The 2005 Arizona State baseball team (42-25) gave us fans a season to remember, as the team was just one win away from playing for a national title in Omaha. After a rocky regular season with many ups and downs, the 2005 Sun Devil baseball team got hot when it mattered most, as they made an amazing post-season run to put themselves in position for a shot to play for the title.
Last year’s team was led by All-American infielder Travis Buck, team captain and catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, and the homerun heroics of Arizona State’s all-time homerun leader and first baseman Jeff Larish. Combined the three players accounted for nearly half the teams runs, runs batted in, and hit 35 of the team’s 50 homeruns, including 23 by Larish. The bad news is that all three have moved on to pursue their careers in the Major Leagues. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, the Devils also lost their top two pitchers from last year’s team. The dynamic duo of right-handed ace Jason Urquidez and crafty lefty Erik Averill combined to win 21 of the team’s 42 wins. They also started 37 of the team’s 67 games and both were nearly untouchable in the post-season. After losing names and numbers like these, most teams would be happy to have a half way decent season the following year. Well, not these Devils, they have bigger goals in mind.
The 2006 Sun Devil baseball team knows they have some big shoes to fill and a tough act to follow, but they’re confident in who they have returning and in the new additions from this year’s incoming class. The most recognizable name coming back from the 2005 team is preseason All-American outfielder Colin Curtis. Curtis was one of the team’s most reliable bats last year, as he was second on the team with a .342 batting average. Curtis also scored 52 runs while driving in 45 and was second on the team with 17 stolen bases. Curtis is ready to take this team on his shoulders and has already shown his true leadership skills by giving up his scholarship to help the team out. Curtis also knows he can’t go out and put too much pressure on himself.
“There’s no reason for me to do more, or to try to do something I can’t (on the field)”, said Curtis. He went on to say, “One day you step on campus and they’re gone (former players), and you got to realize, maybe it’s my time to help these younger guys learn the game and kind of step into the same roll as Tuffy and Larish provided for me when I was a freshman.” As far as this teams expectations, Curtis commented, “We know we can get there (Omaha), but it’s a long season so we can’t say we’re excited to go back. We don’t know how the season’s going to turn out, but I think it helps that we have the experience there and we know when it comes down to it we know how to play. It’s our goal, it’s our number one objective”.
Curtis knows he has to stick to his game and lead by example, especially considering the youth of this team and all the new faces. The Sun Devils added 13 new players to the roster and according to Collegiate Baseball, the Devils had the No. 2 ranked incoming class. Six of the 13 incoming recruits are true freshman, including two highly touted valley products, infielder Matt Hall (Horizon HS), and left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Ike Davis (Chaparral HS).
When asked about his feelings on the upcoming season, here’s what Coach Murphy remarked: “It’s a new experience. It’s a year later and everybody is excited. I’m excited about the guys we’ve got on the club…It’s a new year, a new opportunity, and our expectations are always the same. A lot of people say, ‘Boy you lost everybody, all your production in pitching, all of your offensive numbers, all your home runs’. I just don’t look at it that way. It’s time for some people to move on in this kind of game and it’s time for some people to step up. Our schedule is going to certainly prepare us.”
The Devils will face another very tough schedule this season, as they begin the season ranked #16 in Baseball America’s preseason poll. 27 of the 56 games on this year’s schedule are against teams that made the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The season begins this weekend with a three game series against Cal State-Northridge. Some out of conference notables include, Auburn, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M, Rice and TCU.
Breaking down the Devils position by position.
Pitching is the vital to being successful; just ask head coach Pat Murphy. When asked about the key to this season he replied: “Our starting pitching. We’ve got a deep pitching staff. We’ve got a lot of guys that can get a hitter out or two. So, our starting pitching has to give us some innings.”
The Devils return four pitchers that saw significant time last season. Junior right-hander Pat Bresnehan returns with the most experience. Bresnehan started 11 games for the Devils in 2005 posting a 5-4 record with a 5.60 ERA. Bresnehan started out last season in the bullpen, but looks to take the mound as a starter to begin the 2006 campaign.
Bresnehan really came on towards the end of the year and looked very good in his post-season performances picking up a win in the regional series against Coastal Carolina and one in Omaha, as he pitched 3.1 scoreless innings against the Cornhuskers. Bresnehan is a power pitcher who will go right after the hitter. He recorded 79 strikeouts in just 88 and a third innings pitched.
Zechry Zinicola is another hard throwing right-hander that returns from last year’s team. Zinicola also saw time out of the bullpen as the closer and as a starter for the Devils last season. Zinicola made 27 appearances for the Devils in 05, eight of them being starts. He recorded a 4-4 record to go along with four saves and a 5.48 ERA. Zinicola was placed into the staring roll in Omaha and looked great when he had his control. Being able to consistently find the strike zone will be the key for Zinicola this season, as he takes the mound as a starter this year.
The third starter in the rotation might vary based on match ups and performance. Right now, it looks as if true freshman Ike Davis will get the nod. Davis is a hard throwing left-hander who comes to ASU after a very successful high school Career. Davis was a perfect 23-0 with a 1.85 ERA including 14 saves in his high school career at Chaparral HS. He is the son of former major league pitcher Ron Davis and comes in with plenty of hype and the talent to back it up. Davis will also see time as a DH, where he’s expected to add some pop with his 6’5’’ 200 pound frame.
