This week on TV: Pac-12 Baseball
Two games featuring Pac-12 teams will hit the tube over the next week. Among the two is a Civil War battle between the Arizona schools to add a victory to their university's record in the annual Arizona-Arizona State rivalry competition for the Territorial Cup. Here's a look at what to watch for in the two televised games this week.
Arizona State at USC (Sunday at 2 p.m. on ESPNU)
Poor pitching has characterized Dan Hubbs' first season as USC's head coach, and that's a recipe for disaster whenever hot-hitting Arizona State (20-9-1, 6-6) comes to town. The Trojans' 4.98 ERA is the Pac-12's worst average. USC pitchers have walked 151 batters throughout 32 games and opponents are raking at a .290 clip against them. Enter a resurgent Sun Devil squad that has ridden a .292 team batting average to consecutive impressive series wins over UCLA and Oregon, and one has a recipe for more offensive fireworks at the Trojans' expense.
The good news for USC (14-14, 4-8) is that this televised game falls on a Sunday, and that's where Arizona State has also truly struggled on the mound. Over their past two Sunday contests, the Forks have been torched to the tune of 28 runs, a figure that even Trever Allen's impressive power production (.314, 5 HR, .569 slugging) was unable to overcome. This series finale promises to feature an offensive explosion in the warm Los Angeles sunshine.
The X factor in this particular game may be USC's solid work in the field. Despite their shortcomings on the mound, the Trojans are fielding at a healthy .975 clip. Meanwhile, ASU's .965 fielding percentage leaves something to be desired. USC has certainly not been good this season, but the Sun Devils' inconsistency on Sundays as well as in the field leaves at least one game up for grabs.
[Related: Pac-12 Networks TV listings]
ASU at Arizona (Tuesday at 6 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks)
After returning from Southern California the Forks will only have one day to recover in before hitting Interstate 10 for the two hour drive south to Tucson, Ariz. There they'll have their first of five shots this season to take down the Wildats — their rivals and the defending national champions. Arizona appears like they've rediscovered their groove after a disastrous 0-6 start to Pac-12 play. The Wildcats (21-11, 6-6) have ripped off six straight wins to rediscover the .500 mark, but those wins have all come in the friendly confines of Hi Corbett Field against decidedly weaker competition.
Before squaring off against the Sun Devils Tuesday, Arizona will make the Pac-12's longest journey (Tucson to Pullman, Wash.) to visit Washington State over the weekend for a three-game series. If Andy Lopez's squad finds continued success in the Palouse, the midweek Territorial Cup tilt should ignite a fire under both teams for an interesting battle.
Arizona and Arizona State feature two of the league's top three offenses, but they produce victories in markedly different styles. While the Sun Devils love the traditional long-ball approach (18 homeruns), the Wildcats play small ball better than anyone out West (90 steals). Spacious Hi Corbett field favors the home team, but these two clubs don't like each other so expect a fight to the bitter end.
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.