The first sign of spring is upon us, opening day! The No. 7 ranked Cowboys are in sunny Phoenix, AZ, to play the No. 21 Arizona State Sun Devils for a three-game series starting today.
The fine folks over at thesundevils.com are providing a free online stream of all three games. Nothing would be more romantic than to curl up at the computer with that special someone and watch some OSU baseball for Valentine's Day.
These teams played four times last season, splitting two wins each. ASU won the first matchup in the desert last February, while OSU took 2 of 3 in Stillwater last May.
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be an immediate opportunity to drop ourselves right in the middle of high-level competition and we're looking forward to that," Coach Holliday said about the opportunity to start the season against a nationally-ranked opponent.
Arizona State announced Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg as the starting pitchers for the first two games of the series.
"Lilek, a potential first-round pick in the 2015 draft, has a good 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, and big-time stuff," Kendall Rogers of D1baseball.com said.
Lilek had a strong 2014 season, posting a 4-5 record with a 2.68 ERA. The biggest challenge for OSU facing Lilek will be to limit the strikeouts. I don't see this being a problem with the experienced lineup that coach Holliday will be putting out for the opener.
"Kellogg, an impressive 6-foot-5, 225-pounder, pounds the zone and has a quality four-pitch mix with a fastball that consistently sits in the 87-90 range, but touched 91 during fall workouts," Rogers said about Kellogg.
Kellogg has excellent command on the mound, only walking 22 hitters in the 103 innings he pitched in 2014.
Sunday's starter has yet to be announced, but my guess is that senior RHP Darin Gillies will get the nod from first-year head coach Tracy Smith. Gillies struggled last year, posting a 4.90 ERA in 71 innings pitched.
Coach Holliday hasn't announced any of the starting pitchers for the weekend, but one would assume it will be Jon Perrin, Tyler Buffett and Tyler Nurdin that will be facing a talented Sun Devil offense, as I project in my rotation preview.
This isn't the typical ASU offense that is going to hit the ball all over the yard like in years past, but this team still has some talented hitters. Like OSU, the Sun Devils do not return any hitters that had more than 10 home runs last season.
Johnny Sewald is the most dangerous hitter in the ASU lineup, hitting for .305 average and a .428 on-base percentage, but hit no home runs last season.
Left Fielder Jake Peevyhouse hit .290 last season, but even in the dry, desert air he couldn't hit a single long ball. Right fielder Trever Allen is the returning leader with only 5 home runs.
Home run numbers have been way down all over college baseball since the introduction of the "no pop" BESR bats in 2010. OSU is no exception, but I think keeping the Sun Devils in the yard is going to be an easy task for the OSU pitching staff.
If OSU is trailing in 9th inning things could become problematic. ASU boasts one of the best stoppers in the nation, Ryan Burr, who saved 12 games last season after becoming the full-time closer for the Sun Devils in 2014.
"Burr was up to 93 during fall workouts, while also showcasing improved command and a higher quality changeup," Rogers said about the ASU closer.
I expect ASU fans to be charged up for this series. Not only are they opening up a new stadium, but they're also introducing new head coach Tracy Smith, who had great success at Indiana. Also, warm-weather teams like ASU tend to have the advantage in early-season matchups like this.