Sun Devils, Horns face dilemmas on mound

OMAHA, Neb. - Arizona State's victory over North Carolina on Thursday evening should be another positive sign for Texas, as the Sun Devils are running out of pitching. Burnt Orange Beat takes a look at the situation on the mound for Friday's game.

While the Texas Longhorns enjoyed another day off on Thursday, their potential game-three opponents were busy trying to stay alive.

The Longhorns watched the Arizona State-North Carolina game with great interest, rooting for a 25-inning battle that caused both teams to use every pitcher on their staff.

That didn't happen, but things still appear to be falling into place for the ‘Horns.

The Tar Heels had outstanding pitchers Alex White and Adam Warren fairly well-rested and ready to go for two potential games against Texas. They were in a decent position, relatively speaking.

But they needed to get by Arizona State first.

The Sun Devils started left-hander Josh Spence versus the Tar Heels for the second time in a week. The Australian was shaky at times, but he battled his way through seven innings, picking up his second win of the CWS, as ASU defeated the Heels, 12-5.

The Arizona State victory sets up a re-match with the Longhorns on Friday night at 6:00 p.m. Central. Texas will be the home team.

ASU's pitching staff isn't nearly as fresh as the Tar Heels' would have been.

Spence, who recently missed an entire month with an injured finger, has thrown 248 pitches in the last five days. He will almost certainly be unavailable against the Longhorns.

Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy has said that he will go with righty Seth Blair against the Longhorns on Friday.

Blair pitched in relief against Texas on Tuesday, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk without recording an out.

The sophomore has been ASU's third starter for most of the season, compiling a 7-2 record with a 3.39 earned-run average. Blair, who features a low-90s sinker, has not been a go-to guy for Murphy's club during the postseason, largely because they haven't needed him.

Blair has been a tad inconsistent down the stretch. He yielded seven runs in three innings during a late-season outing against UCLA. However, he battled back with six strong frames—giving up three unearned runs—against Oral Roberts in the clinching game of the Tempe regional.

The good news for ASU is that practically their entire bullpen will be fresh.

Thanks to Spence's gutty performance, only freshman Jordan Swagerty had to pitch out of the bullpen on Thursday. The native Texan threw just 27 pitches.

Closer Mitchell Lambson had heavy workloads in the Sun Devils' first two games, but he has not pitched since Tuesday's game against the ‘Horns. Lambson worked 3.1 innings in that contest, giving up two runs.

According to Murphy, righty Jason Franzblau will probably pitch in Friday's game. Franzblau is 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 50.1 innings this season. He has done some starting for them and could work in long relief if needed.

Should the Sun Devils force a deciding game against Texas, ace pitcher Mike Leake would be the most likely candidate to take the mound. Leake struggled against the Longhorns earlier in the week, and his arm is reportedly hurting a bit, but Murphy's team won't have many other choices.

With Leake possibly waiting in the wings for a second game, Friday's contest becomes all the more important for the Longhorns.

Texas has yet to announce a starting pitcher for Friday. Sophomore right-hander Cole Green is the most likely candidate. He pitched in UT's first game on Sunday, throwing 94 pitches in seven innings.

Brandon Workman has appeared in just one game since the Big 12 Tournament, but he is also a strong candidate to log innings against Arizona State.

Regardless of who starts, the Horns' pitching staff is well-rested. The only pitcher that definitely won't be available on Friday is Taylor Jungmann, who worked 5.2 innings on Thursday night.

The Sun Devils don't figure to be a pushover, particularly with their potent offense, but the Longhorns couldn't ask to be in a better position, having played just two games in the first six days of the College World Series.

Horns Digest Top Stories