Ahead of this weekend’s Baton Rouge Regional, I talked with House of Sparky’s Brady Vernon to get a first hand account of the Sun Devils.
PK: When previewing ASU, it’s hard not to notice that great win streak that kicked off the year, followed by the less than graceful end to Pac 12 play. Has the injury bug hit the Sun Devils as bad as it’s hit LSU, or was it just a step up in competition that brought ASU back to earth?
BV: The competition has been a big part of ASU’s not so stellar second half, but despite that they’ve just missed that key pitch or swing. For example, against the three Pac-12 hosts (UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State) the Sun Devils lost two of three to each of them with one loss being by a run. The regular season finale against Stanford, ASU was up 2-0 to the bottom of the ninth with two outs until a three-run homer for the Cardinal. The ball just hasn’t rolled their way, but that may be because it rolled their way so much in the first half.
PK: A look at the stat sheet and it’s easy to notice that the Sun Devils (is just Devils ok? some fan bases are finicky about that stuff) like to drop bombs. 92 home runs on the year is the best in the nation, and with a slugging percentage tied with Vandy at .521. Is everyone in this lineup a power threat or is it really just concentrated in Torkelson, Bishop, and Hauver?
BV: Everyone CAN hit one out in the lineup except second baseman Drew Swift (he’s been close a few times this season), but it’s mostly Torkelson and Bishop. Although, Torkelson has hit a lot more than Bishop since Pac-12 play started. Hauver has only hit five since conference play started. Catcher Lyle Lin has been on a bit of a power surge lately. Him, Hauver, right fielder Carter Aldrete and third baseman Gage Workman are in a tier under the other two. Then everyone else really needs to get into one to hit it out.
PK: Who would ASU use as a third starter on the mound? And are there any big fireball surprises in the bullpen we should worry about seeing?
BV: RJ Dabovich was the Sunday starter to start the season before an injury. Head coach Tracy Smith has now used him as a ‘closer’ or tight spot guy, but if he isn’t used in the first two games for what ever reason, he’d probably take the rubber. If not him it will probably be either Sam Romero, Brady Corrigan or freshman Erik Tolman. Out of the pen, Dabovich and freshman Blake Burzell throw the hardest out of any Sun Devil, but neither have been the most consistent.
PK: How do you see the weekend going for the Sun Devils?
BV: Regional runner-up. ASU has the bats to win a regional, they don’t have the arms. There isn’t enough depth in the staff to believe they can pitch through a regional, Smith once used Friday night starter Alec Marsh as a reliever to win a mid-week game earlier in the season.
PK: I gotta ask, how the hell is Herm Edwards at ASU not just working, but succeeding?
BV: Herm Edwards is succeeding because he just lights up a room and he loves people. He plays the best players and allows young guys to play early on. That helps in recruiting, but he himself has been the biggest asset. You listen to Edwards speak in a room about a player and listen to a player speak about Edwards, you’ll quickly learn how much he cares and connects with his team.