Familiar Surroundings Await ASU in NCAA Tournament

It is déjà vu all over again for the Sun Devils as they travel to Fullerton, Calif. this weekend to start post-season play. The Sun Devils (40-16) who were ranked by the selection committee as a national No. 7 seed return to Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Field where they played in the 2003 super regional. Pat Murphy's team opens play against West Coast Conference champion Pepperdine (28-30) on Friday June 4th at 3 p.m. PT. The host team (36-20) and Minnesota (38-21) round up the four-team field.

Junior Jeff Larish wasn't fazed by the challenging draw. "It's gonna be a tough regional," he said, "but we still have to win ball games just like we did last year. We're just gonna go out there and play our game. There are a lot of great teams out there, and you have to beat the best ones to get there (the World Series). It's gonna be tough baseball no matter who you'll be playing. We're going in with a positive attitude. We're expecting the best and we'll see what happens."

Larish agreed that the grueling non-conference schedule can help prepare the plethora of new faces on the team for this weekend's games. "It prepares us to know what to expect with good teams," Larish commented. "We have a lot of new guys that haven't experienced it (the post-season), and we have a lot of veterans on our team that have been here and know what to expect. We're just gonna go out there and see what we can do."

Skipper Pat Murphy was equally unmoved by the selection committee's decision to ship the Devils to Fullerton. "That's just the way it is," he remarked. "I can't worry about it or complain about it. Pepperdine is hot, Fullerton is hot, and Minnesota is hot. We have three hot teams and we're gonna go out there and play…we have to play somebody somewhere, and we've been there before so I look at that as an advantage."

The ASU coach does believe that his team, despite the series loss to Stanford this past weeknd, is entering the post-season on a positive note winning 15 of the last 20 regular season games. "The Stanford series was very good for us," he explained. "Stanford is great, they have been 4-5 straight years in Omaha. They put us on our heels a little bit for two days. We can't afford that to happen again, but that's good because then we recovered and played great the last day. I think it was actually a positive. I don't want to coast in there (the post-season), so certainly it was a good weekend."

When asked about his pitching rotation for this weekend, Murphy replied that his plans don't include a traditional regular season rotation "It will be more like get the first guy out there and get some outs, get the next guy out there and get some outs…kind of like what we did against Stanford yesterday (Sunday)."

Murphy quipped that playing the nation's toughest non-conference schedule was simply " bad planning." He went on to say that the accomplishments of his squad in light of these factors is that more impressive. "70% of this ball club didn't play last year," he said. "We have four freshman starters in the lineup. Nine of our 11 pitchers never pitched before in college baseball. We're inexperienced, but we've been that way all year."

"We played the number one non-conference schedule in the country," Murphy continued. "We play in a great conference, to win 40 games…it's a credit to what these guys have accomplished so far. I like the club because I like their resiliency and I like their spirit. I love what they've been up against. They're a great group and I think they're up to the challenge."

Arizona State is 10-4 all-time against Pepperdine, with heir last two wins coming in the 1988 NCAA Regional at Packard Stadium. The Sun Devils are 5-1 all-time against Minnesota and 23-21 against Cal State Fullerton. Arizona State will be making its 28th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fifth straight. The Sun Devils are an all-time 128-53 record in NCAA tournament play. ASU has advanced to the NCAA regionals in seven of head coach Pat Murphy's 10 seasons, including playing for the national championship in 1998.

The winner of the Fullerton regional will face the winner of the Mississippi regional (Mississippi, Washington, Tulane and Western Kentucky) in a best-of-three super regional (June 11-13 or 12-14) with a berth in the College World Series (June 18-28) on the line. Arizona State combined to play 33 games against the Field of 64 this season, going 21-12. ASU was also 14-5 against ranked opponents this season.

Regional tickets can be ordered through the Cal State Fullerton ticket office. Individual game tickets will be on sale via the INTERNET ONLY www.titansports.org beginning at 10 a.m. Monday. The athletic ticket office in Titan House on the Cal State Fullerton campus will be open for in-person sales from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday thru Thursday. ONLY all-session tickets may be ordered by telephone at (714) 278-2783.

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