Hope Springs Eternal for Sun Devils

Meet the 2009 Arizona State Sun Devil baseball team, chances are you don't know them now, but you will eventually. This isn't the same team that's dreams of Omaha were cut short by a Cinderella story, not even close.

There is no Brett Wallace, no Ike Davis, no Petey Paramore, really. In their place is a young roster filled with talented freshman, 14 of the 28 are freshman in fact.

"A lot of freshmen have to play. We only have a 28 man roster by design, less is better in this case," said ASU Head Coach Pat Murphy who is back for his 15th season in Tempe, "14 are freshman, only four players have had playing time in the Pac-10. It is a brand new team. I don't think any team in the Pac 10 is close to returning less players."

The captains of this year's team will be the only two that have been in the program more than one season, Mike Leake and Raoul Torrez.

"That shows you how young we are. That is pretty unique," said Murphy, "I really respect those two guys and what they bring to our program."

Despite the lack of experience, the Sun Devils were picked to win the Pac-10 by the coaches. Murphy didn't expect to gain that preseason honor.

"I really like the club," smiled Murphy, "How is being picked to win the Pac 10 with so little experience? It is like a bad joke or somebody giving us a lot of respect. We are sure going to go after it, just don't have many guys that have been through the wars before."

Murphy said that he does have to change some of the things that he does on a team like this year's, as opposed to last year's.

"Gamble," joked Murphy, "I think you have to live with some things, some mistakes. You have to give guys second and third chances. You can't be afraid to stir the pot a bit and be a little bizarre. It isn't going to be a smooth road, but this is the Pac 10."

Some experts have called this recruiting class even better than the class that brought guys like Brett Wallace, Ike Davis and Petey Paramore to Tempe. Murphy thinks it can be just as good.

"I think that we have a nice group of young people," said Murphy, "They are ballplayers and they play hard and are just as talented as that group was. Maybe there is not a first rounder in there, but there are good players. Are they ready to play in the Pac-10? I don't know. The more I talk about it the more scared I get."

One player that could ease Murphy's fears is Mike Leake. The junior returns as the Pac 10 pitcher of the year and will once again head the Devils pitching staff.

"I can expound on his career numbers, I can tell you what this kid has done in two years is pretty amazing. A kid like Mike Leake has went under the radar in term as one of the Sun Devil greats, but he will go down as one of the greats."

Leake will be backed in the rotation by junior college transfer and Australian Josh Spence. The third starter will be sophomore Seth Blair. Matt Newman will also be in the rotation mix.

The bullpen will be headed by freshman closer Jordan Swagerty. Others that will see innings out of the bullpen will be RJ Preach, Mitchell Lambson, Kole Calhoun, Jeeter Ishida and Jason Franzblau.

The only returner in the infield will be shifting across the diamond. Raoul Torrez will make the move from second base to third base, replacing Wallace.

"I think we have the best defensive third baseman around; he is a leader out there," said Murphy of his captain.

Torrez's brother will join him on the right side. Riccio Torrez is the favorite to start at shortstop, but Mike Murphy and Drew Maggi will push him for playing time.

"He is getting heavy competition from Mike Murphy," said Murphy, "Drew Maggi has been our most consistent player; he will find his way in there. Zack MacPhee has been sick but he is talented and you will come to know him."

Despite his illness, MacPhee will start at second base. Murphy and Maggi could also see time at second base as well. Junior college All-American Jared MacDonald will replace Ike Davis as the starting first baseman.

New to the outfield this season will be transfer Kole Calhoun and freshman Johnny Ruettiger. Ruettiger is the cousin of the legendary Rudy Ruttiger of Notre Dame.

"He is much different than the movie. That guy didn't have a lot of talent, this guy has talent," said Murphy, "Those two are new and then you will see Newman and Kipnis out there."

Jason Kipnis decided to pass up signing with the San Diego Padres after they selected him in the fourth round. Murphy said that Kipnis wanted to come back for another taste of college basketball.

"He was an unsung player last year. He was under the radar and he wants to taste the postseason further and wants another shot at it."

Kipnis will be the leader in a lineup full of freshmen that will have to go through one of the nation's toughest schedules. ASU will face national powers like Missouri, Cal St. Fullerton and San Diego, while taking a road trip to Arkansas. The Devils open up with the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, who lost in the Horizon League Championship game last season.

"They don't agree to come here unless they have a chance to win," said Murphy of the Panthers, "Wisconsin-Milwaukee returns a lot of players, so does Holy Cross. The rest of the schedule talks for itself."


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