At the start of every baseball season, Arizona State has its sights set on one place: Omaha, Nebraska. The place where the College World Series is held every year, an event that Arizona State has been to 22 times, the last coming in 2010. This year however, the Sun Devils are banned from the postseason as part of a series of infractions handed down by the NCAA.
Despite the fact that ASU will miss the postseason for the first time in 12 years, the Sun Devils remain upbeat and confident heading into 2012.
"I look at this thing (postseason ban) as an unusual circumstance but by any means it has not changed who we are, (it) hasn't changed how we're preparing, hasn't changed the excitement and how we are about this season," said head coach Tim Esmay.
The Sun Devils lose seven position players who contributed in 2011 including: Zach McPhee, Zach Wilson, Matt Newman and Johnny Ruettiger.
ASU returns All Pac-12 selection Deven Marrero. Marrero hit .315 with 20 RBI's last season for the devils. He is considered one of the top defensive shortstops in the country and figures to be a high draft pick in June's MLB Draft.
"It has been a joy to watch that man grow up," said coach Esmay about Marrero.
ASU also returns the Pac-10's top hitter from 2011, Joey DeMichele. DeMichele led the Pac-10 in batting average (.368), slugging percentage (..663), triples (7), and total bases (128) in 2011. DeMichele was named First Team All Pac-10, Third Team All American by Baseball America and First Team All Academic Pac-10 in 2011.
DeMichele was used mostly as a DH last season but will transition to the field in 2012. "Knowing this year that maybe I'll play a bigger role defensively is pretty important to me," said DeMichele.
ASU returns one of the best pitching staffs in the Pac-12. Brady Rodgers leads the ASU staff, Rodgers went 9-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 98.1 innings pitched last season.
Sophomore Trevor Williams will transition from the bullpen into the starting rotation this season. Williams appeared in 32 games last season posting an ERA of 2.50 in 39.2 innings pitched and one save. "My mentality has changed," said Williams about becoming a starter. "Comfort wise, I have never been more comfortable on the mound," said Williams.
Junior Jake Barrett will likely move from the starting rotation to the bullpen in 2012. Barrett started 14 games in 2011, posting an ERA of 4.14. Barrett was plagued with arm injuries last season forcing him to miss the teams Super Regional against Texas. As a freshman, Barrett made 28 relief appearances, posting an ERA of 3.41.
Even though there will be no Omaha run for the Sun Devils in 2012, ASU has set its sights high in 2012. "Winning the Pac-12 is our College World Series," said Marrero.
"Everyone is overlooking us, that keeps leaves a chip on our shoulders," said Brady Rodgers, who also reiterated Marrero's statement. "Our first goal is to win the conference."
Coach Esmay does not see ASU baseball leaving national prominence anytime soon. "This program is not going anywhere."