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11th-Ranked Baseball Faces Tough Test In Oklahoma Sooners This Weekend
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 03/15/2002
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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March 15, 2002

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    PROBABLE PITCHERS:
    Mar. 15 vs. Oklahoma, 6 p.m. MST
    OU - Rocky Cherry - RHP (2-2, 2.93 ERA)
    ASU - Mike Esposito - RHP (4-2, 2.75 ERA)

    Mar. 16 vs. Oklahoma, 6 p.m. MST
    OU - Mark Roberts - RHP (3-1, 4.50 ERA)
    ASU - Robbie McClellan - RHP (4-2, 2.51 ERA)

    Mar. 17 vs. Oklahoma, 7 p.m. MST
    OU - Austin Mix - RHP (3-1, 2.16 ERA)
    ASU - Bryce Kartler - LHP (2-0, 3.37 ERA)

    ASU vs. OKLAHOMA:
    Overall Record vs. OU: ASU leads 39-15
    Last Meeting: Apr. 21, 2001 in OKC
    ASU 5-3 (11 innings)

    NATIONAL RANKINGS:
    Arizona State (15-6) moved up to No. 11 in the BaseballWeekly/ESPN poll after going 4-0 last week. The Sun Devils are also ranked No. 15 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 17 by Baseball America. The Sun Devils have now been ranked in the national polls for 45 consecutive weeks. Oklahoma (13-4) is 31st in the Baseball Weekly/ESPN Poll.

    MEDIA EXPOSURE:
    The Friday and Sunday games vs. Oklahoma will be broadcast locally in the Phoenix area on XTRA 910 AM. Both games can also be heard over the internet via a live webcast at www.TheSunDevils.com. Saturday's came can be listened to by pointing your browser to the Oklahoma website at www.SoonerSports.com. The voice of Sun Devil Athletics, Tim Healey, and Bob Eger will bring you all the play-by-play. All three games can also be tracked via the LiveStats feature on www.TheSunDevils.com.

    THE STORYLINE:
    The Sun Devils play its final preseason non-conference series with three games against Oklahoma before embarking on the 2002 Pac-10 season in two weeks with a three-game series at Arizona (Mar. 22-24). The 11th-ranked Sun Devils, winners of seven of their last eight, hold a 39-15 lead in the all-time series with the Sooners, including winning a string of four of the last five. Oklahoma (13-4) comes into the weekend winners of five in a row and are off to a 3-0 start in Big 12 play. Sun Devil infielder Sergio Garcia played last season for the Sooners, hitting .311 while starting every game at shortstop. Sooner head coach Larry Cochell played for ASU in 1963.

    What's On Tap:
    The 11th-ranked Arizona State baseball team hosts No. 31 Oklahoma this weekend in a three-game series at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. The Sun Devils have won seven of their last eight games and will be facing a Sooner ballclub that has won five straight and is climbing up the national polls. The Devils are coming off a three-game sweep of UNLV, St. John's and Oklahoma State as part of the inaugural Bob Schaefer Memorial Classic last weekend, but suffered a 8-7 loss to New Mexico State on Tuesday. ASU will return to the road next week with a Pac-10 season opening series at rival Arizona at Frank Sancet Field (Mar. 22-24).

    Quick Hits:

  • Head coach Pat Murphy recorded his 600th career Divison 1 victory last Friday in the 10-0 win over UNLV.
  • Senior Jon Sheaffer leads the team with a .389 (21x54) batting average and has a hit in 14 of his last 15 games.
  • Steve Garrabrants is 10-for-17 to lead off the game for ASU, with five singles, four doubles, a home run and a walk.
  • Friday night starter Mike Esposito is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his last two starts and has not given up an ER in 13.0 IP.
  • Sergio Garcia is hitting .400 (6x15) with six runs and five RBI in his last five games to raise his average to .370.
  • ASU is now 0-4 on the road, but is 15-2 on its home field. (12-2 at Hohokam, 3-0 at Packard Stadium)
  • The pitching staff has combined for a 3.14 team ERA, with the starters posting an impressive 2.81 mark in 21 games.
  • Reliever J.J. Jackson is 3-0 on the year with two wins last week and has a team-leading ERA of 1.46 in 12.1 innings.
  • ASU is 8-2 in night games with a team .293 batting average and a 2.26 team ERA.
  • Through 21 games, ASU has three complete games. The Devils had only one all of last year (Jon Switzer).
  • The Devils have scored in the first inning in 14 of their 21 games (67%)
  • Robbie McClellan was named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for his 10-strikeout, CG shutout against UNLV.
  • The Sun Devils have used 13 different lineups this year at the plate and 11 different positional lineups.
  • Sophomore Nick Walsh has .500 on-base percentage with 11 walks, eight hits and six HBP.
  • In his four appearances out of the bullpen (3.2 IP), sophmore Ryan Schroyer has struck out 10 batters.

