ASU vs. Arizona: Previewing the Territorial Cup showdown in Tucson

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

A quick look at the Devils and Wildcats heading into the weekend series

ASU and U of A have already met twice on the diamond, splitting those two games played up in Tempe.

Well, the real series is upon us, as a Territorial Cup point is on the line, and more importantly, the series that counts in the Pac-12.

Here's a look at the pitching matchups, and the TV info:

FRIDAY (7 PM, Pac-12 Networks): James Farris (4-5, 4.23 ERA) vs. Brett Lilek (3-2, 1.98)

SATURDAY (7:30 pm, Pac-12 Networks): Cody Hamlin (5-2, 2.32) vs. Ryan Kellogg (5-2, 3.61)

SUNDAY (4:30 pm, ESPNU): Tyger Talley (1-1, 4.38) vs. Darin Gillies (1-3, 3.96)

Arizona has been all over the place this year, but after being swept at USC last weekend, the Wildcats sit at just 6-12 in conference play.  It seems as though USC has turned a corner with their pitching staff, throwing a shutout against UCLA on Thursday this week.

UA managed to put together just 12 total hits for the entire series.  How many hits did the Wildcats rack up against ASU on April 9th? 14.

There's reason to believe that there will not be a pitcher's duel this weekend.  Arizona (.287) and ASU (.285) are 2nd and 3rd in the conference in batting average, while the Wildcats have the worst ERA (4.73), and the Sun Devils (3.81) are 8th.

ASU's bullpen has been their weak point.  All three of their weekend starters have ERAs below 4, but the bullpen has blown several games that the Devils should have won.  As a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, they'll need that bullpen to be in lockdown mode this weekend to not pick up bad losses to Arizona.

The Sun Devils' leading hitter is first baseman Nathaniel Causey, who is batting at a .353 clip this year.  Zach Gibbons is Arizona's second-best average guy with that exact same .353.  Leading hitter Scott Kingery is still listed as day-to-day with the bone bruise and sprained ankle he suffered against UCLA, but the sophomore did DH in the last game of the USC series, which gives hope that he'll at least be in the lineup even if he's not able to play center field.

The guys to watch for Arizona are the group of juniors: Riley Moore, Joseph Maggi, and Trent Gilbert.  In 12 career games against ASU, this threesome has hit a combined .356, with Gilbert leading the way at .412.

It's no secret that Maggi gets up for these ASU games, after he was snubbed by the Sun Devils during recruiting while his brother Drew was there.  Expect to see Maggi at first base this weekend as coach Lopez gets either Kenny Meimerstorf or Tyler Krause more experience in the starting lineup out in right.

What'll be crucial to UA's success this weekend though is hitting with runners on base, and getting early leads.  Arizona is 13-0 this year when leading after six innings.  That seems insane considering that they are just 17-23 overall.  That puts them at 4-23 when not leading after six.

With runners on base, the Wildcats are hitting just .260.  Opponents are hitting .329.

With two outs?  Arizona's .210 while their opponents are .300.

Leadoff hitting hasn't been an issue for the Cats though.  .357 for UA compared to just .278 for the opponents.

It's a mental game, and that relaxed mentality needs to shine through if the Wildcats stand any chance of taking the series.  It's ASU, so weird things are going to happen.  That's guaranteed.  Let's just hope that they're GOOD weird things.

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