This week on TV: Pac-12 baseball
Two Pac-12 baseball games are on the tube this week. Here's what to watch for in each game as Stanford takes on Arizona State and Cal travels to Oregon State.
Stanford at Arizona State, 7 p.m. Friday, ESPNU
Prepare for the most television-ready game of the season — up to this point, at least. Stanford right-handed flamethrower Mark Appel, whose 1.49 ERA and .197 opposing batting average has cemented his position as the next MLB Draft's likely No. 1 pick, will combat the Pac-12's top home run-hitting team. Arizona State has hit 29 bombs on the season, and this weekend's 90-plus degree Tempe weather will certainly further buoy their power-hitting cause (there's a reason the Sun Devils' storied baseball legacy is centered almost exclusively around offensive players).
An added bonus: Stanford can hit the long ball, too. The Cardinal have hit only one fewer home run than Arizona State on the year (28), and they'll be playing desperate baseball after suffering a gut-wrenching sweep in Eugene this past weekend. Whereas the Farm Boys' matchup with the Ducks was riddled with small ball, this fight with the Fork has the potential to be an aerial assault -- at least after Appel and Sun Devils' ace Trevor Williams are through with them on Friday.
After losing their first two Pac-12 series, the Sun Devils have ripped off nine wins in their last 12 conference games. At 11-7, they're in third place and still within league championship striking distance, so a lot is on the line aside from Stanford's postseason hopes. Remember, the Cardinal swept Arizona State away in Palo Alto last season, so this rematch should feature some revenge incentive on top of its elite starting pitchers and high-powered offensive potential.
[Related: Pac-12 baseball television schedule]
Cal at Oregon State, 2 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Networks
Many thought Oregon State (34-8, 14-4 Pac-12) would cool off from its absurdly hot start once brutal conference play began, but that hasn't been the case. Pat Casey's club boasts a miniscule 2.02 ERA, good for second in the nation. Opponents are batting only .210 against the entire Beavers, and the staff boasts a 1.06 WHIP, creating a pitching stat line that's hard to believe 42 games into the season.
Super sophomore Michael Conforto has become one of the Pac-12's most feared hitters, and the Oregon State offense has accumulated a .376 on-base percentage. The Beavers have all phases of the game operating, and now they're looking to set the table before back-to-back road trips to Stanford and Eugene pose a considerable threat in mid-May.
A mediocre Cal team (21-23, 9-12 Pac-12) visits Corvallis this weekend. Last season, atrocious defense was the Bears' primary issue (.952 fielding percentage). That phase of the game has improved for David Esquer's club, but the pitching has regressed. Cal now sports a 4.43 ERA on the season, a figure that doesn't bode well against Oregon State's professional approach at the plate. The Bears will be looking to salvage what has been a disappointing season while the Beavers accelerate into the home stretch of a promising campaign.
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.