    The Last Time Out:
    Arizona State had its seven game win streak snapped when New Mexico State designated hitter Buck Barton drew a bases loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Aggies a 8-7 come-from-behind win over the Sun Devils Tuesday night in front of 641 fans at Presley Askew Field. ASU held a 7-6 lead going into the final frame, but back-to-back doubles by shortstop Corey Harrington and second baseman Gave Veloz tied the game at 7-7 setting the stage for the Aggie comeback win. After two walks loaded the bases, Sun Devil closer Ryan Schroyer struck out the next two batters before ending the game on four straight balls to Barton. Rod Allen led the Devils with a 2-for-5 game and a season-high four RBI. Sergio Garcia was the only other Devil to record a multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with his second double of the year. ASU was its own worst enemy, leaving 10 runners on base and giving up 12 free bases (walk, HBP, stolen base, wild pitch). The team ERA jumped from 2.88 to 3.14 with the outing.

    McClellan Named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week:
    Sun Devil junior right-hander Robbie McClellan has been named Pac-10 Baseball Pitcher of the Week for Mar. 5-12. McClellan, from Liberal, Kan., became the first Sun Devil to notch back-to-back complete games since 1999, striking out a career-high 10 batters in a seven-inning win against UNLV. He allowed just four hits and did not allow a run in the 10-0 win over the Rebels. McClellan is tied for the team lead in wins with a 4-2 record and has a 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched. Has struck out 42 batters and walked only 14. The Pitcher of the Week honor is the first for McClellan in his career, and the 43rd selection all-time for Arizona State.

    Devils On A Roll:
    Arizona State enters play this weekend having won seven of its last eight games and eight of its last 10 overall. The Devils 8-2 record in the last 10 games is much in part to the solid pitching that has posted a combined team ERA of 2.87. Over that stretch of games staff ace Mike Esposito is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 13.0 innings and reliever J.J. Jackson is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA. The hitters are led by Jon Sheaffer who has posted a .400 batting average over that stretch with 12 hits and nine RBI. As as team the Devils are hitting .304 in the last 10 games.

    Home Sweet Home:
    The Sun Devils return home this weekend with a three-game set with Oklahoma after traveling to Las Cruces, N.M. for a single tilt with NMSU on Tuesday (8-7 loss). ASU could not be happier to return home as the Devils are now 0-4 away from the state of Arizona this year. ASU is 15-2 at home with the team batting .312 and pitching for an impressive 2.15 ERA. On the road the squad combines for a .290 batting average and a 7.71 ERA.

    Sun Devil Baseball Successful in March:
    The Sun Devil Baseball program has an all-time 619-242-1 record in the month of March dating back to the 1959 baseball season. Head Coach Pat Murphy, who recently picked up his 600th career Division I victory, is 71-49-1 in the month of March in his eight years at ASU. Looking ahead to the month of April where the Devils will play the meat of their Pac-10 schedule, ASU is 514-217 dating back to 1959.

    Scouting the Sooners:
    The Oklahoma Sooners come to town having won five in a row and carry a 13-4 record into weekend play. OU is fresh off a Big 12 opening sweep of Missouri last weekend and beat Arkansas and Western Illinois in midweek action. Offensively the Sooners are led junior Jason Franz who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week. Franz is hitting .422 with eight doubles and five home runs in 17 games. As a team Oklahoma is hitting a robust .339 with 26 homers. OU is averaging 9.71 runs per game this year. The pitching staff has combined for a 4.47 ERA with this weekend's starters of Rocky Cherry, Mark Roberts and Austin Mix combining to go 8-4 on the year. Oklahoma is coached by former Sun Devil player Larry Cochell (1963).

    Garcia To Face Old Mates This Weekend:
    In probably the most interesting match-up of the weekend, ASU's hot-hitting infielder Sergio Garcia will face his former team in the Oklahoma Sooners. After playing in junior college at Cerritos CC in Southern California, Garcia transfered to Oklahoma where he hit .311 while playing in all 59 games for the Sooners. He was named honorable mention all-Big 12 and recorded 20 multi-hit games. Garcia transfered to ASU in the fall and has been one of the hottest hitters on the team as of late with a .400 (8x20) in his last seven games.

