2005 ASU Baseball Preview

The 2005 Sun Devil baseball team begins what should be another exciting season this Friday with a home opener against nationally ranked Long Beach State. Facing nationally ranked teams will be nothing new for the returning players from a 2004 team that finished 41-18 while playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The 2005 Sun Devils led by head coach Pat Murphy, are headed into the season ranked No. 9 by Baseball America and ESPN/Sports Weekly and No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball.

This year's schedule includes 23 games against ranked teams according to the ESPN/Sports Weekly preseason poll. The Devils are picked to finish third in the Pac-10 in both the coaches' poll and by Baseball America and second by Collegiate Baseball. Stanford was the unanimous first place pick in all three polls. Besides having to overcome a tough slate of games, this year's ASU baseball team will be without the services of All-American shortstop and Golden Spikes Award finalist Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia was the Boston Red Sox second round pick (65th overall) in the 2004 MLB draft and a key part to the Sun Devils success in 2004. Even with all the adversity and challenges ahead of them, this year's team is focused and ready to get the season started, with the goal being Omaha something that has eluded the Devils since 1998. When asked about this year's team, head coach Pat Murphy commented, "We have some great leadership, but the number of our newcomers is amazing. I think 60% of our players never played at this level before. It will be interesting. I love the schedule. It's an exciting time." A few of the great leaders Murphy was referring to are seniors Jeff Larish, Jason Urquidez, and Tuffy Gosewisch. Both Larish (13th round; Dodgers) and Urquidez (11th round; Devil Rays) were drafted in the 2004 MLB draft but both chose to return for their senior season. When asked about his return Larish stated, "It wasn't too hard to come back. The way the season ended, I wanted to come back. I want to get to the college world series this year and win it." Larish also spoke about his role as a leader on a young team, "I don't think it's something you can force," he said. "You just fall into it. I'm gonna try to lead by example going out each game and playing hard." Both Larish and Urquidez have been selected as pre-season All-Americans along with Junior Travis Buck who is also being counted on as a leader both on and off the field.

Gosewisch has been named as a Johnny Bench Catcher of the year candidate and was a semi-finalist for the award last year. When asked about this season's outlook Tuffy commented, "It's the best team I've been on here," he said. "I'm really excited to get going."

The following is a DevilsDigest breakdown position-by-position:

Pitching Staff:

The pitching staff was a big question mark in 2004 and might be once again this year but don't tell that to senior Jason Urquidez. When asked if this year's hurlers have what it takes to get them to Omaha here's what he had to say, "We have good experience back from last year and we got better from last year. If we put up numbers like we did last year or better I definitely think we can go there." Senior right-handed pitcher Jason Urquidez will be the go-to-guy this year for the Sun Devils pitching staff. He is one of only eight pitchers that won 12 or more games in the NCAA that are returning from last year. In 2004 he compiled a 12-3 record including a 3.41 ERA and 94 strikeouts. His 12 wins led the Pac-10 and helped him earn First-Team All Pac-10 honors, honorable mention All-American, and he was awarded the team's Pitcher of the Year.

The second spot in the rotation will be junior left-handed pitcher Erik Averill. Averill was a Freshman All-American two years ago after recording an 8-2 record with a 3.66 ERA. Last year Averill saw time as a starter and as a bullpen contributor. His numbers fell off a bit last year after posting a 4-4 record including two saves with a 5.19 ERA. However, he did look good towards the end of last season including a solid performance in the final game of the season against Fullerton.

The number three spot in the rotation will go to junior left-handed pitcher Brett Bordes. Bordes was 3-1 with an 8.55 ERA in 13 appearances eight of them being starts in 2004. When asked about Bordes, Coach Murphy spoke of him in glowing terms. "Brett Bordes has really stepped up and is throwing the ball well." Coach Murphy added that he has been working on his control and that Bordes will surprise some people this year. Some other pitchers who will see plenty of time in the bullpen include, sophomore right-handed pitcher Pat Bresnehan. Bresnehan went 3-2 in 2004 in 23 appearances. He also recorded five saves and a 4.79 ERA. His performance last year was good enough to earn him honorable mention All-Pac-10. Right-handed pitcher Zechry Zinicola also saw plenty of time as a true freshman posting a 4-2 record including eight saves and a team best 3.36 ERA. He was also honorable mention All-Pac-10 and was named second team Freshman All-American by Baseball America because of his play on the mound and at the plate.

One newcomer to watch will be Central Arizona College transfer right-handed pitcher Tony Barnet. Barnet posted great numbers for CAC including a 7-1 record, eleven saves, and a very impressive 2.16 ERA. When asked about this years bullpen coach Murphy went on to say, "Bresnehan tapered off a little at the end of last year, but if you look early on against great competition he was solid. Tony Barnet, is a Junior College transfer that will really be effective, Jeffrey Zinicola gives us a solid six. Sometimes you have to go deeper than that, but we have a solid and consistent six. They're the right type of kids."

