Here come the Devils…ASU makes regionals as No. 2 seed

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                </div>  The Arizona Wildcats baseball team had a feel-good finish to their season on Sunday, cleaning up on poor little Abilene Christian University, which just completed its first season of […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Arizona Wildcats baseball team had a feel-good finish to their season on Sunday, cleaning up on poor little Abilene Christian University, which just completed its first season of Division I play after transitioning from D-II.

By the time the second inning was over, the Cats were up 11-0 and went on to cruise to a 14-1 victory at Hi Corbett Field to close out a disappointing 22-33 season that will find them sitting out post-season play.

While it was a fun way to end a season, there is no doubt the Cats would gladly trade places right now with rival Arizona State.  The Sun Devils found out yesterday that they will be playing in the San Luis Obispo Regional (hosted by Cal Poly) as a No. 2 seed.

ASU won nine of their final games to put a cap on a successful regular season that included 19 conference wins, the most in the last four years, and eight conference series wins, which ties for the second-most in a single season in program history.

The Devils finished in third place in the Pac-12, which earned them an at-large berth in the regionals.  They will face No. 3 seed Pepperdine.

Pepperdine squeezed into the national rankings at No. 25, while ASU just jumped up to No. 18 in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll.  The two schools have played each other 15 times over the years, with the Devils winning 10 and enjoying a 3-1 edge in the post-season.

The Waves (39-16) won the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  They’re experiencing one of the best seasons in recent years; their 39 wins are the most for the program since 2006.

That success is due in large part to a solid pitching staff led by the conference Pitcher of the Year, Aaron Brown. The junior left-hander, who has a 10-1 record this season and leads the WCC with 89 strikeouts, is on the watch list for national Pitcher of the Year honors.

ASU (33-22) will counter with its own line-up of some of the Pac-12’s top pitchers, led by a pair of sophomore lefties.   Brett Lilek leads the staff with a 2.59 ERA and a team-high 79 strike-outs and Ryan Kellogg won eight games in his 96 innings on the mound, both team highs.

But a deep pitching rotation is just one part of the equation for ASU this season.  The Sun Devils’ success this season has been fueled by their performance at the plate.  They lead the conference in batting average (.286), slugging percentage (.389), hits (546), and total bases (.741).

A couple of juniors are leading the way, with shortstop Drew Stankiewicz batting .337 and contributing 26 RBIs, and first baseman Nate Causey hitting at a .333 pace with 30 RBIs.  And coincidentally, both played for nearby Gilbert High School.

This is the program’s 31st appearance in the regionals and, should the Sun Devils make it past this step to be able to move on to the super regionals and begin drawing the country’s top teams on the path to the College World Series, they should be ready.  ASU took three 3-game series from top-15 teams this season, beating then-No. 4 Oregon State, No. 9 Oregon, and No. 15 UCLA.  This is the first team in school history to accomplish that feat.

And their 33 wins this season mark the 52nd consecutive year that the program has recorded 30 or more wins – the longest streak in the country.

A trip to the super regional this season would mark the first since 2011, which would give the Devils a chance to get back to the College World Series for the first time since 2010.

But first things first.  The opener with Pepperdine begins at 1 p.m. Friday.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)