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Sun Devil Baseball Looks To Get Back On Winning Track With Four-Game Series Against Southern Utah.
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 01/30/2001
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Jan. 30, 2001

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Sun Devil Baseball Looks For First Wins of 2001 With Four Games Against Southern Utah The 2001 Arizona State Sun Devil baseball team opened the season last Friday vs. Texas-Arlington and dropped their first season opener since 1993. The 5-3 setback was followed by two consecutive rain outs to cancel the series with the Mavericks. ASU and UTA are currently trying to reschedule the games to be played in Arlington sometime in April. Led by 14 returning lettermen, including the entire nucleus of the Pac-10 Championship team that finished 2000 with a 44-15 record, the Sun Devils have all eyes set on a return trip to Omaha and the College World Series, despite losing their first game. In addition to the entire starting infield from a year ago returning, seven of the team? top 10 hitters are back, including Pac-10 Player of the Year Casey Myers. Leading the pitching corps is a pair of preseason All-Americans in LHP Jon Switzer and RHP closer Eric Doble. Switzer was 11-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 2000.

Setting Up The Southern Utah Series: The Sun Devils are looking to rebound from the season-opening loss to Texas-Arlington and will take a 14-game unbeaten streak into this weekends series against Southern Utah. ASU has never lost to the Thunderbirds and dominated them last year going 2-0 while scoring 47 runs between the two games. Dennis Wyrick (4x5), Mel Stocker (5x6, 6 RBI), Casey Myers (3x6, 5 RBI) and Jeff Phelps (.500) all had great games for ASU. The team hit .471 as opposed to ASU pitchers keeping the SUU bats at a .226 batting average. Jered Liebeck was the only pitcher to face SUU last year, striking out one batter in 0.2 innings of work. The four games open the 2001 season for Southern Utah, who were 30-26 last year.

Blame It On The Rain: The Sun Devil baseball program wanted nothing more than to play the two games vs. Texas-Arlington on Saturday and Sunday to try to avenge the 5-3 loss they were dealt in the season opener Friday. Unfortunately Mother Nature did not cooperate and the stormy weather that slammed the Southwest cancelled the two games leaving ASU with an 0-1 mark heading into the four-game series with Southern Utah.

Tough Schedule Looms Ahead for Sun Devils: You can? blame the Sun Devils for taking on a light schedule in 2001. Arizona State will play six teams that are ranked in the preseason top 25. The 2001 schedule includes three games each against #2 USC and #3 LSU, in addition to Stanford, Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma and Tennessee who were ranked in at least one of the preseason polls. ASU will also be playing a combined 22 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 (Oral Roberts, Creighton, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal State Fullerton).

42 Years of Sun Devil Baseball: While the history of baseball at Arizona State University goes back all the way to the early 1900?, the school officially began sponsoring varsity baseball in 1959. In 42 years of varsity baseball at Arizona State, the program has built a legacy matched by few in the college baseball world. With a 1,856-737 all-time record, Arizona State has recorded winning seasons in all but one year, advanced to the College World Series 18 times, won five national championships, won six Pac-10 titles, produced 13 Players of the Year and three Golden Spikes Award winners, and has gone to the NCAA Tournament 24 times. Under current head coach Pat Murphy, the Sun Devils have finished in the top 12 in three of the last four years and finished second in the nation in 1998.

Media Exposure: None of the Southern Utah games will be broadcast on the internet or on XTRA 910 AM, but all four games can be tracked through a new feature called Live Stats via the official internet site of ASU Athletics, www.TheSunDevils.com.

Around The Horn With ASU Baseball: ASU lost its first season opener since 1993 when they fell to Texas-Arlington 5-3... in ?3 the Devils lost to Hawaii, but still managed to make it to Omaha that year... Pat Murphy was undefeated at ASU and in his Division I head coaching career in season openers before the UTA game... ASU records as far back as 1976 do not show ASU ever losing two games in a row to open a season... the Sun Devils are a perfect 14-0 vs. Southern Utah, including 2-0 last year when they outscored the Thunderbirds 47-7... Dennis Wyrick had three hits vs. UTA, marking the fourth three-hit game of his career... Brooks Conrad also had three hits for ASU in the season opener... Mike Lopez had his 13-game hitting streak dating back to 2000 snapped when he went 0-for-4 vs. UTA... ASU is trying to reschedule its two rained out games with UTA for April with the possibility of playing at The Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers... Franco Pezely, who is known as the fireman of ASU baseball for putting out fires on the mound, is 2-for-2 in inheriting runners and not letting them score... utility player Nick Walsh recorded a sharp single in his first collegiate at-bat... Jeremy West (DH) and Steve Garrabrants (LF) are both true freshmen who started the opening game for ASU.