    More ASU-Oklahoma Connections:
    In addtion to Garcia having strong connections with Oklahoma after playing there last year, Robbie McClellan played with OU pitcher Curtis White at Seward County CC last year. Sooner catcher Ryan Richardson (.290) returns home to Mesa where he starred at Dobson High School and Central Arizona CC. OU head coach Larry Cochell lettered for ASU in 1963 under Bobby Winkles and in his only year in the Maroon and Gold was 2-for-3 at the plate and 0-1, 6.63 on the mound.

    One and Two Run Misery:
    Of the Devils six losses this year, five have come by two or less runs, two of have been one-run games. ASU has also picked up a pair of one-run victories through 21 games this season.

    Devils Better Score Early and Often:
    The Sun Devils have had good success this year when scoring before their opponent, going 10-4 in those games. Even more importantly, when ASU scores in the first inning they are 11-3. Five runs or more seem to be the magic number for the Devils, as ASU is 15-2 in games when scoring five or more runs.

    Last Year Against Oklahoma:
    As part of a three-city, three-game tour in the middle of the Pac-10 season in April, the Sun Devils defeated Oklahoma 5-3 in 11 innings on April 18, 2001 at Southwestern Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla. Mike Esposito started and recorded the no-decision, striking out six and allowing only one earned run in five innings. Andy Torres vultured for the win with two strong innings out of the bullpen. Dennis Wyrick picked up the game-winning hit with a two-out, two-run single to right field in the top of the 11th.

    You're The Best, Mike Esposito:
    While not claiming to be the best, sophomore Mike Esposito comes out to the song from the Karate Kid soundtrack labeled, "You're the best," before each of his starts. A song held special to his heart because the man singing the song is his father, Joe Esposito, who is a lounge singer in Las Vegas and has numerous other songs to his credit. Espo, a fifth-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school, is off to a stellar 4-2, 2.75 ERA start in 36.0 innings pitched this year. The hard-throwing right-hander has really turned it up a notch as of late, not allowing an earned run in his last 13.0 innings pitched. Over that stretch he is 2-0 and is coming off a career-high nine strikeout performance in a 11-1 win over St. John's. Esposito pitched for Team USA last summer where he was 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA.

    The Record Is In The Books. ASU Has Scored In 396 Straight Games:
    The Arizona State baseball program made history on April 7, 2001 when they scored at least one run in its 350th consecutive game. The Devils broke the 12-year-old NCAA record in a 5-1 loss to USC exactly six years to the day when they were last shut out. ASU was shut out 9-0 on April 7, 1995 at Dedeaux Field. The one run scored in the 3-1 loss to UCLA on May 19 last year marked only the 11th time during the streak that ASU has scored only one run. The streak continues with it now reaching 396 consecutive games with ASU scoring in each of the 21 games this year. The Devils have extended the streak early in almost every game, with a run in the first inning 14 times in 2002. ASU was neck-in-neck for the record with Wichita State, which had not been shutout in 332 games, but had its streak ended with a 1-0 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the middle of the 2001 season. Coastal Carolina previously held the NCAA record at 349 games set from 1983-1989. ASU also had a stretch of 278 games without being shut out from 1990 to 1994, meaning the program has only been shutout in three games dating back to 1990.

    Preparing For Pac-10 Play:
    The Devils have their last non-conference series this weekend before jumping into Pac-10 play next weekend with a three-game series against rival Arizona at Frank Sancet Field in Tucson. The Wildcats are currently 17-7 on the year while moving in and out of the rankings and are coming off a series in which they were swept at Long Beach State. Arizona State, who was picked to finish third behind Stanford and USC in the preseason coaches poll, has an all-time 383-286 (1979-2001) in Pac-10 play. The Sun Devils finished third last year with a 14-10 record and are two years removed from winning the Pac-10 Championship. ASU is a combined 11-9 during the opening weekend of Pac-10 play since head coach Pat Murphy took over the program in 1995. The last time ASU opened league play with its rivals to the South was in 1995 when the Devils took two of three.

    Now That's The Way to Start the Game.... And An Inning:
    The Sun Devil leadoff hitter in the game is off to a great start in 2002, and a main reason why the Devils have scored at least one run in the first inning in 14 of their 21 (67%) games this year. The Sun Devil leadoff hitter, 18 times being Steve Garrabrants, two times being Dustin Pedroia and one time being Doug Schutt, has recorded a hit in the first at-bat of the game in 13 of ASU's 21 games. Garrabrants is 10-for-17 (.588) with five singles, four doubles, a walk and a home run to his credit, while Pedroia is 2-for-2 and Schutt is 1-for-1 with a single. Garrabrants has also had great success when he is the leadoff batter in an inning, not jut the start of the game, going 15-for-30 (.500) with five doubles and both of his home runs.

