ASU Baseball: Devils look to take advantage of struggling Washington State

ASU baseball continues its six-game road trip Thursday with a three-game series against Washington State, who sit at the bottom of the Pac-12 at 5-14 (1-5).

Arizona State looks to bounce back from an up-and-down weekend against UCLA as they head to Pullman for a three-game series against Washington State starting on Thursday.

The Sun Devils lost two of three against the 15th-ranked Bruins, but game one of the series was forced into extra innings by a late comeback from the Devils. ASU sits at 4-2 in conference play, much improved from their 1-5 conference start last season.

The Devils should have a much easier series against the Washington State Cougars, a team with a 1-5 Pac-12 record coming off of a 9-2 loss against Arizona.

The Cougars will enter this series having scored the fewest runs out of Pac-12 teams and having the highest team ERA in the conference at 5.22.

But the last thing ASU can do is take this series lightly. They have the 2-4 USC Trojans next on the Pac-12 schedule, so a couple of series wins could put the Devils on top of the conference before they take on a tough Stanford team on April 13.

Although Washington State did get swept by UCLA to start conference play, all three of those games were within three runs. They’ve had no 12-1 blunders like ASU had. The Cougars have kept games close against tough opponents.

Head coach Tracy Smith understands that this team needs to be ready to go in order to beat the Cougars.

“Washington State struggling a bit, doesn’t matter. All that matters is the first pitch because they’re going to be ready to play as we’re going to be ready to play.”

ASU had as good of a weekend as possible against Oregon to start conference play a couple of weeks ago. They scored 31 runs in three games while getting solid starts from each of the three starters.

In ASU’s two losses at UCLA, starting pitchers Sam Romero and Boyd Vander Kooi lasted a total of 3.2 innings and gave up 10 combined earned runs.

Vander Kooi had given up just three earned runs in his first four starts of the season before giving up seven to the Bruins. Senior pitcher Eli Lingos said that Vander Kooi just had an off day.

“I’ve still got a lot of confidence in him. He gives us a chance to win very time he’s out there.”

Another issue that the Devils had against UCLA was hitting, especially early on in games. They failed to score a run before the fifth inning in each of the three games.

Washington State is last in the conference in hits and on base percentage. If Arizona State can jump out in front early during this series, then the Cougars may not have the firepower offensively to get back into games.

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.