ASU Tops In Scoring in NCAA Last Two Years: Arizona State has led the NCAA in scoring each of the last two years, averaging 11.32 runs per game in 1999 and 10.97 runs per game last year. ASU also led the nation in batting average with a team total of .356 in 1999. The Sun Devils .346 average in 2000 fell just percentage points shy of matching that feat a second year in a row, trailing Stony Brook by one point. ASU out-hit Stony Brook 738-500. During Pat Murphy? six seasons in Tempe, the Sun Devils have been a scoring machine with 3,373 runs, averaging 9.46 runs per game.

Dominating Infield Returns for 2001: The entire infield that finished 2000 ranked fifth in the nation with a .971 fielding percentage is back. Casey Myers, who was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year Award, finished the year with a .996 fielding percentage, and was honored by Collegiate Baseball as the Easton Redline/National Defensive Player of the Year. ASU only made 65 errors in 2000, marking the lowest number of errors during the Pat Murphy Era (1995-2000). The Sun Devils also return seven of ASU? top 10 hitters from a year ago, led by Myers?remarkable .412 average.

Sun Devils Scoring Streak Still Alive at 314 Games: The Arizona State baseball program has scored in a Pac-10 record 314 straight games, not having been shutout since a 9-0 setback to USC on April 7, 1995. The streak is currently the second longest in NCAA Division I, trailing Wichita State which has not been shutout in 329 games. ASU? 314-game streak ranks fourth all-time, with Coastal Carolina holding the record at 349 games.

This Weekend? Rotation: Andy Torres will make his ASU debut on the mound Thursday, then be followed by ace Jon Switzer on Friday. Either sophomore RHP Jered Liebeck or freshman RHP Ryan Schroyer will take to the hill on Saturday. If Schroyer goes Saturday, Liebeck will throw Sunday, and vice versa. Southern Utah will combat with four right-handers in Justin Kittrell, Cody Hunter, Bryan Ball and James Anderson in that order.

Recruiting Class Draws Rave Reviews: The recruiting class that makes up the freshman class on the diamond this spring was rated as the top class of recruits in the nation by Baseball America. Highlighted by seven players who were selected in the annual Major League Draft, the group includes several players who are expected to contribute immediately. The recruiting class was also ranked third in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.

Success in the Classroom As Well As On The Field: ASU has long enjoyed much success on the diamond, and with 18 College World Series appearances, it is known as one of the gems of college baseball. But lately academics, as well as on-field talent, have shown its true colors in the storied program. Pat Murphy? Sun Devil squads have produced four Academic All-Americans over the past two years (Willie Bloomquist, Mark Ernster, Jeff Phelps, Casey Myers), including Myers being named the Academic All-American for college baseball in 2000. The four players honored as National Academic All-Americans is the most by any college baseball program in the nation over the last two years. The 2001 squad also features two players, Ty Johnson and Mike Lopez, who have already received their undergraduate degrees and are pursuing their master?. Myers, Phelps, Eric Doble and Jonah Martin are all scheduled to graduate in May.

The New Guy on the Mound, Andy Torres: ASU? latest addition to the roster is junior college transfer RHP Andy Torres. Torres, who came to ASU from East Los Angeles CC, had a stellar career on the mound at the JC level, capping his career with a 12-3 record, 2.11 ERA, one save and 113 strikeouts in 119.1 innings pitched. The 6-0, 165 Torres is penciled in as the preseason No. 2 starter for ASU and has showed great poise and control on the mound thus far. Torres will start Thursday vs. Southern Utah.

Like Father, Like Son, Rod Allen: For the second straight year, the Sun Devils have a player whose father was part of a World Series Championship. Just like Jason Fingers?(2000) father Rollie, freshman Rod Allen? father, Rod Sr., won a World Championship with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. Allen, who played a total of 31 MLB games, is now a broadcaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The younger Allen is a 3B/DH for the Sun Devils and has shown great talent in early spring drills. He could fill in at DH with the injury to OF Chris Duffy and may even play some 3B.

