This week in Pac-12 Baseball
Pac-12 baseball improved their non-conference record to 73-51-1 half way through week three of 2014. While both unbeaten teams--OREGON STATE and USC--saw their streaks end over the last week, both are still sitting in the top four of the Conference standings, with Oregon State tied with OREGON for the lead. The Trojans, along with CALIFORNIA, have been surprises so far this season sititng at 8-3 as the three & four teams in the Conference. Three teams continue to be ranked in Baseball America’s top-25: Oregon State (5), Oregon (13), and UCLA (14). Those three teams also appeared in three other major polls, with ARIZONA STATE earning praise in USA Today Coaches’ Poll. With the toughest part of the non-conference slate behind them, Pac-12 baseball teams will begin to tune up for Conference action, which starts in just two weeks on March 14. ARIZONA, California, UTAH and WASHINGTON will compete in tournaments over the weekend, with the Bears hosting Tulane, San Francisco, and No. 27 Arkansas and Arizona welcoming #12/14 Mississippi State and UC Santa Barbara. Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, STANFORD, UCLA, USC and WASHINGTON STATE are all hosting games this weekend, capped by a pre-league play matchup between USC and UCLA.
The Wildcats have hit a bit of a rough patch in the last week, losing their last four after picking up their first sweep of the year the previous weekend. The offense couldn’t fit its bats against a now ranked Seton Hall team, scoring just five runs in three games. Arizona then lost a close one to Long Beach State on Tuesday night to begin the week. Despite the struggles, Arizona still leads the Conference in batting average (.321), slugging percentage (.400), and hits (137). They will look to get back on track this weekend as they will host No. 12/14 Misssissippi State and UC Santa Barbara in the Hi Corbett Classic in Tucson over the weekend.
Arizona State (6-4)
After struggling in week two, the Sun Devils rebounded nicely, going 3-0 in week three to get back above .500. Facing Santa Clara, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State in a tournament in Surprise, Ariz., the ASU offense exploded to score 25 runs while only giving up 12. In Sunday’s win over Oklahoma State, left-handed sophomore Ryan Kellogg turned in a stellar performance, recording a career-high 10 strikeouts en route to earning his first win of the season. Kellogg was the first Sun Devil pitcher to record double-digit stikeouts since March of 2012. He held the Cowboys, who had scored double-digit runs in six of their previous 11 games, to just one run on a pair of hits.
The Bears are off to a solid start in 2014, winning six of their last seven games, including recording six wins in a row at two tournaments over the last two weekend. Cal’s only loss came on Tuesday night to Stanford in a pre-league play matchup, with the Cardinal offense exploding for 11 runs against the Bears. During the winning streak Cal outsocred it’s opponents 34-13. The Bears’ early season succes has much to do with the pitching staff, who has a combined 2.45 ERA, which is good for second in the Conference.
The top-15 ranked Ducks’ unbeaten streak to start the season ended over the weekend as they dropped a three-game set to then-No. 5 Cal State Fullerton at home. After letting the first game get away from them, the second and third losses were much closer with the Ducks losing each by just one run. Oregon bounced back from the tough series, sweeping Seattle University in a Tuesday double-header 10-3 and 4-3. Currently, the Ducks rank in the top-5 in almost every major offensive statistical category in the Conference, including second in runs scored (80), first in double (26) and fourth in hits (117).
Oregon State (10-3)
The Beavers snuck back into the top-10 after winning three of four games in their first home series of the 2014 campaign. OSU has scored four or more runs in all but three games this year, losing two of those contests. Over the weekend, they outscored Wright State 26-6 in three victories over the Raiders. The Conference favorites have been living up to their billing this year, leading the Conference on base percentage (.423), runs scored (93), and runs batted in (86), while holding second in batting average (.296). The pitching staff has been solid as well, with two pitchers (Andrew Moore and Jake Thompson) sitting in the top ten in several major statistical categories including ERA (0.89 & 1.42, respectively).
