OSU, UCLA one win away from NCAA baseball Super Regionals
Two Pac-12 teams have the opportunity to close out their regionals and move forward in the NCAA Tournament with wins Sunday. The two other conference squads must sweep doubleheaders to stave off elimination and earn a chance to play for their regional championships on Monday. Saturday's pivotal slate was a hinge point. Oregon State and UCLA ended up on the right side of their brackets with come-from-behind wins, while Oregon and Arizona State stumbled. Here's the overview:
Oregon State 3, UCSB 2. It may make the veteran coach do more nervous pacing in the dugout, but Pat Casey certainly won't complain if his Beavers maintain their flair for the dramatic all the way to Omaha. Heavily favored Oregon State won in its last at-bat for the third straight game, but it certainly wasn't easy: UCSB fought tooth and nail the entire way. The Beavers' trademark patience finally prevailed when Danny Hayes' bases-load walk pushed across the go-ahead run in the ninth inning. They certainly love their Beaver baseball in Corvallis: a record 3,535 fans packed into Goss Stadium after Oregon State added a left field seating area to accommodate 400 more spectators, but the crowd still overflowed onto nearby trees and even a parking garage beyond the right field fence. Check out the view from the cheap seats. Another massive crowd is expected tomorrow at 5 p.m. PT, when the Beavers will face the UCSB-Texas A&M winner for a chance to advance to Super Regional world.
The Bruins know their offense isn't built to come back from 4-0 deficits, but they patched together enough productivity to get the job done anyway despite Nick Vander Tuig's average start. UCLA defeated Cal Poly 6-4 on the strength of small ball and a very fortunate break: the Mustangs lost Kevin Williams' game-tying three-run triple in the sixth inning sky. Cal Poly was riding high off its first-ever NCAA Tournament win Friday and 5.1 no-hit innings from Matt Imhof to open this Saturday contest, but Bruins seized control once they clawed their way back into the game. That's because John Savage's late-game pitching and defense is the best in the country. Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year David Berg slammed the door on the Mustangs while recording his school record 21st save in the process. If UCLA beats the Cal Poly-San Diego winner tomorrow at 6 p.m. PT, the Bruins will be heading to a Super Regional for the second straight season.
"I don't really care how many hits we get," Oregon baseball coach George Horton said after his team's two-hit, 3-2 victory over South Dakota State Friday. "We're just trying to get one more run than the opposition." Well, after Saturday, the Quack Attack is still looking for a single run. Again, the Ducks recorded only two hits on the entire game. This time, those knocks were not ideally placed: Rice sophomore Jordan Stephens struck out 11 on his way to completing silencing Oregon in a 1-0 complete game victory -- here are some excellent photos. Like UCLA, the Ducks' formula relies on pitching, defense, and situational baseball. Success with that recipe comes much more easily when playing with a lead, and that's something that Horton's squad must do to stave off elimination at noon PT tomorrow against San Francisco. Should Oregon prevail in that contest, the Ducks will earn another shot to eat Rice in the nightcap of a doubleheader.
The Sun Devils love playing wide-open offensive baseball, but they found themselves in a pitcher's duel with red-hot Fullerton (50-8) as the clock struck midnight and the crowd got rowdy (the previous Columbia-New Mexico contest had gone into extra innings, pushing first pitch of this one back to 9:45 p.m.). ASU's Ryan Kellogg went toe-to-toe with the Titans' Justin Garza for six innings, but Kellogg finally blinked in the seventh -- just as Saturday turned to Sunday. The lefty's botched decision on the infield led to a Fullerton sac fly, which proved to be the game's sole run. In (possibly) bigger news, the Washington Huskies made a surprise appearance at the NCAA Tournament (well, at least one of them did):
If the Sun Devils end Ivy League champion Columbia's surprising run at 4 p.m. tomorrow, they'll have another chance at Fullerton in Sunday's nightcap. No Pac-12 team is eliminated just yet, so stay tuned. 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.