The Assistant Coaches: Coach Murphy has long been regarded for his winning programs and the development of college players into top pro talent. Perhaps the most forgotten skill Murphy should be praised for is his development of assistant coaches into head coaches. Four of his former assistants, Nino Giarratano (San Francisco), John Pawlowski (Charleston), Doug Schreiber (Purdue) and Brian Cleary (Cincinnati) have all moved onto the head coaching ranks. His current staff that he has assembled over the years is one of the best in all of college baseball. Jay Sferra is in his sixth year in association with the ASU baseball program and his third as an assistant coach. Sferra helps with the pitching staff and is the recruiting coordinator. Mike Rooney is regarded as one of the best assistants in the country and his on-field leadership and teaching skills make him a coveted coaching prospect for the future. Billy Jones is in his first year as a volunteer assistant coach and will head up the Sun Devil outfielders this spring. Jones was recently named the head coach for the Brewster Whitecaps in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

What Was Supposed To Be a Three-Game Series Turned Into One Game: While three games turned into only one because of winter-like conditions in the Southwest, ASU dropped its first season opener since 1993 and only the second since 1979. The UTA Mavericks won teh game 5-3 behind solid pitching from starter Pierce Loveless and reliever Clint Faught. ASU had several opportunities to win the game, but left 10 men on base and had the bases loaded in the eighth and ninth innings, but failed to score each time. Starter Jon Switzer pitched well, but had one bad inning giving up three runs in the second. Reliever Franco Pezely was once again solid out of the bullpen turning in 2.2 innings of shutout ball, but preseason All-American Eric Doble struggled and was tagged with the loss allowing two runs on four hits in the top of the ninth. Saturday and Sunday? games were rained out and will be possibly made up in April.

ASU Is Now 22-2 In Season Openers Since 1979: If you think ASU? Jan. 26th game vs. Texas-Arlington was a late start for the season, well it is. In fact, it is the latest ASU has started a season since opening Feb. 2 in 1996. Despite the loss to UTA, the Sun Devil baseball program has maintained an impressive 22-2 record in season openers dating back to 1979, while head coach Pat Murphy is 6-1in Tempe having recorded a season-opening win in six of his seven years at the helm of the Sun Devils. Murphy? teams have also greatly outscored their opponents since 1995 in season openers, 71-23. In his 13+ years as a head coach at the Division I level (Now 7 at ASU, 7 at Notre Dame), Murphy has lost only one game (UTA). One of his season openers actually came against ASU when the Irish defeated the Sun Devils 11-4 in 1993. The last time ASU lost a season opener before this year was a 9-4 setback to Hawaii in 1993, and ASU advanced to the CWS that year.

Scouting SUU Arizona State vs. Southern Utah Tempe, Ariz. (Feb. 1-4, 2001)

Southern Utah Nickname: Thunderbirds National Ranking: NR Location: Cedar City, Utah Enrollment: 6,200 Head Coach: Kurt Palmer Assistants: Jarod Ingersoll, Jason Jacobsen 2000 Record: 20-26 2000 Mid-Continent Conf: 16-11 Career vs. ASU: 0-14 Baseball SID: Steve Johnson Website: www.suu.edu/athletics

SUU Top Returning Players: 3B Curtis Jacobsen (.390/9 HR/44 RBI) 1B Keith Dickinson (.358/8 HR/41 RBI) 2B Todd Mitchell (.356/11 HR/50 RBI) SS James Anderson (.451/2 HR/19 RBI)

Southern Utah Notes: While Southern Utah has never beaten he Sun Devils in 14 career games, the Thunderbirds are coming into this weekend? games off a very successful 2000 season. Second-year head coach Kurt Palmer led the Thunderbirds to a 30-26 record last year and a third place finish in the Mid-Continent Conference. Palmer is ironically the youngest coach in Division I, having not graduated from college until this year. His assistant, Jarod Ingersoll ironically is also a ?1 graduate of Southern Utah. The program at SUU was very close to being dropped last year. The Thunderbirds return five starters from last year and 12 letterwinners overall. In all, the program has 20 transfers on the roster.

