ASU’s express to Omaha gets another Player of the Year

The rich keep getting richer.  Nowhere is that truer than in sports.

Those teams that are rich in talent win games.  Winning attracts others who want to be a part of the celebration.  Which perpetuates the winning.

In college sports, that’s the crux of the recruiting process.  In college baseball, few teams do it better than Arizona State, where each new season brings with it expectations for a trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

That’s a great enticement for kids coming out of high school, a chance to play for a national title.  At a school where they expect to go to Omaha every season.

ASU, which finished last season as the No. 1 team in the country, has made 22 of those trips over the years and has every intention to be there again next season for a third straight time.

The prospect of achieving that kind of success at the collegiate level attracted last year’s Los Angeles Times Player of the Year, Cory Hahn, who is part of the current recruiting class.

Hahn hits like an outfielder, putting up 10 home runs with a .411 batting average.  But he’s also a pitcher who went 14-1 and had an incredible 0.89 ERA.

Then, last week, Arizona’s own Scott Hoffman jumped on the Sun Devil express to Omaha.  The big pitcher from Desert Ridge High School in Mesa was the Arizona Republic’s Big Schools Player of the Year.

Hoffman will arrive in Tempe after finishing out his senior year, so it’s kinda like having a POY on deck.  The 6’4″ righty turned down an offer from University of Arizona to hitch a ride with the Devils.

He finished his junior year 13-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 76 strikeouts.  He also contributed at the plate, hitting .485.  See any similarities here to Mr. Hahn?

ASU, which finished last season 52-10, should be a lock to get through the playoffs again next season and earn their trip to Omaha.  They will be without their team captains, Raoul Torrez and Kole Calhoun, but the underclassmen should be able to step up and lead them to their fifth consecutive Pac-10 championship.

Calhoun was the team’s leading power hitter, but the team will have back its top seven batting averages from 2010, including second baseman Zack MacPhee, the Pac-10 Player of the Year.  MacPhee hit .389, but was third on the list behind infielder Deven Marrero (.397) and first baseman Riccio Torrez (.393).

The Devils will likely lose junior pitcher Seth Blair, who was the 46th pick in the MLB draft, taken by St. Louis.  And two others, junior Merrill Kelly and sophomore Jake Borup, were drafted and haven’t decided whether they will return.  But Mitchell Lambson (2.16 ERA) and Brady Rodgers (2.11 ERA) will provide a base to build upon.

Evidently, the uncertainty of pending NCAA sanctions on the program haven’t deterred the kind of recruits the Devils need to continue their run to Omaha.  The school should know some time next month whether the NCAA Infractions Committee will accept the self-imposed sanctions it has offered due to rules violations during the Pat Murphy era.

Those sanctions would include the loss of two scholarships by 2011-12 and a reduction of recruiting visits.

But, while the dark cloud of sanctions hangs over the program, the immediate future looks bright.

And rich with talent.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)