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CM – ASU baseball field youngest roster of the NCAA baseball championship baseball

Drew Swift has just been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He only made five mistakes this season. (Photo courtesy Sun Devil Athletics)

PHOENIX – When Arizona State kicks off the Texas Regional Round of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, it will line up the youngest roster in the tournament.

The Sun Devils meet Fairfield at 4pm today. Arizona time as the first game in a regional doubles elimination tournament that also includes the 2nd overall University of Texas and Southern University.

Trainer Tracy Smith isn’t worried about Friday’s bright lights setting the Sun. Devils will overwhelm him because he believes the young players have the right attitude.

« I don’t feel like the guys are dizzy or just happy to be there, » he said. “I know that is not the case. Our mindset is, ‘Hey, we expect to win.’ And we expect to play well. « 

Smith attributes this mindset in part to the coaches, but also to the upper-class leadership who taught their younger teammates to compete every day, to work hard and « do whatever it takes ».

He selected Redshirt Juniors Justin Fall on the pitching side and Drew Swift as positional player as special leaders. Smith described Swift, who leads the infield, as « one of the main reasons we are successful. »

Swift, who plays shortstop, is the only regular infielder who is not a novice. Along with Hunter Haas in 3rd place, Sean McLain in 2nd place, and a mix of players in 1st place, Swift has anchored an infield that led the country with 57 doubles this season.

Their efforts resulted in Swift receiving the honor for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He and Haas also made up the Pac-12 All Defense Team.

Smith notes that the other outfielders turn to Swift during games when they are unsure. He also relies on Swift’s judgment to convene Hill visits and realign the team.

« He knows and feels exactly how the game is going, » said Smith. « Having someone like that out there is incredibly valuable. »

For Swift, the trust his young teammates have gained in defense over the course of the season will help the team advance in the tournament.

 » Just keep playing a good defense and I think we’ll come a long way, « he said.

Swift has along with other senior classmates like senior Conor Davis, who hasn’t played this season because of an injury, but competed during ASU’s 2019 tournament appearance, helped his teammates understand what it’s like to play in the NCAA tournament in preparation for Friday.

« These guys did a really good job talking about how special this time is, » said Smith. « This is what you work so hard for, and we have it all ahead of us. »

One lesson Swift learned from his last tournament is not to miss the first game. In 2019, the team looked at the state of Louisiana, which was the big name in its region but couldn’t get past southern Mississippi. Still, he’s glad the Sun Devils are in a region with such a prestigious program as Texas.

« In my opinion, the bigger the school, I thought it would be better if we wanted to go for a run , we’d have to hit someone who is good to get some momentum, « said Swift.

Pitching coach Jason Kelly agreed that they try to keep a mindset for every game while keeping the team excited by they tell stories about what it’s like to go to Omaha for the College World Series.

« When you can explain these things to these guys and they get a little smile on their faces and start thinking, ‘Man, I want to being part of it, ‘then you start to get the ball rolling, « he said.

The team will try to get the ball rolling in Austin against Fairfield. Despite checking movies and stats, they are unfamiliar with Fairfield. The two schools have never played against each other and have no mutual opponents this season.

Fairfield is a Jesuit school in Connecticut. It has an enrollment of just under 5,000 compared to nearly 75,000 ASU. The baseball team plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Smith described Fairfield as impressive. They boast a 37-3 record, a team strike average of .305. and a team ERA of 2.75, which is the best grade in the nation.

“The beauty of the NCAA tournament is the matchups and the ability to bring people from different geographic areas together to compete on the field “, He said.

Redshirt student Tyler Thornton will be ASU’s starting pitcher on Friday. Thornton gave up five runs in 2.1 innings in his final outing against UCLA. ] Kelly thinks stumbling will only encourage him.

Tyler Thornton will take over the hill for the Sun Devils on Friday. He has 70 strikeouts that season. (Photo courtesy Sun Devil Athletics) « When he has a bad outing, he takes it personally and during the week he has a slightly different type of chip on his shoulder, » said Kelly. “I expect him to come out this week and have a really good trip. I have that confidence in him. « 

Thornton wasn’t the only Sun Devil to fight UCLA. The team dropped all three games in the series.

Freshman Ethan Long, who is currently All Pac-12 said the rest of the team will follow Thornton’s pattern to recover from the defeat. « We have to flush it all through, » he said. « We can’t do anything now. At the same time, we can do that as a momentum use a little fire in our bums to get out and come out on Friday. ”

This team is used to leaving bad news in the past as their season was marked by injuries to important players early on with Davis, ASU lost three starting mugs to Tommy John’s operation.

Kelly said on the outside that it looks like these major injuries have messed them up, but their young mugs know nothing else. Kelly called the newbies Jared Glenn and Brock Pe ery as examples of young pitchers who weren’t intimidated into big innings.

Smith agreed with Kelly, saying the team had never lowered their expectations, even with injury after injury.

 » I like the fact that we have to deal with adversity in one form or another all year round, ”he said. « I think that bodes well when we get into the tournament. »

While Smith likes the winning mindset of his players, he wants to be sure that they measure success in more ways than one. It’s hard to win and the team struggled so much to get to this point, including last year’s tournament being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

« Accept this and don’t underestimate how unique it is this is an experience, ”he said. « Yes, we want to win and we will do everything we can to win, but enjoy the experience. »

« It was fun with these guys, » he said. “You are simply resilient. They keep attacking no matter what is thrown at them. ”

Two other schools in Arizona are also participating in the tournament. The University of Arizona was ranked number 5 in the tournament overall. You’re playing Grand Canyon University in the Tucson Regional at 7pm. today. This is the Grand Canyon’s first appearance in the NCAA Baseball Championship.

Catie Cheshire is expected to do her Masters in Sports Journalism in August 2021. Cheshire is a research assistant at the National Center for Disability and Journalism.

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