This Week on TV: Pac-12 Baseball
Two games involving Pac-12 teams will get the television spotlight over the course of the next week. Here's a primer to prepare you for the conference race in more glorious high definition.
Cal at Arizona (Sunday at 1 p.m. PT on ESPNU)
A national audience will be treated to the final game of Cal's series at Arizona, a matchup featuring two teams that may currently be headed in opposite directions. The Golden Bears had ripped off eight consecutive wins connecting the end of preseason and the start of conference play, but things went south after the team's sweep of Utah. Cal has dropped series to both Los Angeles schools and lost six of its nine games since its aforementioned winning streak. This past weekend's failure against USC, the Pac-12's worst pitching team, brought extra disappointment because it came in the debut of lights at Evans Diamond.
Defending national champion Arizona, meanwhile, hopes that its 0-6 nightmare to kick off league action may be ending. The Wildcats swept Utah away at home last weekend, and now Andy Lopez's squad has a chance to carry over that success to games against stronger competition. At 3-6, Arizona is already on thin ice in the 30-game-short conference season, so taking care of business at home is of paramount importance this weekend.
Statistically, Washington State has supplanted the Wildcats' offense as the Pac-12's best attack, but the race is still a close one. Arizona still holds the league stranglehold on stolen bases (63), and it'll be fascinating to see Lopez's club challenge star Cal catcher Andrew Knapp this weekend. The Bears, to their credit, have improved their .955 league-worst fielding percentage of a year ago to .970 this year. Tune into ESPNU at 1 p.m. Sunday to find out if they can maintain this relatively clean play on the hard desert infield.
Oregon at Oregon State (Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks)
Just five years ago, no one would have predicted that the two Oregon schools would collide as juggernauts for Pac-12 supremacy on the baseball diamond. The Beavers were fresh off back-to-back national championships, but the Ducks' program didn't even exist yet.
Well, here we are in 2013, where a quick look at the conference standings shows Oregon out in front at 8-1 with Oregon State right behind at 5-1. Overall records are excellent, too: the Ducks are 22-6, while the Beavers are 23-4. The two will meet in a non-conference Civil War Tuesday, an excellent early exhibition for bragging rights at 4 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
Pitching and defense highlight this matchup. Oregon State's staff leads the conference with its 1.90 ERA; Oregon's counters with a league-leading strikeout tally (205) and an impressive 2.59 clip. Moreover, George Horton's Quack Attack plays the game the right way: the Ducks' .988 fielding percentage, by far the best in the conference, is good for second in the nation.
Offensively, Oregon State (.287 team average) has a distinct advantage over Oregon (.249), but don't count out the Ducks' propensity for successful small ball: Horton's club leads the league with 40 sacrifices already. Expect good baseball across the board when these two heavyweights square off in a preview of a May series that could potentially crown the conference champion. Remember, Oregon State spoiled Oregon's Pac-12 title hopes with a sweep on the final weekend of the regular season last year.
David Lombardi has covered Pac-12 baseball since 2007. He’s a play-by-play voice and on-air reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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