ASU baseball at top of its game, despite post-season ban

For a baseball team that knows it won’t be playing in the post-season, the Sun Devils haven’t let that impact their game.

Arizona State is 30-9 and the sixth-ranked team in the country, sitting in second place in the Pac-10, and riding an eight-game winning streak.

The post-season ban was handed down by the NCAA, imposed on the school for violations committed during the Pat Murphy era that ended with the dismissal of the long-time head coach in November of 2009.  Also included in the penalties were scholarship reductions and limitations placed on recruiting.

But the national prominence of the ASU program continues under Tim Esmay, who took over after Murphy’s departure.  The Sun Devils were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation last year and won the Super Regional, sending them to the College World Series for the 22nd time.

This year they know they aren’t headed back to the CWS, but they are taking advantage of every opportunity to find reward in the regular season.

They won four of the five games they played against rival University of Arizona and, more recently, swept California in Berkeley for the first time in eight years.

The opening game of the Cal series, just a week ago, was one the players and fans will remember for some time.  The game was the second-longest in ASU baseball history, with Deven Marrero hitting a two-run single in the top of the 17th inning to cap a 6-4 victory.  The only game to last longer was an 18-inning contest in 1990, when ASU beat UCLA, 6-5, in Tempe.

ASU threw five pitchers in the Cal game, with Mark Lambson finally getting the win, coming out of the bullpen to throw for three innings.

At the plate, Riccio Torrez let the way with five hits, going 5-for-8.  Zach Wilson contributed four more hits and an RBI.

And last night’s game against Stanford in Tempe was another fan’s delight, as the two teams combined for 22 runs on 31 hits.

It was the final two innings that had the crowd on its feet, as ASU scored nine runs in the last two innings and Stanford posted a late rally by scoring five of their own in the bottom of the ninth.

The Devils wrapped up the opener of the three-game series with a 12-10 win, as Torrez went 3-for-5, including a triple, and Joey DeMichele had a 3-for-4 performance at the plate.  Torrez accounted for four RBIs and DeMichele had three more.

Brady Rodgers started on the mound and went seven innings to  earn the win and push his record to 6-2.

The Cardinal (20-15, 5-8) will try to even the series tonight at Packard Stadium.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)