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Larish powers scrappy Sun Devils

6/15/2005

Here's an in-depth look at the Arizona State Sun Devils, one of the eight teams competing in the College World Series, which starts Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.

Arizona State Sun Devils
Bracket 1
Record: 39-23
Coach: Pat Murphy (11th season)
CWS History: 19th trip to Omaha (last in 1998), five titles (last in 1981)
How They Got Here: Won the Tempe, Ariz., regional in three games, beating Coastal Carolina in the final. Beat Cal State Fullerton in three road games in the super regional.
Players to Watch: Jr. RF/3B Travis Buck (.384-5-40, 26 steals), Sr. 1B/LF Jeff Larish (.316-20-63, .447 on base percentage), Sr. C Tuffy Gosewisch (.332-6-71, 16 doubles), Sr. RHP Jason Urquidez (10-4, 3.72, 92 strikeouts).

Scouting the Sun Devils: Arizona State is the least impressive team of the three Pac-10 teams left. They don't have the arms of USC or Oregon State. They're very good at home, but they could scuffle on road. Still, they do a little bit of everything and have power and speed.

The pitchers throw strikes, but are not overwhelming. We played close games and those guys pitched with pressure and made quality pitches with runners in scoring position. Averill is very average with a fastball at 86-87 mph and a change. If you have the right plan, you can get to Averill quick because he doesn't throw a good breaking ball. Averill does have the ability to pitch to the circumstance, force contact with a lead or pitch around a guy with a base open. The best guy is Urquidez. He's experienced, has a good slider and was the Pac-10 pitcher of the year last year. But this is not super regional pitching.

Buck and Larish can hurt you bad. Larish can hit the long ball and you almost want to walk him late in games because he can end it with one swing. Buck is their best player. He's legit. He can hit lefties and can hit even the best fastballs. This is a predominantly left-handed lineup and a good left-hander really shuts them down. And since they're getting Cal State Fullerton left-handers Ryan Schreppel and Ricky Romero, say good night.

Gosewisch is an experienced catcher and I like him. He's headstrong, runs the game and calls all the pitches. I think the underrated player is the second baseman, Seth Dhaenens. He's a nice player. Joey Hooft is very average at third. J.J. Sferra is a good little freshman who can go get everything in center. These guys like to run a lot. You can try as many pickoff attempts as you like, but it can make it easier for them to pick their spots to steal. It seems like right after you try to pick them off, they go. They all ran well. The pressure stays on you.

Omaha Outlook: Arizona State, which advanced to Omaha for the first time since losing the 1998 national championship game to Southern California, wasn't supposed to make it this far in 2005. The Sun Devils ended the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons at Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Field but upset the defending champion Titans this year as a heavy underdog in the super regional. ASU battled back after a controversial balk call cost it Game 1 of the best-of-three series, its only defeat in the last 10 games.

Coach Pat Murphy's young team showed that tremendously competitive nature all year. A rigorous schedule put Arizona State at 11-11 before it finished tied for third place in the Pac-10.

While the combination of a thin, mix-and-match pitching staff and an offense with little power outside of Jeff Larish (20 homers, 63 RBI) doesn't look particularly scary here in print, there's a special feel surrounding this team. It's speedy, scrappy and likes to take risks (125 steals). Throw in the baggy old-school uniforms, and the underdog-lovers at Rosenblatt Stadium might just have a team to back.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

Editor's note: Baseball America contacted college coaches familiar with the teams for analysis. Anonymity was granted in exchange for their candor.