Sun Devils getting ready for Wildcat invasion at Phoenix Muni
TEMPE, Ariz. — It doesn’t matter what sport it is: The Sun Devils will always have a strong hatred for the Wildcats.
“It’s a lifetime thing. You’re always going to have those feelings against that team down there,” Sun Devils pitcher Ryan Burr said. “I know coming in, I didn’t like them at all when I came here. That’s not gonna change after I leave. Hoping that we win the series this weekend and take care of business.”
Burr and the Sun Devils are looking to rudely introduce the Arizona Wildcats to how they do things at Phoenix Muni starting Saturday night. This is a crucial series, not only for the fact that the Territorial Cup is on the line, but also because two games separate Arizona State and Arizona in the Pac-12 standings. If the Sun Devils can take care of business like Burr says, they can get some more distance between them and the Wildcats. If they falter, then Arizona could overtake them in the race for No. 1 in the conference.
“It’s a Pac-12 weekend, [and] at the end of the day that’s what you’re trying to do is win that,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “I understand the emphasis that everybody puts on the rivalry piece, and it doesn’t fall lightly on me, but we’ve got to put that out of our mind, because when you strip it back, it’s baseball, we got to play our best baseball.”
“If we don’t do that, you’re right, then we fall in the standings. If we do do that, just like the last weekend, and the weekends coming up, if you play good baseball, you’re gonna put yourself in the hunt,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, whether it’s Arizona or anybody else.”
The team is ranked in the top-10 in several national polls, including USA Today, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Saturday night’s starting pitcher, Seth Martinez, says it’s hard for the team to not follow what’s going on in the national rankings, being that it’s all over social media and the internet, but Martinez says it’s not something they spend a lot of time thinking about, because it could throw them off course if they do.
“We do keep it in mind, because we gotta still do well, because we want to host, we want to do all that to benefit us for Regionals and the postseason,” Martinez said. “We do try to keep it off our minds, but it’s also in the back of our heads, because we know how important it is.”
Martinez says he’s not “feeling it yet,” that being the butterflies and the anxiousness to take the mound against Arizona, but he knows it’ll be there on Saturday afternoon and as it gets closer to game time.
“I’ll be up and ready to go and I’ll feel the juices real early. I’m excited,” Martinez said.
Martinez and the rest of the Sun Devil pitching staff are going to have their hands full this weekend, and Monday, in trying to slow down the best hitting team in the Pac-12, led by infielder Scott Kingery, who’s ripping the cover off the ball this year. Through 30 games, Kingery’s batting a video game like .477. As a team, the Wildcats are batting .327 thanks to Kingery and many others.
“We just gotta stick to the process. Just keep competing in the zone. We can’t let that intimidate us,” Martinez said. “We know we have to be cautious about it. We just gotta stick to the process and keep competing and let the defense do their thing.”
Colby Woodmansee is one of the top hitters in Arizona State’s lineup. He leads the team in hits  and RBI . When the Sun Devils need Woodmansee to stand and deliver, more often than not, he comes through with the big hit. He’s looking forward to the challenge of doing it to the Wildcats time and time again.
“I love thriving in those situations,” Woodmansee said. “I always love getting up to the plate and getting that big hit for my team.”
The Sun Devils are expecting big crowds for the three-game set. A few of the tarps that usually cover the seating down the first base line were taken off, which is a good sign.
“It’ll be a lot of energy in here and a lot of fun,” Woodmansee said.