Jan. 25, 2003
By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com
Some players immediately find their niche in collegiate baseball. Others take a little more time in search of a place that fits them best.
For Arizona State senior right-hander Beau Vaughan, his travels have not only taken him to two junior colleges and a lower-tier university in Louisiana, but they also have caused countless hours of frustration and the painful sense of underachievement.
Nearly four years after graduating from Glendale Mountain Ridge High School with high hopes, Vaughan feels as if he is playing in his own backyard at a place he can finally call home.
"It felt good out there," said Vaughan, who allowed two runs on only three hits Saturday afternoon in No. 8-ranked ASU's 4-3 victory over San Diego State at Packard Stadium. "The fans really get behind you and it certainly makes it a lot easier to pitch."
Vaughan showed the poise of a veteran when entering the game in the top of the sixth inning for senior right-hander Jered Liebeck, who was pulled after giving up back-to-back singles. He got senior first baseman Jon Stephens to line out to right field and he shot down sophomore outfielder Jake McLintock on a fly ball to left field.
While utilizing a newly-developed circle change with more regularity, Vaughan retired the side in order in the seventh inning on the strength of a three-pitch strikeout of freshman left-fielder Curt Mendoza. It marked the first strikeout for Vaughan since Jan. 17 when he fanned eight straight Hawai'i-Hilo batters, the second most in school history, to record his second all-time collegiate win and his first as a Sun Devil.
"He's had (the circle change) in his bag," ASU head coach Pat Murphy said. "We've just forced him to throw it and to pitch off that pitch."
The initial signs of trouble for Vaughan surfaced in the eighth inning when he relinquished a double to freshman shortstop James Guerrero and allowed junior center-fielder Anthony Gwynn to reach on an error. But Vaughan emerged unscathed by causing junior second baseman Peter Stonard to hit into a fielder's choice, before striking out Stephens on a four-seam fastball over the outside corner of the plate.
"I fell behind on him, but I came back and threw a fastball at the same spot," Vaughan said. "I wasn't really thinking about walking him. I just said, 'This guy is not going to beat me. He's not going to get a base hit.'"
The ninth inning brought more problems for Vaughan, who gave up an infield single to McLintock and walked junior designated hitter Rielly Embrey. Vaughan showed some resilience by getting junior third baseman Chad Corona to fly out to center field, but he was yanked in favor of Sun Devil junior closer Ryan Schroyer after Mendoza smacked a single up the middle to bring the Aztecs within one run of tying the game.
Although Vaughan was disappointed that he couldn't finish the job to earn his first save, he was happy with the way he pitched before a crowd of 3,249 at Bobby Winkles Field that he called "probably the largest crowd I've ever played baseball in front of." Vaughan finished with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings to give him a team-leading 15 on the season.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little anxious at first," Vaughan said. "When you're sandwiched between Liebeck and Schroyer, you really don't have too much to worry about. All you've got to do is do your job, nothing spectacular."
Playing in front of a packed house may not have been a big deal for any other Sun Devil, but it was momentous for Vaughan, who rarely saw fans in the stands during his days at New Orleans University and South Mountain and Phoenix community colleges.
Vaughan tallied a 1-0 record with an 8.84 earned-run average in 19.1 innings pitched last season for New Orleans, which went 31-28 overall with a 12-12 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. He struck out 23 batters and allowed 26 hits in 14 appearances, all of which came out of the bullpen.
Vaughan's travels brought him back to the Valley last year when he played in the Arizona Summer Collegiate League on a team coached by former ASU pitcher Eric Doble. Vaughan made the cut here after a series of tryouts in the fall.
"From his first work in the bullpen, I told Murph he was going to be a horse for us," Sun Devil pitching coach Chris Sinacori said. "Sure enough, he has really polished himself. Within five months, that kid has made unbelievable strides."
Vaughan's numbers have never been as impressive as they were at Mountain Ridge, the school Liebeck and former ASU outfielder Chris Duffy attended. While lettering for three years at Mountain Ridge, Vaughan earned all-region honorable mention accolades as a sophomore and was an all-region selection in both his junior and senior years.
Thoughts of someday playing in the big leagues loomed for Vaughan in 1999 after he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. However, Vaughan knew he was a long shot.
The scout who drafted Vaughan showed up at one of his high school games with the intent to watch Liebeck pitch. But Mountain Ridge head coach Tony Chiarelli had changed the rotation, causing Vaughan to take the mound and garner attention from a scout who watched him throw a five-inning no-hitter.
"That was just kind of blind, dumb luck," Vaughan said.
That may have been the case, but you don't need glasses and you don't have to be a genius to realize that Vaughan has a bright future with the Sun Devils.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.