By: Kevin C. Keller
The Sun Devil baseball team tied the best start in school history after Friday’s 12-5 win over Cal in the Pac-10 opener at Packard Stadium.
The win was the team’s 21st straight, and it took place in front of the first sellout of the season at Packard, with 4,371 fans reported. The team knows it is in great company by tying the record set by the 1961 Sun Devils led by celebrated coach Bobby Winkles.
“To even be mentioned with a Bobby Winkles team is amazing,” head coach Tim Esmay told reporters. “That was the ground floor of this program. So trust me, it’s not something I take lightly.”
So far, The Sun Devils are living up to the hype and big expectations placed on them at the beginning of the season. The team, ranked number 1 in the country by the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll, will have to continue to prove itself in a Pac-10 that is widely held to be the best conference in the nation.
UCLA is one of the reasons for the Pac-10’s reputation, proving to be an excellent team this season as well. They are sixth in the nation and they are undefeated at 17-0. ASU faces UCLA in a highly anticipated matchup at the end of April.
College baseball website boydsworld.com has six Pac-10 teams, including ASU, in the top 50 of their strength ratings, and the site has UCLA ahead of ASU in the number one spot.
“The Pac is scary,” Esmay told reporters. “You look at what everybody else is doing, and they’re off to [fast] starts just as much as we are. It really sets up for a fun, energized, competitive Pac-10 [season].”
Junior outfielder Matt Newman led the charge in the win over Cal, tying his career high with five RBIs (runs batted in). Junior right-handed pitcher Seth Blair pitched 5.1 innings, but he allowed four runs in the fifth inning which made the score 7-5.
However, good relief pitching by Mitchell Lambson, Jake Barrett and Brady Rodgers finished off the Golden Bears giving ASU the victory.