By the Pac-12 Conference
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Six Pac-12 baseball teams--five of which were postseason participants in 2012-- have been ranked in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association 2013 Division I preseason poll, the NCBWA announced on Monday. Four Pac-12 schools cracked the top 10, and all six are ranked in the top 25 in the poll, while one other Conference school received votes. The Pac-12’s four representatives in the top 10 are tied with the SEC for the most by any conference. Additionally, its six top-25 teams are the second-most by any conference.
UCLA will open the season at No. 5 in the poll, followed by Stanford at No. 7 and Oregon at No. 8. Oregon State checked in at No. 10, defending national champion Arizona landed at No. 14, and Arizona State received a No. 22 preseason billing. Washington is among the unranked vote-getters.
UCLA is coming off a season in which it claimed a share of the Pac-12 title and earned a berth in the College World Series. The Bruins pitching staff, headlined by preseason All-American Adam Plutko, figures to be among the best in the nation.
Stanford is led by Mark Appel, who was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and opted to return for his senior season. Appel posted a 10-2 record a season ago and led the Pac-12 with 130 strikeouts.
Oregon returns a bevy of experienced players and will rely on production from reliever Jimmie Sherfy and one of the stronger bullpens in the country. Sherfy led the Pac-12 with 19 saves in 2012.
Oregon State enters the season with an experienced lineup, as it returns nine players that started at least 24 games in 2012, including reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Michael Conforto.
Arizona, which led the Conference in team batting average (.329) on the way to winning the College World Series championship in 2012, will look to reigning Pac-12 batting champ Johnny Field to provide a spark on offense. Field also led the league in runs and walks last season.
Arizona State’s lineup will feature plenty of youth in 2013, but the Sun Devils have an experienced ace in right-hander Trevor Williams. Williams posted a 12-2 record and managed a Conference-low 2.05 ERA among qualified starting pitchers in 2012.
To view the complete NCBWA 2013 Division I preseason poll, visit www.ncbwa.com.