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Baseball: Larish's troubles appear to be behind him

Junior has overcome slump, injury with nine-game hit streak

 by Matt Schubert
 published on Friday, April 30, 2004

ASU left fielder Jeff Larish has his eye on the ball during the Sun Devils´ 16-5 victory over Connecticut on February 28 at Packard Stadium. Larish is currently on a nine-game hit streak./issues/sports/676151
ASU left fielder Jeff Larish has his eye on the ball during the Sun Devils´ 16-5 victory over Connecticut on February 28 at Packard Stadium. Larish is currently on a nine-game hit streak.


Coming into the season, ASU junior left fielder Jeff Larish was rated as one of the top 10 college prospects in the country, a tough weight to shoulder considering he still had a season to play in college.

Many juniors have struggled under the heavy expectations and pressure of the looming professional draft. It has been no different for Larish, who got off to a slow start in the first couple of months. Then, as Larish began to regain his stroke in mid-March, he went down with a wrist injury that put him back at square one.

But with the way Larish has performed at the dish over the last three weeks it appears that all of that frustration may be on its way toward the rearview mirror.

With two hits in Wednesday's contest against No. 10 Wichita State, Larish extended his current hit streak to nine games -- his longest of the season and the longest current Sun Devil streak. Over that span, Larish has hit .350 (14-for-40) with 10 RBIs and nine runs scored.

"With Larish swinging it the way he is, and the people surrounding him swinging well too, it just gives everybody confidence knowing that it doesn't have to be just one person," junior utility man Josh Asanovich said.

Success against ranked teams

If the Sun Devils could bottle up their performances against ranked teams this season, it is quite possible that they could kick Gatorade, POWERade and All Sport to the curb -- POWERade is the official drink of the ASU baseball team.

Already the Sun Devils have played an outstanding 13 games against ranked teams, the most among Pac-10 squads. Once again against Wichita State, the Sun Devils came through.

"We've played the toughest schedule in the nation and everybody knows it," head coach Pat Murphy said. "We went everywhere to play anybody."

So far this season, the Sun Devils are a combined 12-1 versus teams ranked in the top 25, the best record of its kind in the country. Only Long Beach State (11-2 versus ranked foes) can compare with the Sun Devils.

"I think our schedule has held up the way it should have, and this is just part of it," Asanovich said. "Two wins like this, in this atmosphere, is probably one of the best confidence boosters we could have had."

Buck selected for USA Baseball

Sophomore right fielder Travis Buck could already be on his way to being named an All-American this season. On Thursday, Buck was selected to compete at the USA Baseball National Team trials.

Buck was one of 19 players chosen to try out for USA Baseball, with 17 more to be named at a later date. All 36 players will compete for 20 roster spots to be given after a June 20-26 tryout in Durham, N.C.

Last summer, Buck tried out for the team along with juniors Dustin Pedroia and Larish. While Larish and Pedroia made the team -- Pedroia player for USA Baseball twice -- Buck fell short.

So far this season, Buck is off to a superb start. Coming into the week, Buck led the Pac-10 in walks (37), was second in RBIs (49), fourth in on base percentage (.487) and tied for sixth in home runs (8).

Top freshman

Murphy loves his team, but there maybe no one he loves more than freshman first baseman Joe Persichina.

Described by Murphy as a guy 'you would give your wallet to after the first day you meet him', Persichina has backed up Murphy's faith in his play on the field.

With just over a month to go in the regular season, Persichina is second among Pac-10 freshman with a .349 batting average and .443 on base percentage. He also has the most hits among freshmen in the Pac-10 with 38. Persichina has also provided an option at second base for the Sun Devils, who have needed help at the position with senior Nick Walsh suffering from back pain.

State Press contributor Brian Gomez contributed to this story.

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