Cougars head to desert to face ASU Thursday

Sun Devils are tied for first in Pac-12



WSU baseball meets pregame before taking on the Linfield Wildcats at Bailey-Brayton Field, March 29.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU baseball (18-9, 5-6) is headed to Phoenix to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils for a three-game series starting Thursday.

All time, the Cougs are 19-47 against the Sun Devils. The last time these teams met was late May 2021 when the Cougs won all three games. The Sun Devils were on a seven-game winning streak against WSU until the Cougs’ swept them in three.

The Cougs are coming off a four-game homestand over the weekend where the Cougs won all four, including two against the No. 12 ranked UCLA Bruins. In the second game of the series, the Cougs held the Bruins to just one run.

WSU started the homestand with a 9-1 win over Linfield and ended the stretch Monday with a 6-1 victory against BYU where the Cougs held BYU to just two hits.

Sam Brown, Jonah Advincula and Jacob McKeon each have over 30 hits and 23 RBIs. Brown leads the team with 37 hits, seven homers, 30 RBIs and is batting .385 on the season.

Advincula turned his play up over the weekend as he looked like the Advincula in the first two weeks of the season. The change in production for Advincula has been the switch to have him bat fifth in the order, allowing the batters before him to get on base so he can knock them in.

The starting pitchers for the Cougs were stellar as always over the weekend. Dakota Hawkins and Caden Kaelber each have over 43 strikeouts and Hawkins leads the team with 49, good for third-best in the Pac-12 Conference. Hawkins has allowed 42 hits for 23 runs in 33 innings of work.

Kaelber has 43 strikeouts in 36 innings and has allowed 17 runs on 32 hits. Grant Taylor has also been productive for the Cougs but has allowed five homers on the season while the other weekend starters have allowed one each. Taylor also has 37 strikeouts and has walked 18 batters, a team-high.

Look for these three pitchers to go five-plus innings each in their starts to take the pressure off the relievers.

So far this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils have surprised some people, posting an impressive 20-9 overall record with a Pac-12 record of 7-2, which ties Stanford for best in the Conference.

The Sun Devils started their season winning their first five games, including a three-game sweep of San Diego State. Their first season loss came at the hands of Mississippi State, who won two-of-three against Arizona State.

At the beginning of March, Arizona State had a two-game matchup against then-ranked No. 13 Oklahoma State, who took both games.

The first Pac-12 matchup of the season for the Sun Devils was against the Utah Utes, where Arizona State took two of three. They only lost the last game of the series but had already secured the series victory. After the Utes, Arizona State took care of then-ranked No. 25 Grand Canyon University, winning 11-1.

The next Pac-12 matchup was against rival school Arizona Wildcats where the Sun Devils swept the Wildcats decisively. Arizona State scored 23 runs in the series while holding the Wildcats to 15.

Their last conference series before the Cougs was against the Cal Golden Bears, where the Sun Devils took two of three once again. The Sun Devils have won all three Conference series matchups they have taken part in so far in 2023. With seven Conference series matchups left in the season, the Sun Devils have almost solidified a place in the second-ever Pac-12 baseball tournament.

Offensively, the Sun Devils are led by Ryan Campos and Nu’u Contrades. Campos leads the team with 46 hits, with a batting average of .430. He also has 19 RBIs on the season and five homers. Contrades has 29 RBIs and 24 hits to go along with six homers. Jacob Tobias leads the Sun Devils with 32 RBIs on 36 hits.

Khristian Curtis and Ross Dunn lead the Sun Devils’ pitching staff. Curtis has pitched 31.1 innings and has struck out 32 batters while walking 20. He has an ERA of 6.61 with 25 runs on 29 hits. Dunn leads the Sun Devils with 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. He has allowed 18 runs on 25 hits and walked 14 batters.

After the road series against the Sun Devils, the Cougs will take on Seattle U at 3 p.m. Wednesday.