This week in Pac-12 baseball
By the Pac-12 Conference
For the second year in a row, the Pac-12 Champion will be decided in the final weekend of the regular season. Oregon State holds a two-game edge over Oregon and UCLA, the latter of which kept its title aspirations alive with a sweep of USC last week. The Beavers can clinch at least a share of the league crown with a victory against Washington State this week—or losses by UCLA and Oregon. They can claim the title outright with two victories over the Cougars or a pair of losses by both UCLA and Oregon. California's season ended on a high note as the Golden Bears topped Gonzaga in 12 innings on Monday. A pair of two-hit shutouts highlighted this week's top pitching performances: Oregon State freshman right-hander Andrew Moore garnered Pac-12 and NBCWA National Pitcher of the Week honors after allowing two hits and issuing just one walk in a 9-0 victory over Oregon on Saturday. Moore notched his league-leading 11th win of the season to set a school single-season record for victories by a freshman. Meanwhile, Utah's Mitch Watrous pitched a two-hit gem of his own, fanning three batters en route to claiming a 1-0 decision over Kansas. Four teams enter the week ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Oregon State sits at No. 3, followed by Oregon at No. 8, UCLA at No. 11 and Arizona State at No. 19. In the final week of league play, Oregon travels to Salt Lake City for a series with Utah, and Arizona State and Washington square off in Seattle. Stanford hosts UCLA for a weekend set, while USC travels to take on Arizona and Washington State welcomes Oregon State for three games. The Pac-12 Networks will televise nine games this weekend, eight of which will feature a ranked team.
Tuesday, May 21
Pacific at Stanford…....Live Stream..…..5:30 p.m. PT
No. 8 Oregon at No. 3 Oregon State*….…Live Stream…….5:35 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara at No. 11 UCLA…....6 p.m. PT
BYU at No. 19 Arizona State…….6:30 p.m. PT
USC at UC Irvine.......6:30 p.m. PT
Friday, May 24
Washington State at No. 3 Oregon State*..…..P12N…....4 p.m. PT
No. 19 Arizona State at Washington*…….Live Stream…….5 p.m. PT
No. 8 Oregon at Utah*…....6 p.m. MT
USC at Arizona*…....Live Stream…..6 p.m. PT
No. 11 UCLA at Stanford*…....P12N..…..7 p.m. PT
Saturday, May 20
Washington State at No. 3 Oregon State*…....P12N…....1 p.m. PT
No. 8 Oregon at Utah*..…..4 p.m. MT
No. 19 Arizona State at Washington*..…..P12N…....4 p.m. PT
USC at Arizona*…....Live Stream..…..6 p.m. PT
No. 11 UCLA at Stanford*..…..P12N…....7 p.m. PT
Sunday, May 21
No. 19 Arizona State at Washington*..…..P12N…….12 p.m. PT
Washington State at No. 3 Oregon State*…....P12N…....12 p.m. PT
USC at Arizona*…..…P12N…....12 p.m. PT
No. 8 Oregon at Utah*…….1 p.m. MT
No. 11 UCLA at Stanford*…….P12N…….3 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 is coming off of a Territorial Cup series victory over rival Arizona State in Tempe, its first at Packard Stadium since 2005. The Wildcats, who took two of three games from the Sun Devils over the weekend, won three of five tilts in the season series. Arizona is 25-10 in home games this year and closes out the regular season in Tucson against USC. Brandon Dixon, who leads the Pac-12 in batting average (.370), RBI (50), runs scored (54) and stolen bases (30), is only the fourth player in school history with 30 stolen bases, 40 runs scored and 40 RBI in the same season. The Wildcats are averaging a league-best 6.52 runs per game and have scored five runs or more 18 times in their last 27 games.
Arizona State (34-17-1)
Arizona State lost its second series of the season against an unranked opponent, dropping a pair of games at home to rival Arizona (unranked Washington State dealt ASU its first such series loss in Tempe in mid-March). The Sun Devils have registered double-digit hits in 16 of their past 19 games and in 34 total games this season. Junior 3B Michael Benjamin was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after batting .526 (10-for-19) with seven RBI, three doubles, a home run and three runs scored. Arizona State has posted 51 consecutive 30-win seasons, the most in the NCAA, and has won at least 30 games in 52 of the program's 54-year history.
California ended its season in thrilling fashion, tipping Gonzaga, 3-2, in extra innings at Evans Diamond. Freshman third baseman Mitchell Kranson delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Golden Bears their sixth walk-off victory of the season. Cal earned the win on the heels of a sweep at the hands of rival Stanford over the weekend. The Bears thwarted 26 stolen-base attempts this season, a figure that ranks second in the Pac-12, while junior catcher Andrew Knapp gunned down 21 would-be base stealers to lead the league. Knapp ranks in the top five in the Pac-12 in six major offensive statistical categories.
