Fresh off their first home loss of the season, ASU baseball heads west for the second road series of the year against the USC Trojans.
After a tough loss to 4-23 Long Beach State at home Tuesday, the Sun Devils hit the road for a three-game set against the struggling USC Trojans at Dedeaux Field. The Trojans hold a 10-17 record this season with a 3-7 record against Pac-12 opponents.
Arizona State still sits pretty with the best record in the nation at 25-2 despite the midweek loss. Led by Hunter Bishop and Alec Marsh, the team was named the Midseason Team of the Year by Perfect Game on Wednesday.
Bishop was also named the Player of the Year by PG and won his third Pac-12 Player of the Week award in four weeks.
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Contrary to what their record shows, USC still has plenty of talent and can take down even the best of teams as one of their three conference wins this year came against top-ranked UCLA.
With big years coming from Matthew Acosta, CJ Stubbs, Jamal O’Guinn, Isaac Esqueda and Connor Lunn, the Sun Devils will have a test ahead of them from both sides of the ball. Acosta, Stubbs and O’Guinn both have an OPS north of .800 and Esqueda and Lunn have ERAs south of 3.00.
USC’s starting staff has one of the best 1-2 punches in the Pac-12. Esqueda and Lunn have 2.59 and 2.97 ERAs respectively and have allowed just 20 runs in 64.2 innings this season.
The Trojans have yet to find an efficient Sunday starter but as of now, Kyle Hurt is penciled in at the back end of the rotation. He has held opponents to a .206 batting average against but has yet to find success as shown by his 5.86 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched.
As for the offense, the Trojans excel at reaching base with a team .350 on base percentage, but their team .345 slugging percentage leaves a lot to be desired for head coach Dan Hubbs.
The team has just 11 home runs combined on the season with eight of those coming from the bats of the aforementioned Acosta, O’Guinn and Stubbs.
One of the biggest question marks coming into the series for Arizona State is bullpen depth. Long Beach State exposed it on Tuesday and if the Sun Devils still have tired arms in the bullpen, they could struggle in the later innings.
Outside of their big four of Sam Romero, Erik Tolman, Brady Corrigan and Chaz Montoya, all of which own at least one save on the season and an ERA under 3.25, only one reliever holds an ERA under 4.00 in Luke La Flam. If the Trojans chase the Sun Devil starters early, it could spell trouble later in the weekend.
The same could be said for USC though. Only two Trojan relievers have an ERA under 4.20 on the year. If Arizona State can get to the bullpen early and often over the weekend, their offense can do more damage than usual.
The series starts Friday night in Los Angeles. Alec Marsh and Lunn are scheduled to pitch for their respective squads.