Ducks force decisive regional final; OSU, UCLA advance to super regionals

Two Pac-12 teams have punched their tickets to the super regional round; one other club is only a single win away from doing so. It's been a remarkably successful regional weekend for the conference, which has registered an 11-3 overall record in postseason play thus far. Pac-12 teams have outscored their opposition by a combined total of 66-31. Here are Sunday's details:

 


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Each Oregon victory from here on out sets a new school record for the Ducks. They're at 48 wins now, and George Horton's club needs to break the mark one more time Monday to advance to a second consecutive super regional. The Ducks' offense resurrected in spectacular fashion Sunday to support a pitching staff that has surrendered only three runs throughout the Eugene Regional so far: the Quack Attack outscored San Francisco (6-1) and Rice (11-0) by a combined 17-1 mark in the day's doubleheader.

Oregon's pitching, defense, and small ball earned them a national seed in this tournament. A dose of offensive pop has now complemented the pillars of this team via stud Ryon Healy (4-for-4, HR, two RBI in Game 2) and Tyler Baumgartner, who hit for the cycle through both games. Suddenly, the Ducks are firing on all cylinders, and that's a scary prospect for a Rice team that was in control of the Eugene Regional as recently as Saturday's 1-0 victory.

Not anymore. Oregon has regained control, and they own the home field advantage over the Owls in what should be a rocking atmosphere at PK Park for tomorrow's Game 7 at 6 p.m. PT. Jordan Stephens, Rice's Saturday hero, obviously can't pitch again, so this decisive contest will likely hinge on bullpen depth, and the Ducks are very strong in that facet of the game. If Horton can give a tie or a lead to electric closer Jimmy Sherfy tomorrow, Oregon will be in excellent shape.

 


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Oregon State’s absurdly good pitching staff spearheaded the club’s Pac-12 championship run and earned the Beavers home field advantage on the road to Omaha, so it’s only fitting that another stellar mound performance pushed the Beavers into the super regional round. Ben Wetzler’s complete game, 10-strikeout performance catapulted Oregon State past Texas A&M 6-1, and that victory completed the Beavers’ three-game sweep of the Corvallis Regional in front of another overflow Goss Stadium crowd.

The Beavers will have a chance to re-break their attendance record (3,535 -- in case you're keeping score at home) this coming weekend when Kansas State comes to town as the final obstacle in the journey to the College World Series. Pat Casey's boys are sure to be the hottest ticket in Corvallis, and their strong chances will again be fortified by that same nasty pitching staff that features nine arms with sub-3.00 ERAs.

Offensive struggles with runners in scoring position had been an issue for Oregon State throughout the first two games of their regional, but Danny Hayes solved that problem for good with his tiebreaking two-RBI hit in the seventh. The hit parade then rolled on freely for the Beavers: this is a well-oiled machine that's only two wins away from the Mecca that is Omaha.

 


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Pitching and defense prevailed again in the Bruins' dominant 6-0 win over San Diego. Though they were armed with the services of home run champion Kris Bryant (31 bombs this season), San Diego was no match for UCLA starter Grant Watson, who one-hit the Toreros over seven innings of spectacular work to also push the Bruins into the super regional round. The Bruins got some defense, too: right fielder Eric Filia’s spectacular catch reminded fans that UCLA led the Pac-12 in glove work this season.

With John Savage’s club executing its formula to perfection, UCLA and Fullerton may well put on a more fundamentally sound show than the Dodgers and Angels in their Freeway super regional next weekend. The Bruins will have to bus east on the Santa Monica Freeway and south on the Santa Ana Freeway (unless they opt for the 405, but that debate is for another time) to face the Titans' feared rotation, but this UCLA club is more than capable of winning on the road.

Like Oregon, the Baby Blue is virtually unbeatable when its premiere reliever gets the ball with a lead. Bruins' closer David Berg broke his school's record in saves this weekend before sealing the Los Angeles Regional sweep. Savage hopes he can see plenty more of him in the O.C. next weekend. That much will be up to his offense.

 


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Despite all the other Pac-12 success this weekend, Arizona State was not able to keep the good conference vibes going. The Sun Devils did eliminate Ivy League champion Columbia 10-5 Sunday afternoon, but they could not solve the Fullerton puzzle for the second night in a row. Titans' pitching and defense ruled the day again, handcuffing and eliminating the Sun Devils by virtue of a 6-1 victory.

The journey is over: ASU returned from postseason probation with a 37-22-1 record in 2013. Tim Esmay has been recruiting well in Tempe, so the Pac-12 certainly haven't seen the last of his Sun Devils squad. The Fork boasts one of the most storied programs in college baseball history. The conference can be certain they'll be in the postseason mix again soon.

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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