The closer role will go to left-handed senior Brett Bordes. Bordes returns to ASU after ending last season with a disappointing performance in the finale against Florida. Bordes gave up two huge homeruns as the Gators came back to eliminate the Devils. With last season behind him, Bordes looks to provide the staff with his senior leadership and experience in the bullpen. Bordes tied for the team lead with four saves last season. He also posted 5-7 record, with a 4.24 ERA in 38 appearances.
Fellow senior right-hander Tony Barnette also saw significant last season, pitching in 29 games for the Devils. Barnette finished the year with a record of 4-1 with a 7.02 ERA. Barnette’s biggest problem has been his consistency. He’d look great one outing, and then get drilled the following outing. If Barnette can find some consistency, he’ll be a definite factor out of the pen or as the third starter on occasion.
It’s up in the air right now as far as the rest of the staff goes and who will see significant time. Freshman right-hander Jake Borup (Mesa-Mountain View HS) and left-hander Jeff Urlaub (Horizon HS) might get some out of the bullpen this season. Urlaub looked good in his outing last Saturday in the Alumni game. Junior transfers Brady Martinez (Utah), Brett Bruneel (Delta College), and Matt Trink (Yavapai College) all look to come in and contribute to the bullpen. Martinez was 4-3 with seven saves for Utah in 2003 before going on a two-year mission to the Dominican Republic. The Devils also welcomed back two former players, Frank Mesa and Daryl Arreola. Both are right-handers and look to be factors their second time around. Mesa can also play the infield for the Devils. Senior right-hander Kevin Dryanski, left-handed RS-freshman Drew Bowman, and left-hander sophomore Josh Satow round out the bullpen. Satow saw action as a true freshman last year, recording a 1-0 record with a 6.75 ERA in four appearances.
It will be a tough task replacing last year’s senior captain and leading RBI man Tuffy Gosewisch. Gosewisch was one of the team leaders last season and was “Mr. Clutch” all year long. Gosewisch was just as valuable defensively for the maroon and gold and someone will need to step it up this year and pick up where Tuffy left off. True freshman Preston Paramour (Allen, Texas) looks to have the early edge on the catching duties. Paramour was a highly touted recruit earning Collegiate Baseball All-American honors his senior year. Paramour provides some power at the plate and can hold his own behind defensively. Sophomore Austin Stockfish will be the other man battling it out for the catching duties. Stockfish hit .500 has a true freshman last year, getting nine hits in 18 at-bats.
South Mountain C.C. transfer and local valley product C.J. Retherford (Hamilton HS), has looked great at third base and looks to be the starter this coming weekend. Retherford is very solid defensively and was a .329 hitter in his two years at South Mountain. Fellow valley product and true freshman Matt Hall (Horizon HS) will play shortstop for the Devils. Hall was selected 5A First-Team All-State his senior year after hitting .383 with 10 homeruns and 34 RBI’s. He will take over for Kevin Romine who will take his redshirt this season after undergoing surgery this off-season to remove a blood cot from his chest.
Junior Joe Persichina will man second base for the Devils this season. Persichina hit just .214 this past season in limited time, but his strength is his fielding ability, something the Devils struggled with at times this past season. Sophomore Willy Fox and true freshman Brett Wallace (Sonoma, Cal./Juniper-Siena HS) will platoon at first. They take over for Jeff Larish, who belted 23 homeruns last season for ASU. Fox hit .295 with four homeruns and 27 RBI’s this past season as a true freshman. With a 6’2’’ 260 pound frame, Wallace will provide plenty of pop from the left-hand side of the plate for the Devils. Wallace finished his prep career with a .464 batting average, 143 hits, 141 runs, 123 RBI’s, and 30 homeruns.
Junior Seth Dhaenens will serve as the utility man for ASU this season. Dhaenens can play a variety of positions and might be starting somewhere before the season’s done. Dhaenens hit .312 with 31 RBI’s and two homeruns in 05. Sophomore Eric Sogard can also play a variety of positions in the infield. Sophomore Jeff Landry and junior transfer Ben Bando (Master’s College) may also see some time in the infield.
The outfield will probably be the strongest position for the Devils. Besides returning preseason All-American Colin Curtis the Devils bring back starting centerfielder J.J. Sferra. Sferra started 56 games last year as a true freshman and posted a .311 batting average, while scoring 36 runs and driving in 22. Sferra was also very solid defensively and came up big in the postseason for the Devils.
The Devils also added sophomore transfer Ryan Sontag (Michigan State). As a true freshman last season, Sontag was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after hitting .349 with 10 doubles, two triples, one homerun, and 17 RBI’s. Sontag is a speedy outfielder that is slated to play left field for the Devils. When asked about the outfield Murphy said, “Sontag takes pride in defense, J.J. takes pride in defense, and Colin takes pride in defense. It’s an outfield where you expect every ball that hangs up there to be caught.” Junior Rocky Laguna and sophomore D.J. Butler will add depth to the outfield. Laguna has shown flashes of good things in the past, he just needs to do it on a consistent basis.