Preseason rankings and honors roll in for Pac-12 baseball

Oregon State Athletics

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Six Pac-12 baseball teams--four of which were postseason participants in 2013-- have been ranked in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association 2014 Division I preseason poll, the NCBWA announced on Monday. Three Pac-12 schools cracked the top 15 while four are ranked in the top 20 in the poll.

OREGON STATE will open the season at No. 3 followed by defending national champion UCLA at No. 9 and OREGON at No. 11. ARIZONA STATE checked in at No. 20, STANFORD landed at No. 31, and ARIZONA received a No. 33 preseason billing. Washington State also received votes.

Four teams--Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA and Stanford--were also tabbed in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll, released last week. The Beavers matched their highest preseason ranking in that poll, coming in at No. 3, while Oregon and UCLA joined them in the top-10 at No. 7 and No. 10, respectively. Stanford rounded out the list at No. 25. Arizona also received votes in the poll.

Oregon State, the defending Pac-12 Champion, welcomes back reigning Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year in junior infielder Michael Conforto and sophomore pitcher right-handed pitcher Andrew Moore. Junior outfielder Dylan Davis will also be an offensive threat for the Beavers. Davis started 62 games a year ago and led the team in batting average (.335) while his 86 hits, including 22 doubles, both led the Pac-12.

Oregon returns a bevy of experienced players with six position starters and all three weekend starters on the mound from a year ago. The Duck’s pitching staff will be led by junior left-hander Tommy Thorpe, an All-Pac-12 honoree in 2013, and sophomore right-hander Cole Irvin, a freshman All-American in 2013 who set an Oregon record with 12 wins.

UCLA is coming off its best season in program history, going 10-0 in postseason play to earn their first-ever College World Series title. Despite losing the key players from the championship team, the Bruins should be in good hands with All-American junior closer David Berg. Berg, the 2013 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, who set the Pac-12 record with 24 saves and tied a Conference record with 51 appearances.

Arizona State will rely on their six returning position starters from last year’s squad to lead the Sun Devil offense and defense in 2014. Headlining the pitching staff is junior right-hander Ryan Burr, a 2013 Pac-12 honorable mention selection after going 4-2 in 31 appearances with a 2.20 ERA last season.

Stanford has big shoes to fill with the loss of All-American pitcher Mark Appel, who was selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. The Cardinal will look to third baseman Alex Blandino to key the offensive attack. The junior collected 48 hits and 32 RBIs in 2013.

Arizona, which led the Conference in team batting average (.306) for the second-consecutive year, will look to shortstop Kevin Newman to provide a spark on offense. As just a freshman a year ago, Newman was eighth in the Conference in batting average (.336), 10th in hits (73), and tied for 10th in RBIs (42), earning him All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors 

In addition to the release of the preseason rankings, Baseball America named their preseason All-America Teams on Monday and five Pac-12 baseball players earned recognition. Oregon State’s Conforto and Davis were honored as first and second team members, respectively, while UCLA’s Berg and Stanford’s Blandino garnered second team honors. Arizona State’s Burr was the Pac-12’s lone third team member. 

Baseball America annually polls major league scouting directors to vote on the team and make their selections based on performance, talent and professional potential. In the past, the preseason All-America team has been a predictor both of the first round of the draft and of team success.

With 28 College World Series National Titles including two-consecutive and four of the last eight, the Pac-12 looks to continue its dominance in the ranks of collegiate baseball in 2014. The Conference boasts some of the winningest coaches in college baseball history as the Pac-12 head coaches have combined for over 6,000 Division I wins, eight national champions, 34 College World Series appearances, 86 NCAA Tournament appearances and 170 years of head coaching experience. Pac-12 Baseball has enjoyed unprecedented exposure thanks to the creation of Pac-12 Networks and in just the second year of existence the Networks is set to air 70 games in 2014, more than double the number last year. Above all the Pac-12 Networks has provided the opportunity to showcase the exceptional talent Pac-12 Baseball has to offer and allowed the student-athletes to get the national and widespread exposure and attention they deserve.  

The 2014 season begins on Friday, February 14.

To view a complete list of 2014 Baseball America Preseason All-Americans, visit www.baseballamerica.com

To view the complete NCBWA  2014 Division I preseason poll, visit www.ncbwa.com.

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