Baseball faces ASU in conference matchup

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Emily Gauci | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball outfielder Joseph Maggi (15) sets up to receive a toss back to the bag as a USC Trojan slides back to first base during Arizona's 4-1 loss to USC at Hi Corbett Field on April 2. Maggi and the Wildcats take on ASU in a rare nonconference game between the rivals today.

Arizona baseball’s Joseph Maggi and ASU have a history almost as deep-seated as the two schools themselves.

Maggi had his eyes set on playing baseball at ASU as a high school senior at Brophy College Prep. Two of his older brothers, Drew and Beau Maggi, played baseball for the Sun Devils, and Joe Maggi grew up watching them make it to Omaha, Neb., in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010.

But, as his senior year wound down, it was Arizona, not ASU, that recruited him.

“ASU is where I learned college baseball from,” Maggi said. “After coming here [to Arizona], I took a lot of criticism for it. I had to earn my own way; it kind of means more after everything like that happening to be where [Arizona] is today.”

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Now, he has a final shot of redemption. Maggi, a senior, plays his second-to-last regular season game against the Sun Devils tonight at Hi Corbett Field.

He sat out the three-game series — which ASU took two-to-one — two weekends ago due to a hamstring injury he sustained nearly two months ago.

“They told me if I wanted to play, I’d have to play through the pain,” Maggi said, “so it is what it is right now.”

Since the injury, Maggi made his first two starts over the weekend at Oregon State, and Arizona lost two of three to the Beavers.

Arizona has now lost seven of its last nine games, recording only 16 total hits against Oregon State. The Wildcats are averaging almost 11 hits per game this season.

Utility player Bobby Dalbec, who has hit as many home runs as the rest of the team combined (12), and had three in the series against ASU, said Maggi’s experience should help Arizona find its way back to the tenacious team it needs to be to make it to the postseason.

“I think he’s our best defensive first baseman, and he always battles up there at the plate,” Dalbec said. “It’s good to have as many guys on the field who won a national championship as you can, and putting him out there with Riley Moore definitely helps.”

Arizona has a 24-13 overall record this season and 9-9 in Pac-12 Conference play, just snubbing them of a shot at going to regionals if the season were to end right now, according to collegesportsmadness.com.

However, Arizona coach Andy Lopez says the goal isn’t out of reach.

“You can just look at the scores as to how well we’ve been playing,” Lopez said. “But they’re all big games. Especially at this late stage in the season, they all become big games.”

Lopez said he will start a right-hander but is unclear whether it will be Austin Schnabel or Nathan Bannister. Bannister started Saturday and went 6.1 innings, giving up eight hits and one run.

Lopez said the reason Bannister would start is because it’s his bullpen day, so he would replace his bullpen with a start and would throw 40-45 pitches. But, according to Lopez, it depends on how he feels.

With power hitters like Dalbec, Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman, and with the pitching rotation more settled since the beginning of Pac-12 play, Lopez says this Arizona team needs to string offense and defense together to beat ASU.

“You’ve got to get the big hit, and you’ve got to get the big pitch,” Lopez said. “We haven’t made an error in, I think, our last eight games, but you just have to get the big pitch with two outs and the big hit with bases loaded.”

Lopez said Tuesday he’s looking to start J.J. Matijevic at first base against ASU over Maggi because of his offensive contribution. However, Maggi may still come in for the last few innings of the game.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field.

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