EV athletes playing key roles in ASU baseball’s historic start - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

EV athletes playing key roles in ASU baseball’s historic start

April 4th, 2019 development
EV athletes playing key roles in ASU baseball’s historic start
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira, Sports Editor

The secret is out. At 21-0, Arizona State University’s baseball team was the final remaining undefeated Division I program in the country.
A slew of talent from East Valley high schools is playing key roles in the Sun Devils’ fast start, now 25-2.
“There’s a lot of good high school baseball, first and foremost,” said Ben Greenspan, ASU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. “There’s some great coaches and programs all over the state and we are lucky to have a majority of those in the East Valley.
“Every player is able to play at our level right away.”
Sophomore outfielder Trevor Hauver, a Perry High alum, who has seven home runs, is hitting .391 and has knocked in 25 runs, said some of the success can be traced to how they prepare.
“We aren’t looking toward any one series, we are just focused on the next game,” Hauver said. “I think it’s helped that we don’t look past any of the teams.”
Hauver was part of the 2017 ASU recruiting class that included Basha infielder Gage Workman, Skyline pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi and Hamilton infielder Drew Swift. All are contributing.
“When we played each other in high school, we all knew who each other were,” Hauver said. “It was friendly competition but we talked a lot of smack. We will be in the locker room now and we will see the scores for the high school season going on and we’ll talk.”
Greenspan, head coach Tracy Smith – an Ahwatukee resident – and the staff scour the East Valley every year for recruits.
Next year, ASU will have more.
It recently signed Mountain Pointe pitcher Nick Wallerstedt, the son of former Sun Devil football standout, Brett Wallerstedt. Nick, the Pride football team’s starting quarterback for two-plus seasons, chose baseball over football.
“I’m very excited to join them,” Wallerstedt said. “I went to one of their games against Notre Dame and it looked like a Major League team playing a Little League team. It’s pretty cool.”
Corona del Sol infielder Brian Kalmer also has signed with the Sun Devils, as have two players from Tucson.
The area in and around Ahwatukee is a hotbed for recruiting. It might help that the ASU staff lives close by.
“‘Skip’ lives right next to Desert Vista and I live close to Corona del Sol, so we are tucked right into that area,” Greenspan said. “Not that you set your recruiting based on where you live but sometimes it’s nice to catch a high school game close to home.”
ASU’s 21-0 was the second-best start in school history. The 2010 team holds the school-record best start at 24-0.
Among those on that 2010 roster was Desert Mountain High alum and current Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly.
“They’re catching up,” Kelly said, laughing. “I hope they get to it and break it. That’s a cool record to break.”
Alas, the streak ended at 21 and Kelly and teammates still hold the mark.
However, in what appeared to be a make-or-break season for Smith, the Sun Devils are breaking out.
With their strong defense and power at the plate, they cracked the national top-25 the first week of March. They were No. 10 in the USA Today coaches’ poll by mid-month and No. 5 going into April.
That’s serious stuff, yet friendly banter is common among the East Valley alums.
Hauver and Swift played on the same team in junior high and a club team with Vander Kooi.
Hauver doesn’t let Swift forget that he started over him at shortstop in eighth grade. Workman reminds Hauver of the time Basha no-hit Perry in 2017. Vander Kooi often brings up how he and the rest of the 2017 class turned around the Skyline program.
“I’ve heard ‘Chandler Unified (School District)’ more in the last two years than I have since I got here,” Greenspan said. “It’s like a chant.”
Swift usually gets the last word.
“Drew always likes to bring up that he won three out of the four state championships,” Vander Kooi said. “In my junior and senior years at Skyline we had 20-plus wins so I like to brag about that a little bit, but you can’t beat all of the championships.”
Vander Kooi is 3-0 with 34 strikeouts and 20 walks. The dominant ASU pitching staff has held opponents to .235 batting. The Sun Devils have served up just 15 home runs.
“Our pitchers are doing our thing and keeping us in ball games, and our hitters are mashing right now,” Workman said. “We are all playing for each other.”
Workman’s batting average has improved from .276 as a freshman to .324. He has 22 RBI. His first two homers came against Washington State. The next day, he added another, matching his total from all of last season.
“Hitting, defense, base running — everything is better,” Workman said. “All of the reps and at-bats from last season have helped. Anytime you get more reps, the better you are.”
The success of the East Valley players in ASU’s 2017 signing class reflects the caliber and depth of Division I talent the region produces each year.
The East Valley recruiting scene is now crowded with Valley institutions Grand Canyon, Benedictine Mesa and Park Gilbert entering the fray, joining the University of Arizona and other Division I schools outside of the Valley.
Some players may head away from home, but the four former East Valley prep players are pleased that they stayed close to home and play key roles as ASU recovers from a few off years.
“Growing up, I went to Packard (Stadium) all the time,” Vander Kooi said. “My whole family has gone here, so I wanted to come and carry over that tradition.”