ASU baseball looks to cast away tournament ghosts - East Valley Tribune: Sports

ASU baseball looks to cast away tournament ghosts

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Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 10:57 pm

The high-profile names - Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier, Mike Leake, Brett Wallace, Ike Davis, Jeff Larish, etc. - have all come and gone from the Arizona State baseball program this century, putting up big numbers along the way but ultimately leaving without a coveted national title.

Now, a more unassuming group, one that played the season with a first-year coach and without its top pitcher, attempts to erase those ghosts of NCAA Tournaments past.

The transition from Pat Murphy to Tim Esmay as coach has been seamless, and the rotation hasn't missed Josh Spence one bit.

While there were several question marks heading into the year, ASU answered them quickly and thoroughly, setting a school record by winning its first 24 games, capturing a fourth straight Pac-10 title, and on Monday, earning the No. 1 national seed in this year's tournament.

While outsiders may have been surprised by the success, the players weren't.

"That's why everybody comes and plays in this program, because we have an opportunity to win a national championship every year," outfielder Kole Calhoun said. "That's the expectation. When you don't have that mindset, those are the guys that kind of weed themselves out."

College baseball website Boyd's World has an algorithm to predict the national champion, and it greatly favors the Sun Devils.

Arizona State's chances at winning are pegged at 57 percent, while second-rated Cal State Fullerton is given an 8.7 percent chance of taking home the title.

Obviously, it won't be that easy and the odds of winning it all is much lower, but the formula gives credence to Arizona State's extraordinary 47-8 record and its tough schedule.

Senior infielder Raoul Torrez points to the team's balance as a main reason why the team has been so successful. The squad has no glaring deficiencies.

"The great thing about this program is the depth," Torrez said. "Guys that are sitting the bench here, not getting a lot of playing time, could be playing at any other program in the country. It's worth it to them to have to fight for a spot at one of the best schools in the country than be guaranteed a spot at an average program. No matter who goes down, we always feel like we have someone who can step in."

The trek begins Friday night against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, presumably the last team into the field although the NCAA does not release those seedings.

The toughest foe in the regional will be San Diego, a team with solid starting pitching that the Sun Devils beat twice in the regular season by a combined score of 26-6.

Arizona State has not won a national title since 1981.

 

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