This Week in Pac-12 Baseball
By the Pac-12 Conference
The first week of Conference play is in the books, and three teams sit in a tie atop the Pac-12 standings after posting weekend sweeps. Oregon State bounced back from its first loss of the season to take three games from Arizona in Tucson. It was the first time an OSU squad had swept Arizona in a series on the road. UCLA and California also kicked off the league slate with series sweeps. Pac-12 teams went 8-2 against non-conference competition last week, bringing their cumulative season record against non-league teams to 113-58 (.661). Five Conference squads enter the week ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll: Oregon State (4), UCLA (7), Oregon (12), Stanford (19) and Arizona State (21). Arizona (NCBWA) and California (Collegiate Baseball) are ranked in other national polls. Washington State was named College Baseball Insider's West Regional Team of the Week after earning its first-ever series victory over Arizona State. The Cougars host Gonzaga on Tuesday, and then welcome Brown to Pullman for a four-game weekend series. Washington is home for four games this week, including a weekend set against USC. In Conference action, Arizona State travels to Corvallis to take on Oregon State, while Arizona and Oregon square off in Eugene. UCLA hosts a weekend series against California, while Utah visits Stanford. The Pac-12 Networks' first season of live baseball telecasts launches this week with three televised games on Sunday. Arizona State and Oregon State kick off the coverage at 12:05 p.m. PT.
Tuesday, March 19
USC at No. 14 Louisville.....6 p.m. ET
No. 21 Arizona State at Texas Tech.....6:30 p.m. CT
Portland at Washington**.....5 p.m. PT
Utah Valley at Utah.....6 p.m. MT
Gonzaga at Washington State.....6 p.m. PT
Wednesday, March 20
USC at No. 14 Louisville.....4:00 p.m. ET
California at San Jose State.....2:30 p.m. PT
Friday, March 22
USC at Washington*.....5 p.m. PT
No. 21 Arizona State at No. 4 Oregon State*.....5 p.m. PT
California at No. 7 UCLA*.....6 p.m. PT
Arizona at No. 12 Oregon*.....6 p.m. PT
Brown at Washington State.....6 p.m. PT
Utah at No. 19 Stanford*.....7 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 23
Brown at Washington State.....12 p.m. PT
California at No. 7 UCLA*.....2 p.m. PT
USC at Washington*.....2 p.m. PT
Arizona at No. 12 Oregon*.....2 p.m. PT
Utah at No. 19 Stanford*.....2 p.m. PT
Brown at Washington State.....2 p.m. PT
No. 21 Arizona State at No. 4 Oregon State*.....2:05 p.m. PT
Sunday, March 24
Brown at Washington State.....12 p.m. PT
No. 21 Arizona State at No. 4 Oregon State*.....P12N.....12 p.m. PT
Arizona at No. 12 Oregon*.....P12N.....12 p.m. PT
USC at Washington*.....P12N.....12 p.m. PT
California at No. 7 UCLA*.....1 p.m. PT
Utah at No. 19 Stanford*.....1 p.m. PT
Monday, March 25
Brown at Washington State.....6 p.m. PT
Games are local to site and subject to change.
Rankings are from USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll
*Pac-12 Conference Game
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona dropped all three games in a weekend series with No. 4 Oregon State, marking the first time it had been swept in a weekend set since April of 2010. The Wildcats, who entered the week averaging a Pac-12-leading 7.4 runs per game, managed just three runs per contest in the series and stranded a combined 19 runners in games two and three. Still, they lead the league in on-base percentage (4.14), hits (180), RBI (1.54) and stolen bases (53) and rank second in batting average (.316) and third in slugging percentage (.428). Arizona pitchers have fanned a Conference-leading 165 batters this season. Brandon Dixon, the league leader in batting average (.430), slugging percentage (.721) and runs scored (34), also leads the Pac-12 and ranks third in the nation with 18 stolen bases.
Arizona State (12-4-1)
Arizona State's pitching staff was tested by a hot Washington State squad that entered the week ranked at or near the top of the league in a number of offensive categories. The Cougars took two of three games from the Sun Devils at Packard Stadium, but ASU held the league's top home run-hitting team without a home run in the series—the Sun Devils have allowed just one home run and one triple in 17 games this season. Freshman left-hander Ryan Kellog gave up one earned run did not allow a hit after the third inning in ASU's 4-1 victory on Saturday. His 0.93 ERA ranks third in the Conference, and his four wins are tied for second. Junior right-hander Trevor Williams has registered 30 strikeouts this season, tied for fourth-most in the league. Offensively, the Sun Devils rank second in the league in slugging percentage (.434) and home runs (11) and third in triples (7) and batting average (.293).
California, which swept Utah in a three game set to open Conference play, has won eight in a row. The Golden Bears have racked up 52 runs during the stretch (6.50 avg.), with 24 of them coming against the Utes (8.0 avg.). They produced just four fewer runs in the three games against Utah than they've allowed in their last nine games (28) combined. First baseman Devon Rodriguez batted .357 in the series with a double, two home runs—including his second career grand slam— and nine RBI. The junior leads the team and ranks eighth in the Conference with a .372 season batting average. Cal cracked Collegiate Baseball's top 30 this week, checking in at No. 27.