Upcoming Opponents Duke (Feb. 9-11) New Mexico State (Feb. 13)

Duke Nickname: Blue Devils 2001 Record: 0-0 2000 Record: 17-41 Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 15/4 Career vs. ASU: 0-5

New Mexico State Nickname: Aggies 2001 Record: 0-0 2000 Record: 19-36 Starters Returning/Lost: 6/3 Career vs. ASU: 0-19

Martin Takes A Bunch For The Team: Senior Jonah Martin (Waianae, Hawaii) set a Pac-10 and ASU record with 29 hit by pitches in 2000. Martin, a transfer from Los Angeles City JC, ranks fourth all-time with his 29 HBP, tying Corky Miller of Nevada who also got beaned 29 times in 1998. The NCAA leader for single-season HBP? is Andrew Slater of Richmond who got plunked 33 times in 56 games in 1997. As a team, Arizona State was hit by a pitch 115 times in 2000 - an ASU school record. They broke the Pac-10 single-season record held by Washington (1998) while the national record is held by Nevada (125 in 1997). ASU? 115 HBP in ?0 ranks fourth all-time in the NCAA record book. Long Beach State (1999) is third with 114 and second with 124 (1998).

Arizona State Claims Pac-10 Championship in 2000: For the first time in league history, three teams finished in a tie for first place in the conference standings in 2000. ASU, Stanford and UCLA all notched a 17-7 record in Pac-10 play. By virtue of a tie breaker (ASU won both conference series against Stanford and UCLA), the Sun Devils received the Pac-10? automatic bid to postseason play. It was their first conference championship since 1993 and sixth since joining the Pac-10 in 1978. Stanford and Pac-10 runner-up USC advanced through the NCAA Tournament and made appearances at the College World Series in Omaha. Stanford was the eventual runner-up.

Two Sport Stars: If you think you heard the names of a couple of ASU baseball players?names being called over the Sun Devil Stadium loudspeaker during football season, that wasn? a joke. Three players, Skyler Fulton, Jon Sheaffer and Eric Keefner all double as players on the ASU football team. Sheaffer (WR) and Fulton (RB) saw action on special teams, while Keefner (LB) was named the Scout Team MVP. Kevin Tommasini (1996-97) and Jason Verdugo (1994-97) were the last Devils to double as a player on the diamond and on the gridiron.

Murphy Garners Pac-10 Coach of the Year Award: Head coach Pat Murphy was voted the Pac-10 Coach of the Year by his peers for the 2000 season. The Sun Devils skipper led his squad to their sixth Pac-10 Conference title and first since 1993. ASU was picked to finish sixth in the league in the preseason coaches?poll. Murphy led the Devils to their third postseason appearance in the last four years.

Injury Bug Bites the Sun Devils Early: In staying in tune with the rest of ASU Athletics, the Sun Devil baseball squad followed suit with football and basketball in having several key injuries to start the season. Projected starting center fielder Chris Duffy will be sidelined 4-6 weeks (retroactive Jan. 18) after he tore his MCL in his right knee during outfield drills on a wet field. Duffy is projected to return to the lineup for the Mar. 2-4 series vs. LSU. Freshman relief pitcher J.J. Jackson (Chandler) broke his left hand before spring drills started and should be back in the bullpen this weekend for the SUU series. He threw his first bullpen on Tuesday since getting his cast off. Freshman pitcher Billy Silvestri (Scottsdale) underwent a knee scope in early January and will be out at least tell the Duke series (Feb. 9-11). Silvestri is a top candidate to take a redshirt season in 2001. RHP Mike Esposito is almost 100% recovered from his Tommy John surgery, but will not be pushed in his return to the starting rotation. Espositio, who was ASU? No. 1 starter to open 2000, is projected to return in later March or early April.

Freshmen Looking to Step Into Spotlight: Several freshmen player for ASU are looking to break into the starting lineup or play key roles as reserves. With the injury to Duffy in the outfield, true freshmen Ryan McKenna (Elgin, Ill.) and Skyler Fulton (Olympia, Wash.) will play key roles off the bench and may fill in as starters. Junior Mel Stocker will roam center field to fill in for Duffy. Steve Garrabrants, a product of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix will make the transition from second base and start in left field. The designated hitter position will be filled by one of two freshmen, with Jeremy West (Las Vegas, Nev.) and power hitter Eric Keefner (Chicago, Ill.) dueling for at-bats. Rod Allen is also another possiblity for the DH position and has shown he can compete at a high level. On the mound RHP Ryan Schroyer (Oracle, Ariz.) has emerged as a potential addition to the weekend rotation. The high school All-American from Canyon del Oro High School may start the Saturday game vs. Texas-Arlington. Relievers Alex Creel (Rosemont, Calif.), J.J. Jackson (Chandler, Ariz.) and Mark Sopko (Joliet, Ill.) will be key for the Sun Devils out of the bullpen.

