After attending most of this weekend's sweep against Loyola Marymount, I have some thoughts on the state of our team.
First off, Greg Bordes should have gotten the start at shortstop last night in place of Mike Leake. Defensively, Leake (3 errors in two games, plus a botched double play opportunity last night) hasn't been much better than Marcel Champagnie and also could have used the day off. Bordes came into the game late and immediately made a play on a ball up the middle that was executed like he's an everyday shortstop. On the basepaths, Leake was indecisive, getting thrown out by about 5 feet on a steal attempt. I heard one lady behind me utter, "Why is Murphy having Leake steal a base? He's our best pitcher. If he gets jams an ankle, we're screwed." Growing up with an overprotective mom, this comment sort of made me cringe, but I still think that Leake could have used the day off against a weak Loyola Marymount team to get Bordes in for a full game. With that being said, Leake will be pitching and playing the field quite a bit this summer when he plays for Team USA.
Josh Satow got a great boost in confidence Sunday with a dominant performance over LMU. After being dominant last year, Satow has been less than stellar in his last few starts, getting shelled by UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, Oregon State and Stanford. Seth Blair and Stephen Sauer are shaky at best out there right now, combining to give up 12 hits over 6 innings to this Loyola Marymount squad, somehow only surrendering three runs. Mike Leake is our only dominant start right now, even though Matt Newman had a great performance against Wichita State and could see some more time on the mound if our staff continues to struggle as Pac-10 play comes to a close.
Tommy Rafferty continues to be consistent in relief, notching his 11th win of the season last night. He came in to the game in the 7th inning, pitching two perfect innings, striking out four. Then with one out in the ninth LMU pinch hitter Brent Mendoza hit a bloop single into left, Kyle Brule came into the game and subsequently let Mendoza and what seemed like the entire Lions roster cross home plate, giving up six runs in a third of an inning on two three-run homeruns by Sean Dovel and Angelo Sonco. I give Pat Murphy credit for getting Brule into the game to see some action before the Washington and Arizona weekends, but with a WHIP hovering around 2.0, you've got to think that he was due to have a bad outing.
Jason Kipnis is getting his second wind. He had six hits this weekend last and had a great catch crashing into the wall in center on Sunday. His hustle is giving this team its spark right now. Last night in the seventh inning while on 2nd base, Kipnis advanced to third base after the third baseman fielded a Petey Paramore ground ball and threw to first. Both runners were safe on the play, and then subsequently perfected the double steal during Greg Bordes' at bat. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Kipnis tripled. The offense is clicking after a 16 hit performance, but at the same time, our pitching staff gave up 18 hits to a weak Loyola Marymount team. Kiel Roling and Ryan Sontag are proving to be very reliable bats to supplement Wallace, Davis, Kipnis and Paramore, which is something that Buck, Larish and Curtis didn't have in 2005.
Ike Davis should be back this weekend to face some tough Washington pitchers. The only question is how to best utilize Kiel Roling, who had a superb weekend offensively and defensively. Roling will be splitting time between DH and first with Davis coming back. With Ike back in the lineup and Brett Wallace continuing his success at the plate (16th and 17th homeruns this weekend), the Sun Devils should take at least two of three from Washington, no matter who is starting on the mound for the Sun Devils in our last home series of the season (before regionals, of course). We're ranked #3 by most polls right now behind Miami and North Carolina right now, but the fact that we're 12-3 against top 25 teams gives us an edge heading into the tournament. The Sun Devils are a game up on the Cardinal in the Pac-10 standings, who have to play the same competition as ASU, with the only exception being that all six of their remaining games are on the road. That being said, if ASU takes care of business as usual they should be on their way to clinching another Pac-10 title while playing the Wildcats.
Photo credit: Ralph Freso, East Valley Tribune