Big wins by ASU baseball fail to impress national polls

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                </div>Did Arizona State just become the Rodney Dangerfield of college baseball? The Sun Devils beat No. 2-ranked Arkansas twice in a weekend series.  The effort moved them up from their […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Did Arizona State just become the Rodney Dangerfield of college baseball?

The Sun Devils beat No. 2-ranked Arkansas twice in a weekend series.  The effort moved them up from their No. 24 ranking to No. 23 (NCAA and Baseball America rankings).

One rung up the national ladder.  Talk about getting no respect.

The second-best team in the country takes two shots at the Devils and comes away empty.  Sure sounds like ASU made a good case for moving up a lot closer to the top half of the group.

ASU scored six runs against Arkansas, winning the first game, 3-2, on Thursday and also taking the return match, 3-1, on Saturday.  The two games were played as part of the Coca Cola Classic tournament at Surprise Stadium.

On Friday, in the game sandwiched between the two with Arkansas, the Devils walked over University of the Pacific in an 8-1 romp as five ASU batters collected multiple hits and right-hander Trevor Williams pitched a complete game in which he allowed  just five base runners.

Pacific wrapped up their tour through the Classic by beating… Arkansas.  Yep, Arkansas couldn’t beat the Tigers – but the Devils accomplished the feat handily.  Go figure.

However, that does help explain why the Razorbacks dropped 14 spots in the rankings after the tournament.

The fourth and final game of the weekend was with Gonzaga, a 6-6 tie on Sunday that had to be called after the eighth inning to accommodate the travel plans of the Zags.  It’s the first time in the last 12 years that the Devils played a game that ended in a tie; they played to a 2-2 deadlock with LSU back in 2001.

But the key wins were against Arkansas.  The first was especially big for Brett Lilek, the freshman left-hander who got his first career start – and against the No. 2 team in the country.  Lilek threw five innings, scattering seven hits and giving up no walks.

He was replaced with senior righty,Alex Blackford, who pitched a scoreless sixth, and another freshman, Ryan Burr, who wrapped up the final three innings to earn his first career save, and the first save of the season for the Devils.

Second baseman James McDonald led the way at the plate with a pair of hits and two RBIs, while catcher Max Rossiter added two hits and an RBI.

In the second encounter with Arkansas, the Devils didn’t lock down the win until the seventh inning when third baseman Michael Benjamin broke a 1-1 tie with a single to bring home Trever Allen, and Jake Peevyhouse followed with a double to push home the extra insurance run.

Benjamin, the junior from Basha High School in Chandler, extended his team-leading hitting streak to eight games, and then pushed it to nine games with two hits in the tournament finale against Gonzaga.  And McDonald, a junior from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, added his fifth double of the season against the Zags to lead the team in that category.

Tomorrow the Sun Devils begin a three-game series against Cal State Long Beach, a team that enters the meeting with an unimpressive 6-7 record.  The game will find the 7-2-1 Devils back in the comfortable home environs of Packard Stadium.

An ASU sweep isn’t likely to move the meter in the national rankings.  But if the Devils have trouble handling the visitors from the Big West Conference, they could disappear from the Top 25.

Big risk, but small rewards.  That’s the tricky nature of the non-conference schedule.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)