ASU Baseball Preview

It's that time of year again. The smell of hot dogs, peanuts, and freshly cut grass is the air. The sweet sound of the infamous aluminum bat and John Fogerty's legendary lyrics can be heard. If you're a baseball fan, you know all too well what this means. It's time to play ball!

The baseball season couldn't come soon enough for Sun Devil fans. After a disappointing season by the football team, and with the men's basketball program being in a rebuilding process, the maroon and gold followers haven't had a lot to get excited about in the last several months. The 2007 Arizona State baseball team is looking to change that.

As usual, expectations are high for head coach Pat Murphy and his squad. Collegiate Baseball has the Devils ranked 14th in their preseason poll and Baseball America has the Devils coming in at 20th. This is nothing new for the Devils, who have been ranked in Baseball America's preseason poll for 21 consecutive seasons, the longest such streak in the nation. ASU was also voted by the Pac-10 coaches as the frontrunner to win the conference title.

When Coach Murphy was asked about the expectations he had this to say, "It's a great honor to be in the top 20, but our expectations are even bigger. Our motto has been not to live down to expectations, but to do something remarkable."

After a solid 37-21 season in 2006, which included a trip to the NCAA Regionals in Houston, where their season came to an end, the 2007 Sun Devils are poised to get back to the college baseball ‘Mecca' known as Omaha. It's obviously not an easy feat to accomplish, but this year's team has a lot of talent returning from last year's squad, and an impressive list of transfers and incoming freshman to bolster the roster.

The Devils also added two invaluable staff members to the team this year. Hitting coach Turtle Thomas comes over to the Devils after spending the last seven years at LSU as their hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. Thomas was also an assistant coach for the Miami Hurricanes for 12 years. He brings a wealth of experience to the staff and his dedication and hard work in the game of baseball are second to none. Thomas is regarded as one of the top hitting coaches and recruiters in the nation. The other assistant coach that was added this off-season, was former Major Leaguer Andy Stankiewicz. Stankiewicz played in the Majors for seven years and most recently was coaching in the New York Yankees minor league system. His knowledge of the game and great leadership will be a welcomed addition to the Sun Devil team.

Pitchers

The Devils return just three pitchers with any experience from last year's team. Junior lefty, Josh Satow, returns after a solid 2006 campaign. He finished the year with a 4-2 record with a 4.78 ERA in 19 games, including five starts. Satow struck out a career high ten batters last year against UCLA. He does a great job of mixing up his pitches and compensates for his lack of power with a variety of off speed pitches. Satow will be relied upon as the number two or three starter.

When asked about this year's staff Satow said, "We have a really good pitching staff. We have a lot of different guys and a lot of lefties. We have some guys throwing down low, guys who throw in the 90's, and some in the 80's, it's all over the place."

The Devils have a couple of transfers slatted to make up the other two spots in the starting rotation. A pair of lefthanders, Joey Parigi, who transferred from Texas, and JC transfer Brian Flores are both scheduled to start this weekend in the season opener.

Parigi played in 22 games as a freshman for the Longhorns last year, including one start. He compiled a 1-2 record with a 3.86 ERA. Flores was dominant in his two years at the JC level, chalking up 27 wins against just three loses. Flores also had a career ERA of just 1.92, and averaged 12 strikeouts per game. He was asked if he thought he could continue that success this year for the Devils, "I'm not trying to duplicate any numbers," he replied, "I just want to help this team win games."

The Devils also have sophomore lefthander, Jeff Urlaub, back. Urlaub got off to a great start last year, winning his first five starts. After being out for a month with mononucleosis, Urlaub had trouble regaining his form, and finished the year with a 5-3 record and 4.82 ERA. Another intriguing transfer is right-handed senior, Derik Olvey. Olvey started 11 games last year for the LSU Tigers. He finished the year with a solid 6-2 record and 3.50 ERA. He also struck out 55 batters while only walking 14 in 69.1 innings of work.

Right handed freshman, Mike Leake, who was one of the Devils top high school recruits, looks to be this year's closer. Leake had an outstanding high school career, both on the mound and at the plate. So, don't be surprised to see Leake play the outfield from time to time. The Devils have 16 total pitchers on the roster, so depth is definitely not an issue. The pitching staff will be the key to the Devils success this year. With good defense and a formidable lineup, the staff is the only question mark that still remains. The talent is there, it's just a matter of them putting it together.

Catchers

The Devils return First Team All-Pac-10 and Freshman All-American catcher Petey Paramore. Paramore caught 53 games for the Devils last season as a freshman. He ended the season with a .318 BA with three homeruns to go along with 35 runs scored and 35 RBI's. Paramore also did a great job defensively behind the plate, committing just two errors on the season. Paramore does have a little added competition since the arrival of JC transfer Kiel Roling. Roling was a mid-year transfer from Central Arizona College, and so far he has impressed the coaching staff with his large frame (6'3'' 230) and powerful swing.