    Murphy Picks Up Career Division 1 Victory #600:
    With a convincing 10-0 win over UNLV in seven innings on March 8, Sun Devil Head Coach Pat Murphy reached the 600 plateau for Division I victories in his 15 years of coaching at the top level of collegiate baseball. Fashioning a career 657-320-4 record in his 18 seasons as a head coach, with 55 of those wins came at Maryville (Tenn.) College and Claremont-Mudd Scripps, Murphy should reach the milestone this weekend. In his 15 years at the D1 level, Murphy has averaged nearly 40 wins per year and is 284-149-1 in his 8-year ASU career. He will coach in his 1,000th career game on April 27, 2002 when he returns to play his former school, Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind.

    Garrabrants Looking To Get Back in Lineup:
    Sophomore Steve Garrabrants is off to a torrid start to the 2002 season and is hoping to bounce back from a shoulder injury this weekend. Starting ASU's first 19 games, Garrabrants has sat out the last two after being hit by a pitch vs. St. John's. He is currently third on the team hitting .375 with five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. He leads the team with 10 multi-hit games and has nine extra base hits. As ASU's leadoff hitter, Garrabrants is an amazing 10-for-17 to lead off the game for the Devils.

    Making the Most of his Senior Year, Jon Sheaffer:
    Senior center fielder Jon Sheaffer is making the most of his final year as a college student-athlete. Sheaffer, who played football and baseball for ASU last year after transferring from South Mountain CC, played in only 30 games last year, making three starts. This year is a different story though, as Sheaffer has started 17 of ASU's 21 games in center field and is currently the team's leading hitter at .389 (21x54) with five doubles and 11 RBI. He has recorded a hit in 16 of his 19 games this year, including a streak of 14 of his last 15 games. He recently had a career-high 13-game hitting streak snapped in which he combined to go 17-for-40 (.425) with 11 runs scored and 10 RBI.

    These Former Devils Are In Big League Camps:
    Eleven (11) former Sun Devils are currently in the big league camps for Major League Baseball's annual Spring Training. Former Sun Devil (1983-85) San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is coming off his record-breaking 2001 season in which he set the MLB record with 73 home runs. Of the 11 Devils in big league camps, only three (Bloomquist, Bonds and McKay) are playing in the local Cactus League in Arizona.

    Benjamin, Mike	Pittsburgh Pirates	3B
    Bloomquist, Willie	Seattle Mariners	2B
    Bonds, Barry	San Francisco Giants	LF
    Cruz, Jacob	Detroit Tigers	CF
    Henry, Doug	Kansas City Royals	RP
    Lo Duca, Paul	Los Angeles Dodgers	C
    Lowe, Sean	Pittsburgh Pirates	RP
    McKay, Cody	Oakland Athletics	C
    Mills, Ryan	Minnesota Twins	P
    Molina, Gabe	St. Louis Cardinals	RP
    Vina, Fernando	St. Louis Cardinals	2B
    
    The Wild, Wild West:
    Sophomore first baseman Jeremy West has been swinging a hot bat as of late, hitting four of his team-leading five home runs in the last 11 games. West is currently fifth on the team with a .338 batting average and leads the team with 26 RBI (1.24 avg. per game) and 14 extra base hits. He tied a career high with four RBI vs. LMU (3/2) and has recorded a hit in 14 of his 20 games played this year. West leads all Sun Devils with 11 career home runs.

    A Cubs/Sun Devil Doubleheader?:
    With ASU sharing Hohokam Stadium with the Chicago Cubs this spring for their spring training, baseball fans will have the unique opportunity on three occasions to enjoy a Major League-College baseball doubleheader. Tuesday night was the second of three, with the Cubs falling to cross-town rival Chicago White Sox 20-6 and ASU defeating New Mexico State 10-5 later that night. ASU and the Cubs have one more doubleheader on March 17 when the Devils face Oklahoma at Hohokam Stadium.

    Allen and Esposito Earn Preseason All-America Awards:
    Sun Devil players Rod Allen and Mike Esposito both earned preseason All-America honors. Allen, who hit .389 and set an ASU freshman record in 2001, was named a first-team preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Esposito, who recorded a 5-2 record in 2001 and is coming off an impressive summer with Team USA, was named to a third-team preseason All-American by Baseball America. Allen has come on strong as of late and is hitting .296 on the year with four home runs, 22 RBI and has played spectacular defense in left field. He has recorded a hit in 17 of 21 games this year, including eight straight. Esposito is 4-2 with a 2/75 ERA in his six starts, including a complete-game victory over Tennessee (2/9). Esposito has not given up an earned run in his last two starts and 13.0 combined innings.

