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Pac-12 Baseball Team Preview: Arizona State Looking for a Return To Form

Last year, the Sun Devils missed the postseason for just the second time since 2000.

Arizona State vs. TCU men's baseball Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images

Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Last Season: 23-32 (8-22)
  • Head Coach: Tracy Smith
  • Best Returning Batter: Gage Canning (.322)
  • Best Returning Fielder: Lyle Lin (425 putouts)
  • Best Returning Pitcher: Eli Lingos (4.21 ERA)

The Skinny

No real way around it: 2017 was the worst season for Arizona State baseball in almost six decades. The win total of 23 was their lowest since ASU won 27 back in 1962. This could be chalked up to a few different factors. For one, some defensive inexperience led to 70 errors by the Sun Devils and 53 unearned runs by their opponents. Second, some discipline issues led to a few players being dismissed or leaving the team. As a result, Tracy Smith’s team tied with USC for a last place finish in the Pac-12.

The fielding was clearly ASU’s biggest weakness. They wrapped the year with a .967 team fielding percentage, which was tied for worst in the Pac-12. This occurred despite a solid year from now-junior outfielder Gage Canning. Canning had a perfect fielding percentage with no errors and wasn’t too shabby at the plate either. Canning led the team in batting average (.332), runs scored (37), doubles (12), triples (8) and home runs (6).

Arizona State vs. TCU men's baseball
Canning looks to once again be ASU’s offensive catalyst.
Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images

Offensively, there’s definitely some promise with this ASU team. In 2017, they were fourth in the conference in home runs (38) and achieved a team slugging percentage of .402. Junior Jeremy McCuin can bunt with the best of them in this league sacrificing himself nine times. Additionally, ASU only failed to score a run in six games last season.

On the mound, Eli Lingos will most likely be a mainstay in the starting rotation for ASU. The senior lefty was 6-7 as a starter in 2017, making him 10-13 for his career. He also led the pitching staff in strikeouts with 66. Closer Connor Higgins should be set for a productive junior campaign as well. They’ll need him and the rest of the staff to show some improvement to avoid another year of walking over 100 batters.

ASU does play the vast majority of their schedule at home, so that should aid their quest back to the NCAA tournament. Another year at the bottom of the league would be a big surprise now that the young talent on this team has had a year to learn from their mistakes.

Number To Know: 22

ASU led the league in triples in 2017 with 22.

Games Against OSU

April 27th, 28th, & 29th in Corvallis

Pac-12 Baseball Team Previews: