero, named 2011 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and pitcher Brady Rodgers, who threw for 98.1 innings, striking out 87 batters and only walking nine, are two of these players.

Along with his Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year award, Marrero was named First Team All-Pac-10, ABCA Second Team All-West Region, Second Team Academic All-Pac-10, and Second Team Academic All-District VIII last season.

Marrero spent this past summer playing on the Team USA National Collegiate Team for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League. Hitting a .315 with 20 RBI last season, Marrero is one of the players expected to receive a lot of attention, rightfully so, due to the potential major league opportunities coming his way.

Junior pitcher Brady Rodgers is expected to also go early in the MLB draft this June, although his main focus right now is staying focused on the season.

"It's hard to ignore because I have friends and family that bring it up," Rogers said. "But I'm not thinking about it, I'm trying to stay healthy and focused. Just getting better and having more control."

Rodgers has spent his career as a Sun Devil learning from "the best of the best", and feels it has been his job to lead newer players in the same way he was taught in the past.

"I've learned a lot from the guys who taught me," Rodgers stated, "so now I can lead these younger guys in the right direction. Teaching them to throw strikes and trust the defense… it's worked for me and it'll work for them".

With an incoming freshman class of mostly pitchers, ASU is feeling confident in the future of their hurlers. Rodgers (9-4, 2.75 ERA in 2011), is expected to be the No. 1 starter for the Sun Devils this upcoming season.

Rodgers will be joined on the mound by Trevor Williams (2.55 ERA), and Alex Blackford (2.66 ERA), who both earned honorable mentions last season. Williams is expected to enter the starting rotation behind Rodgers, and Jake Barrett. Another pitcher-to-watch is freshman Adam McCreery, who stands at 6'6", and who reminds many of Diamondback great, Randy Johnson, (minus the mustache and mullet).

ASU starts their season off with six consecutive games at Packard Stadium, beginning on February 17th against Western Michigan.

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