Even given a second consecutive losing season, Arizona State baseball still can accomplish some meaningful team goals.
The Sun Devils (21-28, 11-13 Pac-12) still can finish above .500 in the Pac-12, which would be a significant reversal from last year’s 8-22, last-place showing.
Also, they can win or split the Territorial Cup Series baseball point in a series starting Thursday at Arizona (30-20, 10-14). At No. 43 in the NCAA ratings percentage index, the Wildcats still have hopes of making the 64-team NCAA Tournament field that would be hurt by one or more losses to ASU (No. 117 RPI).
The Territorial Cup Series is tied 10-10 with only the baseball point to be decided.
UA baseball won 6-2 at ASU in a non-conference game March 13 and needs two wins to clinch the Territorial Cup Series point and overall victory. ASU has won four consecutive undisputed series titles.
If the series ends tied — meaning ASU baseball wins two games this week — it will be decided by the final Directors’ Cup standings after the College World Series. Through the Directors’ Cup winter standings, ASU is No. 36 (374.75 points) and UA No. 61 (238).
“The fact it’s your in-state rival and we’re ahead of them in the conference, we are playing for something,” ASU coach Tracy Smith said. “There’s some in-state stuff. Whether that affects recruiting, I don’t know. But it’s important. You want to beat Arizona. Every coach in our department, that’s one star on their schedule every year. It certainly is important for us.
“I always tell our guys, don’t get yourself so amped up that you get out of what you do. But it’ll add a little flair to that series, no doubt. We’re going to try to win Thursday night. We’ll worry about Friday (pitching-wise) when we get through Thursday.”
ASU outfielder Hunter Bishop said, “We don’t like them. Obviously the rivalry will amp it up a little bit, but we’re just going to go take care of business. We know we can beat them. We’ve beat better teams than them. We have to go down there, be consistent and play our game and I think we should do well.”
Coach Tracy Smith, OF Hunter Bishop on home run-robbing catch in ASU baseball win over Pacific
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports
ASU at Arizona
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Hi Corbett Field, Tucson.
TV/radio: Pac-12 Network/KDUS-AM (1060).
Outlook: ASU won 8-3 over Pacific on Monday for a split of its final non-conference series…. The Sun Devils have six games remaining and need at least three wins to surpass their 2017 win total (23). … Alec Marsh worked just 1 2/3 innings (42 pitches) in a start Sunday and likely will start Thursday with Eli Lingos pitching Saturday. Marsh started against UA on March 13, giving up four hits and five runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings. … UA won 5-2 at Sacramento State on Monday, bouncing back from being swept at California. The Wildcats won six straight before the Cal series including a sweep of No. 18 UCLA.
GCU finishes away from home
Grand Canyon (30-22 overall, 16-5 WAC) closes the regular season on the road at Seattle (32-18, 13-8) Thursday at 5 p.m., Friday at noon, Saturday at 9 a.m. GCU leads the WAC by 1 game over New Mexico State. The WAC tournament is May 23-26 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. This is the first year that GCU is eligible for the conference tournament, whose champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA postseason.