    Murphy's Teams Know How To Score:
    A true icon of the Pat Murphy system is scoring runs. The Sun Devils have done plenty of that since he arrived in 1995. ASU has led the NCAA in scoring in two of the last three years, averaging 11.32 runs per game in 1999 and 10.97 runs per game in 2000. The Devils paced the Pac-10 in 2001, hitting at a .327 clip and averaging 8.26 runs per game to rank 17th in the nation. ASU also led the nation in batting average with a team total of .356 in 1999 and fell just percentage points shy of matching that feat a second year in a row in 2000 with a .346 mark, trailing Stony Brook by one point. During Pat Murphy's eight seasons in Tempe, the Sun Devils have been a scoring machine with 4,009 runs, averaging 9.24 runs per game and hitting at an overall .330 clip.

    Platooning Behind the Plate:
    One of the biggest questions for the Sun Devil baseball team this year has been the catching situation. Junior Dennis Wyrick, who was ASU's starting shortstop this year and started eight games at third base this year, has become the Devils' every day starting catcher. Wyrick, who debuted at catcher in the Arizona Summer Collegiate League, has started nine of the last 11 games behind the plate and has thrown out three base runners. Before that, ASU had only had one caught stealing in 16 attempts. The Devils have started four players behind the dish (Wyrick, Tuffy Gosewisch, Joel Bocchi Cesar Castillo).

    Hohokam is ASU's Home Away From Home in 2002:
    While a $2 million renovation will begin in late March to Packard Stadium, the Sun Devils will call Hohokam Stadium in Mesa home for the 2002 season for all but three home games. Hohokam Park is also the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Fall League home of the Mesa Solar Sox. The facility will provide ASU with a first-class facility while Packard Stadium undergoes renovation. Hohokam Park, which opened in 1997, has a seating capacity of 12,623, with 8,000 theater-style seats.

    Is it HoHoKam or Hohokam... Stadium... or Park:
    While it can be up for debate on the actual spelling of Hohokam Stadium, the City of Mesa has recognized the official spelling of Hohokam Park to be without the capital H and capital K in the middle of the word. The group that call themselves the HoHoKam's use the capital letters, but the actual group of Native Americans that the park is named after is spelled 'Hohokam.' To extend the debate, is it Hohokam Park or Hohokam Stadium. While both are acceptable, the games are played in Hohokam Stadium, which is located in Hohokam Park.

    Hitting For The Cycle... in the First Inning:
    In what may be one of the rarest feats of Arizona State baseball history, the Devils led off the Feb. 9 game vs. Tennessee in grand fashion with the first four hitters combining to hit for the cycle in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Steve Garrabrants led off the game with a first-pitch home run, then Dustin Pedroia followed with a double, then Rod Allen singled and to cap off the amazing event, Jeremy West tripled to give ASU the early 2-0 lead.

    The Solo Story Gives Way to the Three-Run Story:
    The Sun Devils have hit 13 home runs in 2002, with Andre Ethier and Dustin Pedroia hitting one each, Steve Garrabrants hitting two, Rod Allen connecting on four and first baseman Jeremy West leading the team with five round-trippers. The first seven of ASU's home runs were all solo home runs, while the last six have been of the two-run and three-run variety.

    The Young Bullpen is Still Pretty Solid:
    The Sun Devil bullpen did not give up an earned run until the seventh game of the season, hit a little road-bump with some shaky outings, and has since fell back into a grove. Led by sophomore J.J. Jackson (3-0, 1.46), the ASU relievers have combined to go 5-3 with three saves and a 3.64 ERA in 71.2 combined innings. Redshirt freshman Mark Sopko leads the team with nine relief appearances and picked up his first career save vs. New Mexico State (3/5). Reliever turned starter Robbie McClellan was 2-2 with one save before moving into the starting rotation. Since moving to the bullpen, sophomore Ryan Schroyer has struck out 10 in 2.2 innings of work.

    How 'Bout Those Starters:
    While the Sun Devil bullpen has drawn rave review, the starters are even more impressive with a combined 10-3 record and 2.81 ERA. Sophomore preseason All-American Mike Esposito is 4-2 with a 2.75 ERA. Bryce Kartler is 2-0 with a 3.34 ERA and has a 3.37 ERAand Robbie McClellan 2-0 record with two consecutive complete games in his two starts.

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