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Know Thy Enemy :: Arizona State

In preparation for today's second round game with Arizona State, we would like to bring in Eric Hess from the ASU Scout board Devils Digest for some friendly questioning.

Obviously we know a little bit about each other since we're from the same conference. How is your team playing overall right now? Are the peaking?

Eric Hess, I would say that the team as a whole is most definitely peaking at the right time of the season - they have lost once in the last month (in the series finale to U of A after the Pac-10 had just been clinched.)  The offense is coming through in the clutch, the starting staff has had no problem going deep into ballgames and the bullpen has been solid enough to hold the large leads they have been given.

I know ASU is a team that hits for power. Is their anyone particular hot right now, or anyone in a slump?

Eric Hess, Surprisingly enough CJ Retherford, an oft used bench bat has punched his way into the starting lineup with a postseason hot streak that saw him hit three home runs (his first three of the season.)   If  you would have talked to me during the  regionals and first game of the super regional, the Pac-10 player of the year, Brett Wallace was  in a  rather major slump which contributed to the team having a tough time scoring runs in the regionals.  However, he knocked the game winning hit in a 3-run ninth inning comeback during the first super reg. game and in game two of the super regionals he had four hits including a mammoth home run.

How are the pitchers doing?

Eric Hess, Mike Leake got hit around a little bit around in the super regionals when he gave up 12 hits (i believe) but most of them were singles and many were soft hit balls.  Josh Satow has been a man possessed lately - he is a soft tossing lefty who can have tremendous movement when he is right.  Brian Flores, our third starter, is somewhat unknown - either he will be spectacular or get hit around - and it becomes rather obvious in the first couple innings.  In the bullpen, freshman Jason Jarvis is the main contributor because the starters have gone far into the late innings.  Pat Murphy describes him as a guy that needs to be woken up every once in awhile but when he wakes up - look out.    The rest of the bullpen (middle relief) hardly even pitches for this team anymore since even if the starters get knocked around, Murphy will stick with them knowing that the offense will come back.

Briefly describe your road to Omaha. Looks like it was somewhat of a stress-free journey. Did ASU find themselves grinding out any close games in Regionals or Super Regionals? Will ASU have trouble winning a close game if they have to grind one out with the Beavers?

Eric Hess, The regionals were relatively stress-free with the exception of game one when ASU faced Monmouth.  It was a comfortable game until the ninth inning when Jarvis needed to be talked to and once he was he dominated and finished off Monmouth.  Everything was fine until the first game of the super regionals when the Rebels of Ole Miss shut the offense down for eight innings.  The score was 3-1 going into the bottom of the ninth and the Devils loaded the bases with none out and came out of the game with Brett Wallace knocking a two out single up the middle to score the winning run from third base and break Wallace out of his slump.

Your team is by far the highest ranked team in his regional. Do you feel like ASU is the best team in the lower bracket? Do you feel like the Sun Devils should skate through to the championship series?

Eric Hess, I would never say that anyone should skate through the championship series - every team got here for a reason and ASU is no different - they do have some stud starting pitching and a dynamite back end of the bullpen.  The real key to this team however is the offense.  They have a problem coming out rather flat in the early innings and then coming up big in the latter innings but if the offense can start out strong and give the starting pitching a lead early, they have a definite shot at moving into the finals.

Special thanks to Eric for the insights. See some of my quotes over at his place.