Infielders

The infield might be the strongest position for the Devils, both defensively and at the plate. The Devils will be solid up the middle with the return of shortstop Andrew Romine and pre-season All-American Eric Sogard at second base. Romine missed more than half the season last year, after getting a blood clot in his arm and rib in the off-season, which required surgery. Romine did return to hit .375 in 22 games. He's excited to be back at 100% and had this to say about his time away from the game, "It was tough to sit on the bench and watch these guys go out there and enjoy it and have fun. I have a renewed feeling and it feels great to be back." When asked about the defensive chemistry in the infield, Romine spoke very highly of new assistant coach Andy Stankiewicz, "Unbelievable, he (Stankiewicz) has brought so much to this team. I've learned more in the last six months than my entire life at shortstop since he's been here."

Sogard was the most consistent player at the plate for the Devils last season. He was named third team All-American by NCBWA and second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball last year after posting some great numbers at the plate. Sogard finished the year with a .358 BA, 47 runs, 50 RBI's and was tied for the team lead with nine homeruns.

Sophomore, Matt Hall, makes the move to third base, after spending much of his freshman season at shortstop. Hall has a great glove, and should help the Devils out defensively at third. Sophomore, Brett Wallace, will be the man this year at first. Wallace had a sensational freshman season last year for the Devils. He led the team with a .371 BA to go along with 31 runs scored, 32 RBI's, and seven homeruns. The Devils are expecting even bigger things from Wallace this year.

The Devils do have some depth in the infield and have a good group of utility players that can play wherever they're needed. Senior, Joe Persichina, returns for his final year in a Sun Devil uniform and should be a solid contributor off the bench and as a pinch hitter. Fellow senior, C.J. Retherford also returns, and will all see some action at a few different positions. Retherford batted .305 last season and started 34 games for the Devils. One player Murphy spoke very highly of, was true freshman Raoul Torrez. Torrez is a local valley product from Brophy Prep who can play a variety of different positions, and is the type of player that does everything well. "I just want him on the field, I trust him." Murphy said, he went on to say, "He just plays so hard, and there's something about his energy that the team loves."

Outfielders

The outfield will be loaded this year. Freshman sensation, Ike Davis, returns, but this time he'll be playing right field. Davis, who was primarily used as a pitcher and first baseman last year, said that it did take some time adjusting to his new position. Davis was named as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, and First Team All-Pac-10. These were just two of the many postseason accolades Davis earned after breaking ASU's freshman RBI record with 65, tying Bob Horner's freshman HR record of nine, and batting .329 on the season.

He also went 2-3 on the mound, and might see some action as a relief pitcher this year. When asked about his expectations this year, Davis said that individual stats really don't matter to him and all he cares about is helping this team win and getting them back to Omaha. There will be a platoon of players battling it out for the other two outfield positions. Junior, Ryan Sontag, had a good year last season for the Devils after transferring from Michigan State. Sontag hit .319 on the year, while scoring 42 runs and driving in 26. Junior, Rocky Laguna, who was also named the team captain, returns after a tough season. Rocky bounced around a bit last year, and never really found his groove. Laguna's leadership however can't be overlooked. One of the reasons Murphy named him as the captain was because of his good leadership qualities. He'll see some playing time at any of the three outfield positions and will be relied upon to pinch-hit when needed.

A trio of transfers could also earn their fair share of playing time this season. Tim Smith (Midland College), Matt Spencer (North Carolina), and Jared Bogany (LSU) all have a shot to secure one of the remaining outfield positions. Baseball America named Smith the 10th best transfer coming into the season. He hit an impressive .459 and stole 41 bases in his two seasons at Midland College in Texas. Spencer has really impressed the coaching staff so far and was one of the incoming transfers that Murphy said had really stood out so far. Spencer comes to ASU after hitting .278 with six homeruns and 29 RBI's for the Tar Heels. He might see some time on the mound as well. Bogany did a great job for LSU last season as a freshman. He finished the year with a .319 BA while scoring 21 runs and driving in 16. He primarily played center for the Tigers and could find himself in that same roll for the Devils.

Gridiron star, Mike Jones has been hampered by a bad back, so he has yet to make a push for some early playing time. Murphy does expect Jones to be a contributor once he returns to full health. Jones hit .313 for the Devils last year, after finding a spot in the starting lineup late in the year. Fellow football star and two-way athlete, Kyle Williams, will be joining the team after spring ball is over with so he can focus on school and football. Murphy did say that Williams has all the tools to be a big time baseball player.

Thanks to Garrett Cleverly who assisted with this article

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