After a big mid-week win against an inferior Seattle team, ASU baseball hits the road this weekend to Utah to face off against a Utes team that is 3-12 in conference play.
Non conference mid-week games are usually a good tune up before each weekend series against a conference opponent.
On most occasions, mid-week matchups result in a Power Five conference school facing off against a mid-major school. For the Goliath, it’s a good time to reset after a tough weekend or maintain momentum heading into the next weekend. As for David, it’s a chance to challenge themselves against a college baseball giant.
Since the start of conference play Utah is 2-1 and ASU is 2-2 in mid-week matchups, but both squads are coming into this weekends series in Salt Lake City with a post weekend win against a weaker opponent. The Utes defeated Utah Valley (who is 8-28 this season) 11-5 and the Sun Devils won over 8-26 Seattle U by seven runs.
The fact of the matter is that ASU and Utah head into this weekends series with fresh minds and similar mid-week results.
But the state of these two Pac-12 sides could not be more different from each other.
Starting Pitching comparison
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At 11-19 on the season, Utah lack of success has much to do with their starting pitching.
The Utes have four starters with six starts or more and the lowest ERA among them is at 4.91. Utah’s opponents are hitting at least .288 against their four core starting pitchers while walking 63 batters in 158 combined innings pitched.
Utah’s rotation has been a mess. Especially when considering that two of their four core starters are seniors.
In contrast, ASU is led by junior Alec Marsh who most recently made the National Pitcher of the Year Watchlist.
Boyd Vander Kooi hasn’t been as effective as the Sun Devils expected him to be, but the sophomore righty has been able to throw five or more innings in every start but two.
RJ Dabovich’s recent injury complicated matters for the No. 3 hole in the rotation, but Sam Romero’s improved effectiveness in a long relief role will help fill in at that spot in the rotation for now.
The Utes offense is extremely top heavy.
Oliver Dunn and Erik Migueles together have six of Utah’s 12 home runs this season and including Dunn and Migueles, there are only four Utes players with 20 starts or more that have an OPS over .800 and an OBP over .350.
They may not have a ton of power, but the top of Utah’s lineup is dangerous and when freshman Jayden Keirnan is in the lineup the Utes have a fifth reliable bat in their lineup.
But unlike Utah, ASU has depth in their lineup with as many as nine future or former Cape League players and seven starters with an OPS over .800.
Zac McCleve’s 2.81 ERA in 17 appearances has guided a Utah bullpen that has been extremely subpar aside from his heroics from the pen.
In 11 appearances, David Watson has a 7.77 ERA and Jacob Rebar has a 10.80 ERA and outside of Jack Liffrig (who only has three appearances this season) and McLeve, the lowest ERA for a Utah reliever is 6.23 and the lowest opponents batting average for a Utes bullpen arm is .309.
However, the Sun Devils bullpen hasn’t been much better.
Erik Tolman has been brilliant with a 1.11 ERA and Chaz Montoya has as well (opponents are hitting .210 against him).
But outside of those two, it’s been bumpy. Brady Corrigan has allowed at least two earned runs in each of his last four appearances after a hot start, Blake Burzell has slowed down considerably after not allowing a run in his first five appearances and the reliable Sam Romero has had to move to the rotation due to Dabovich’s recent injury.
To say that ASU’s bullpen depth is a concern would be an understatement.
Expect a lot of ASU runs this weekend against one of the Pac-12 ‘s weakest pitching staffs and on the flip side, if Vander Kooi can give ASU a solid amount of innings on Saturday, then the Sun Devils should win the series, if not sweep it, easily against a weaker Utah team.
Game one of the the three game series starts on Thursday at 5 p.m. MST in Salt Lake City.