Catcher:

Three-year starter Tuffy Gosewisch will handle the catching duties for the 2005 Sun Devils. Tuffy comes back from a 2004 season where he was named a Johnny Bench Award semi-finalist and honorable mention All-Pac-10. He did so by hitting .342 with fourteen doubles, two homeruns, and 49 RBI. This was following a sophomore season in which he hit .340 with nine doubles, two homeruns, and 43 RBI. As much as Tuffy is valued as a hitter he has done an even better job defensively behind the plate. Tuffy is very reliable as an everyday catcher playing in all 59 games last year 58 of those being starts behind the plate.

Backing up Tuffy will be local freshman Austin Stockfish. The switch-hitting catcher was a member of Scottsdale's Desert Mountain High School's baseball team in 2004. Stockfish ended the fall practices playing really well and has made an early impression on the coaching staff. Senior Joel Bocchi who has been a key situational player for the Devils the last two years is expected to redshirt in order to take over the full time catching duties in 2006.

First Base:

The projected starter at first base is sophomore pitcher/infielder and pre-season All-American Zechry Zinicola. Zinicola hit .280, with three homeruns and 26 RBI as a true freshman. He will be relied upon to be a major contributor on the mound as well as at the plate for the Devils. Backing Zinicola up will be utility man Joe Persichina. Last year as a freshman Persichina hit .320 and led the team with a .362 batting average in pac-10 play. He also saw time at four different positions most being at first base where he started 37 games. Both Zinicola and Persichina should get their share of at bats either at one of the infield positions or as the designated hitter.

Second Base:

Senior and University of Miami transfer Joey Hooft should get the start at second base for the Devils. Hooft comes to ASU after starting 39 games for Miami in 2004. He finished the year with a .274 batting average and 18 stolen bases. As a sophomore he hit .373 with four homeruns and 28 RBI. One very important thing that Hooft brings to the team is his big game experience. Hooft has seen playing time in two super regionals as well as the 2003 and 2004 College World Series. Redshirt freshman Jeff Landry should see some action at second base this year as well as true freshman and local product Vinny Biancamano who is a very gifted runner.

Third Base:

Jeff Larish returns to ASU for his senior season and the pre-season All-American will be the starting third baseman for the Devils in 2005. Larish had a stellar sophomore season in which he hit .372 with 80 runs scored, 18 homeruns and led the Pac-10 with 95 RBI. He won numerous awards and honors and was ready for an even bigger junior year. With higher expectations put upon him last year Larish struggled with a wrist injury that hampered him most of the season. Nevertheless, he still managed to hit a solid .308 with 46 runs scored, seven homeruns and 49 RBI. Backing up Larish at third base will be sophomore Seth Dhaenens. Dhaenens saw plenty of action last year playing in 45 games 27 of those being starts at third base. He has a great eye at the plate and will contribute defensively to the Devils in 2005.

Shortstop:

With Pedroia gone true freshman Andrew Romine will have some very big shoes to fill. He is the son of two-time All-American and Devil Alum Kevin Romine who was a major part of Arizona State's last national championship in 1981. Romine is said to have all the tools to become the next great Sun Devil shortstop. Biancamano and Dhaenens should also see some time at shortstop behind Andrew.

Outfield:

Junior All-Pac-10 performer and pre-season All-American Travis Buck will lead the outfield for the Devils in 2005. Buck ended his 2004 season hitting .373 with nine homeruns and 58 RBI. Buck's hot bat continued into the summer where as a member of the gold medal winning Team USA he hit .412 with two homeruns and 14 RBI. The junior will be heavily relied upon to continue his success at the plate as one of the featured hitters and leaders for the Sun Devils. He will be starting in right field.

Sophomore Colin Curtis had a very successful freshman year after hitting .300 with five homeruns and 36 RBI. With his speed and good eye at the plate Curtis could wind up batting very high in the line-up this year. Curtis is also picked as a pre-season All-American and will be making the switch from center field to left field to make room for freshman center fielder J.J. Sferra son of current Sun Devil assistant Jay Sferra. J.J. is a local product out of Phoenix's Mountain Pointe high School. He is expected to contribute right away and add great range in center field with his speed, which is one aspect this outfield won't be lacking. When asked about this years outfielders Buck commented, "We've got three really good guys out there who can cover some ground so it should be fun to watch." Other names to look for in the outfield include freshman D.J. Butler, redshirt freshman Eric Williams, and local product and redshirt freshman Rocky Laguna.

The 2005 Sun Devil baseball team is geared up and ready to go. With great coaching and plenty of talent this team is ready to take Sun Devil baseball back to its glory days. The players are focused and ready, the coaching staff has worked hard all year to prepare these guys to take that next step. The new renovations to the Packard Stadium look spectacular and now they need our support all season long, rooting them on all the way to Omaha.

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