Oregon went 4-1 last week, dispatching Texas State in a two-game set then taking two of three from USC on the road to open league play. The Ducks overcame a pair of late-inning deficits on Friday and Saturday to tip the Trojans at Dedeaux Field, a venue at which they had only logged won prior victory. Oregon has picked off a league-high-tying four batters, owns a Conference-best .987 fielding percentage (ranks third nationally) and has committed a league-low 10 errors on the season. Oregon pitchers have rung up 153 batters to rank second in the Pac-12, and its late-inning relievers have gone a perfect 8-for-8 on save opportunities. Junior right-handed pitcher Jimmie Sherfy has collected six saves for the Ducks, who host Arizona this weekend.
Oregon State (19-1)
Oregon State shook off its first loss of the season— a 5-1 decision to San Francisco in Corvallis on Tuesday— to post its first road sweep of Arizona in program history. The Beavers won their first 15 games, the best start by an OSU squad since 1986. The Beavers, who have allowed just 32 earned runs this season, boast an NCAA-low team ERA (1.59), and have held opponents to a .203 batting average. They rank second the Pac-12 and sixth in the nation with 6.56 hits allowed per nine innings and have turned a league-leading 21 double plays (tied with WSU). OSU swept the player of the week honors. Sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after a week in which he batted .421 (8-for-19) with two home runs and four RBI, while senior left-hander Matt Boyd picked up Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week accolades on the strength of a seven-inning two-hit effort against Arizona on Friday.
Stanford returns to action this week and will open Pac-12 play with a weekend series against Utah at Sunken Diamond— it allowed just to runs in a three-game sweep of the Utes last season. The Cardinal looks to regroup after suffering its first sweep of the season in a three game set against UNLV. Senior right-hander Mark Appel has posted a league-high 43 strikeouts in 30 innings and has limited opponents to a .160 batting average. Stanford owns the third-lowest team ERA in the Pac-12 at 2.08, and Cardinal pitchers have struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings, a figure that leads the Conference.
UCLA allowed just two runs in a weekend sweep of Washington in its Pac-12-opening series. The Bruins, which have gone 32 consecutive innings without giving up a run, have allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of their 18 games this season. The national leaders in WHIP (0.94), they rank fifth in the nation hits allowed per nine innings (6.39) and sixth in walks per nine innings (2.08). Additionally, their 2.02 ERA ranks second in the Conference and seventh in the country. UCLA has limited opponents to a Pac-12-low .201 batting average. A trio of Bruin pitchers—Grant Watson (5th, .173), Cody Poteet (6th, .177) and Grant Watson (7th, .192)—rank in the top seven in the league in opposing batting average, and Berg boasts the Conference's second-lowest ERA (0.84).
USC fell, 9-4, to Pepperdine on Tuesday and dropped the first two games of its series against Oregon but topped the Ducks on Sunday, 5-3, to avoid the sweep. Freshman lefty Kyle Twomey earned the win, allowing three runs on five hits with five strikeouts over eight innings. The Trojans' victory on Sunday was their second over a ranked opponent in as many weeks— they claimed a 5-3 decision over No. 12 Oklahoma last Friday in the Dodgertown Classic. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Wyatt Strahan ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with a 1.11 ERA, and junior left-hander Bob Wheatley ranks 11th with an ERA of 1.76. USC travels to Louisville this week for a two-game set with the Cardinals before taking on Washington in Seattle.
Utah suffered a sweep at the hands of California in its Conference-opening series to fall to 8-9 on the season. Junior utility man Trey Nielsen was outstanding in the series, as he hit .462 (6-for-13) with four doubles and three RBI, while slugging .769. The Utes played their first 14 games of the season away from home and posted an 8-6 record in those games. They rank second in the Pac-12 and 14th in the nation with nine triples, and their 26 stolen bases on the year rank third in the Conference. Utah opens the week with a home tilt against Utah Valley on Tuesday before hitting the road to take on Stanford in a three-game set over the weekend.
Washington pushed UCLA to the brink in its Pac-12 lid-lifter but fell, 3-2, in a 15-inning game that stretched over two days and lasted five hours and 35 minutes. The Bruins took games two and three from the Huskies to complete the sweep. Washington managed just two runs in the series, its lowest three-game total of the season, and was shut out in consecutive games for the first time since 2011. Junior right-handed pitcher Trevor Dunlap, who has held opponents to a Conference-low .154 batting average, leads the Pac-12 and ranks ninth in the nation with a 0.47 ERA. Junior right-hander Austin Voth ranks second in the league and 11th in the country with 42 strikeouts. The Huskies kickoff the week with a make-up game against Portland on Tuesday and welcome USC to Husky Ballpark for a weekend series. UW swept USC in Los Angeles last season.
Washington State (11-7)
Washington State took two out of three from Arizona State, marking its first series victory over the Sun Devils in school history. Through the first five weeks of the season, the Cougars have put together some impressive offensive numbers. They lead the Pac-12 in batting average (.320), slugging percentage (.466), doubles (43) and home runs (14), rank second in hits (204) and total bases (297) and third in runs scored (122) and RBI (108). Freshman infielder/outfield Trek Stemp (2nd, .406), redshirt freshman third baseman Nick Tanielu (3rd, .405) and sophomore outfielder Yale Rosen (5th, .384) are among the Conference leaders in batting average. Tanielu boasts the league's third-highest slugging percentage (.649), while Rosen, who ranks second in the Pac-12 with five home runs, ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.644). Defensively, Washington State has turned 21 double plays this season, a figure that is tied for first in the Pac-12. WSU was named Baseball Insider's West Regional Team of the Week.