Oregon, which dropped two of three games at home against Oregon State over the weekend, sits two games behind the Beavers in the Conference standings with three league games remaining. All-American closer Jimmie Sherfy picked up his NCAA-leading 20th save in the series opener, breaking the school record of 19 he established in 2012. The Ducks have won 16 of their last 19 games and have relied on dominant pitching to do so. They have held opponents to three runs or fewer 13 times during that stretch and have conceded one run or fewer six times. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in fielding percentage (.981) and has picked off a league-high 14 base runners.
Oregon State (43-9)
Oregon State needs just one win against Washington State to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title. Two wins would earn them the Conference crown outright. The Beavers earned a pair of wins against rival Oregon in Eugene last weekend to give themselves a slight cushion heading into the final week of the regular season. Freshman right-hander Andrew Moore garnered Pac-12 and NCBWA National Pitcher of the week accolades after tossing a 93-pitch, two-hit shutout on Friday. He is the only Conference hurler with11 wins this season, and his 1.34 ERA and .192 opposing batting average rank second in the league. OSU leads the Pac-12 in team ERA (2.02, ranks second in the NCAA) and opposing batting average (.207) and has turned 53 double plays.
Stanford has posted series victories over six of its last eight Conference opponents, including a weekend sweep of rival California—its first in Berkeley since 2003. The Cardinal took all five games in the season series. Junior 1B Brian Ragira, who drove in four runs in the set, is tied for fourth in the league with eight home runs. Add Howser Trophy semifinalist to senior right-hander Mark Appel's already impressive resume. The All-American is one of 40 players in contention for the award, which recognizes the top player in collegiate baseball. He leads the league and ranks fourth in the NCAA with 121 strikeouts, and his .220 ERA ranks sixth in the Conference. Cardinal pitchers have struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings, a figure that leads the Conference.
UCLA's title hopes are still alive, as the Bruins posted a weekend sweep of crosstown rival USC to climb into a tie for second in the Conference standings. UCLA, which also topped the Trojans in a non-conference tilt, swept the season series for the second straight year. The Bruins enter the final week of the season on a bit of a hot streak, having swept their last three league opponents and posted wins in 12 of their last 15 games overall. They are 27-0 this season when holding opponents to three runs or fewer, 13-1 in one-run games and 32-4 when they score three runs or more in a game. Sophomore reliever David Berg has pitched 34.2 straight innings without allowing a run, an NCAA high this year. He owns a Pac-12-low 0.59 ERA, and his 16 saves represent a UCLA single-season record.
USC takes on UC Irvine on Tuesday in its last midweek tilt of the season. UC Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie led the Trojans to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of national titles while at the helm of the program from 1987 to 2006. USC's pitching staff, which has given up four earned runs or fewer in nine of its last 12 games, has posted a 1.88 ERA over its last 49 innings. In wins, the Trojans have managed a 2.13 cumulative ERA; in losses, they've posted a 6.11 team ERA. The Trojans own a .975 team fielding percentage (4th in the Pac-12) and have managed 88 doubles (3rd) on the year. USC, led by sophomore backstop Garrett Stubbs (20), has caught a league-high 31 runners stealing.
Utah earned its first sweep of the season in dramatic fashion, capping a three-game set against Kansas with a 7-6 walk-off victory over the Jayhawks. Sunday's extra-innings victory was the 500th of head coach Bill Kinneberg's career. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Mitch Watrous was masterful in the series opener, allowing two hits in a complete-game shutout. The Utes rank third in the Conference and 23rd in the NCAA in triples per game (0.38) and are tied for second in the Pac-12 with 74 stolen bases. Junior catcher Konnor Armijo has picked off four runners (second in the Pac-12) and has caught an additional 14 runners stealing (fourth in the Pac-12).
Washington, which in the last month has claimed series victories over four Conference opponents, earned its first sweep of the season against rival Washington State. The Huskies are 13-6 in their last 19 games, and two of their losses have come in extra innings. Moreover, they have allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of those wins. Junior right-hander Austin Voth ranks second in the league with 96 strikeouts, while Trevor Dunlap's 2.21 ERA ranks seventh in the Conference—Voth's 2.53 ERA ranks 10th. Washington owns the league's third-highest fielding percentage (.976).
Washington State (22-30)
Washington State was swept by rival Washington in a neutral-site series over the weekend. Brett Jacobs ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with a .339 batting average, while Yale Rosen's seven home runs are tied for eighth-most in the league. Sophomore left-hander Joe Pistorese has picked off a Conference-leading six base runners this season and has pitched 93.2 innings, a total that ranks ninth in the league. WSU has lost just five times this season when it has allowed fewer than four runs and has conceded three runs or fewer in 13 of 22 wins.