Preseason Awards Plenty for Many Sun Devils: Several Sun Devils received honors from various preseason college baseball publications. Casey Myers was a unanimous Preseason All-American as the Devils cracked the polls at No. 6 in the nation. Eric Doble was named a third-team preseason All-American by the NCBWA and Jon Switzer was also coveted as a preseason All-American. In Baseball America? annual Pac-10 review, five players received all-conference recognition. Myers, Doble, Switzer, in addition to Chris Duffy and Jeff Phelps were named to the team.

Casey Myers An All-American On The Field And In The Classroom: Senior team captain Casey Myers (Casa Grande) is listed as a preseason All-American by nearly every publication in 2001, but that doesn? even scratch the surface as to what Myers brings to the ASU program. He was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2000, becoming the second straight season an ASU player has earned the honor (Willie Bloomquist, 1999). The catcher and team leader was among a handful of players vying for Baseball America? National Player of the Year award and was named a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Collegiate Catcher of the Year. Myers certainly put up impressive numbers in 2000, leading the team in batting average (.412), hits (98), doubles (19) and on-base percentage (.502), as well as RBI (97). His 97 RBI rank fourth in the ASU single-season record book. Myers now has 206 career RBI and needs 77 during his senior year to break the Pac-10 and ASU career record. His current mark of 206 RBI places him fifth in the Pac-10 record book and fourth in ASU history. He hit 18 home runs (second on the team) behind teammate Mitch Jones and now has 32 in his career. The school record is 56 set by Bob Horner. Myers has quietly done an excellent job behind the plate as well, calling the pitches himself. He has been named conference player of the week three times during his career at ASU. He reached base safely (hit, walk, HBP) in 54 of 59 games in ?0. Myers led the squad in multiple-hit games (31) and multi-RBI games (29). His multi-hit games included three, four-hit affairs. He hit safely in 50 of 59 games. Myers was clutch with 26 two-out RBI and hit .417 with the bases loaded. He hit .466 (48x103) with runners in scoring position and .459 with runners on base. Myers finished his junior campaign ranked 30th in the nation in batting average (.412), third in RBI (97), and 35th in home runs (.31 per game).

More On Myers: As asset for the program throughout his career in Tempe, Myers has also been stellar in the classroom. The math wiz that scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT out of high school, Myers has maintained a near-perfect GPA as a math/accounting major at ASU. He was an Academic All-American in 1999 and 2000, and received college baseball? highest academic honor last year when he was named the GTE/CoSida Academic All-American of the Year. In addition to being named the Academic All-American of the Year, All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2000, Myers was also named the Collegiate Baseball National Defensive Player of the Year with a .996 fielding percentage. In November, Myers was named the top amateur athlete in the state of Arizona by the March of Dimes.

Pat Murphy at ASU: Arizona? State has had only three coaches in its illustrious history. The latest to join the legacy is Pat Murphy who has enjoyed great success since arriving in Tempe six years ago in 1995. Murphy has guided ASU to a 232-124 (.652) and posted an impressive 90-77 record in the tough Pac-10. ASU has advanced to postseason play in three of the six years under Murphy, including a 2nd place finish at the College World Series in 1998. With his 232 wins at ASU, Murphy has the third best winning percentage of Pac-10 coaches.Murphy is 10 wins shy of 100 career Pac-10 victories.

Brooks Conrad Turns In Solid Season At Second Base: Junior second baseman Brooks Conrad was named to the 2000 Pac-10 All-Conference team. Conrad hit at a .336 clip and finished second on the team in runs (72). He hit .351 in league play with 15 of his 33 hits going for extra bases. He became only the 18th player to hit a homer over the green monster at Packard Stadium vs. Washington (5/14). Conrad hit .392 with runners in scoring position and .500 when he led off an inning. The Spring Valley, Calif., native notched 19 multi-hit games as well as 15 multi-RBI games during the ?0 season. The switch hitter was named Pac-10 Player of the Week twice in 2000. For his career at ASU, Conrad is a .338 hitter with 108 hits and 20 doubles. Conrad was 3-for-4 to open his 2001 campaign vs. UTA.

Copy by Jeff R. Evans
ASU Media Relations

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