By Jose Saldana
No. 2 Stanford baseball (24-5, 6-3 Pac-12) will face a familiar heat when Arizona State (14-19, 6-6) comes to Sunken Diamond for a three-game series beginning on Friday. This series finale on Sunday will be the 200th contest between the two programs with Stanford holding a 95-102 overall record.
In their last series, the Cardinal played a top-tier UCLA team, eventually dropping their first series of the year. The pitching staff gave up 26 runs across the three games.
Stanford followed up that series with a Tuesday victory over Santa Clara. Freshman pitcher Brendan Beck made his second appearance against the Broncos. His first came in his collegiate debut.
Both starts materialized in very much the same way as Beck plowed through the Santa Clara batting order. On Tuesday, the Cardinal won 7-2 and Beck pitched 6.0 innings and delivered a career-high six strikeouts.
Arizona State is coming into the weekend matchup 5th in the Pac-12 and riding a three-game losing streak, failing twice against USC and then once to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The Sun Devils feature a couple of fear-inducing hitters in junior Gage Canning and freshman Spencer Torkelson.
Canning’s batting average is right at the four century mark (.400) which is third in the Pac-12. He hits triples like no other player in the nation, with nine on the season which ranks first in the country. His blend of hitting ability and speed could prove dangerous against a defense caught napping.
Torkelson has otherworldly power as be broke ASU’s school record for most home runs hit by a freshman. The previous record holder was San Francisco Giants legend Barry Bonds who had 11 in 64 games. Torkelson hit his 12th home run in only 26 games. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman is still chugging along as his current total of 16 homers ranks first in the Pac-12 and in the nation.
For perspective, sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach leads the Cardinal team with eight home runs. Torkelson has double that. Also, anytime you can break one of Barry Bonds’ records at any level is truly special.
The Cardinal are fifth in the conference in home runs allowed with 15, so the pitching staff will certainly need to be careful throwing to Torkelson and Canning, or else their strikes will end up being lawn ornaments on the other side of Sunken Diamond’s walls.
The Arizona State pitching staff is a lot less intimidating than its offense with an ERA that ranks seventh in the conference (4.14). The Cardinal’s ERA ranks third and is more than a run better.
Juniors Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic have to be careful with their command, but the offense should have plenty of opportunities to bail out the aces on the mound.
Tristan Beck will get the Friday start, with Bubic getting the Saturday start and sophomore Erik Miller rounding it out in the Sunday spot.
The three-game series starts on Friday at 6:05 p.m., on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. and on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. in Sunken Diamond. Every game will be broadcast by Pac-12 Plus’ live stream.