After a losing season in 2018, ASU baseball looks to build a winning foundation in the non-conference schedule.
Over the past two seasons, a once-illustrious program has faded into irrelevance. In both 2017 and 2018, Arizona State won just 23 games — two of the worst seasons in program history.
Last year, the non-conference didn’t set up well for conference play. ASU went 10-15 in those games, suffering series losses to St. Mary’s, UNC Wilmington and Cal State Fullerton.
To start the 2019 season, the Sun Devils play host to Notre Dame. A year ago, the Fighting Irish started out hot, taking a series win from LSU, but down the stretch, they struggled and finished 24-30.
After that, it’s five consecutive games against schools from the Golden State.
Starting that stretch, the Sun Devils play host to San Diego in a mid-week game. Last season, ASU defeated the Toreros 12-7 on a Wednesday game.
Then, it’s a three-game series against UC Davis. The Aggies were abysmal in 2018, finishing 18-35 in the Big West Conference.
To close out that stretch against California schools, Arizona State hosts another 2018 opponent, Pepperdine. In last year’s game, the Sun Devils won 10-7 in Malibu.
In early March, ASU hosts Michigan State for one of its most-anticipated non-conference series. This is the first of two series against Big Ten schools for ASU this year, the latter being a three-game showdown against Nebraska in May.
Following the three-game set against the Spartans, the non-conference schedule dwindles down. A road trip in Fullerton is the exception.
Cal State Fullerton, a perennial powerhouse, squares off against ASU for the second year in a row in a two-game series. Last year, the Titans swept the Sun Devils at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
When conference season hits, there will be some mid-week games here and there, but most of the Sun Devils’ games will be against Pac-12 opponents. Some of those mid-week foes include Seattle, UNLV and New Mexico State, among others.
Of Arizona State’s 14 non-conference opponents, just two of them reached the 2018 NCAA Tournament — Cal State Fullerton and New Mexico State.
It isn’t the toughest non-conference schedule the Sun Devils have played in recent memory. Because of this, it’s important they get a jump start against some easier opponents before being launched into the Pac-12 gauntlet.