Stanford had one of the toughest non-conference road trips of any team in the Conference, traveling to top-10 ranked Vanderbilt for a three-game tilt over the weekend. The Commodores proved to be too much for the Cardinal as they dropped all three games, but never allowed Vanderbilt to score more than five runs in any of the contests. Before the road trip, Stanford picked up a 6-4 win at home over Bay Area foe San Franscisco, then followed the trip with another win over a Bay Area and Pac-12 counterpart in California. The Cardinal offesne exploded against the Bears on Tuesday night as they scored 11 runs on 12 hits while giving up just one run. The win marked a milestone for head coach Mark Marquess, who picked up his 1,500 career win, making him just the sixth coach in NCAA history to reach that mark. All of his wins have come at Stanford.
The top-15 ranked Bruins headed East for the Notre Dame Classic in Cary, N.C., winning three games vs. Notre Dame, #6/15 NC State and Michigan. UCLA gave up just one run in three victories on the East Coast. Sophomore right-hander Cody Poteet had a career day in a 5-0 win on Sunday, throwing a complete game shutout while recording a career-high 13 strikeouts--the most by a UCLA pitcher since Trevor Bauer struck out 14 in June of 2011. For his performance, Poteet was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career. The Bruins lost a pair of midweek games that sandwiched their trip east, falling 6-4 to UC Santa Barbara to begin last week then suffering a 6-1 setback to Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night.
The Trojans, the Conferences’ other unbeaten team heading into last week, also saw their streak end as they dropped a midweek game to Long Beach State, followed by splitting a two-game tilt with No. 13/14 Cal Poly after the scheduled first game was canceled due to rain. On Tuesday night, USC fell to UC Irvine 6-4 to give them their third loss of the season. USC, picked to finish near the bottom of the Conference, is off to a hot start, ranking in the top three in several offensive categories, including third in batting average (.295) and hits (119) and fourth in runs scored (65). While the offense has been solid, the pitching staff has been stellar, leading the Conference in ERA (2.42) and runs allowed (30). USC’s Kevin Swick had an outstanding week en route to Player of the Week honors, hitting .583 (7-for-12) against Long Beach State and Cal Poly, with three RBI and three runs scored.
After game one of the series was postponed due to rare California rain, the Utes managed to take one of three at Loyola Marmount over the weekend, getting the 7-5 win in the opening game of the season. Senior first baseman led the the Utes over the weekend, going 5-for-12 (.417) with one RBI and one run while registering 27 putouts and one assists. Sophomore right-hander Brett Helton had a solid outing, going 6.2 innings giving up three hits and no runs, despite Utah ultimately losing 2-0. Utah will look to rebound this weekend in Texas after starting the week out with a 20-3 loss to BYU on Tuesday night.
Washington hosted its first series of 2014, but not in Husky Ballpark as renovations at UW’s home field are wrapping up in time for Conference play. Instead, the Huskies took on UC Davis for a three-game series in the home of the Tacoma Raniers, the Seattle Mariners Triple A affiliate. Coming off a 1-3 record in week two, UW notched their first sweep of the season, picking up wins of 4-1, 2-1, 8-3 over the Aggies. Jared Fisher turned in a solid performance in the series opening win, going 6.1 innings giving up 4 hits and just one earned run. In relief, Troy Wallings earned his first win of the season giving up zero hits and zero runs in 1.2 innings of work.
Washington State (2-7)
Weather wreaked the most havoc on the Cougars over the last week, with three games canceled and two games postponed--first to snow in Washington and then due to rain in California. WSU and Cal State Northridge were able to get in three games in four days as the Cougars picked up one road win. Despite dropping the series, all three games were close with the Cougars losing a 3-2 contest in ten innings to open the series, winning the second game 1-0 and dropping the rubber match 1-0 in a seven inning game. Left-handed junior Joe Pistorese had a stellar outing in the Cougars’ win, giving up six hits and no runs in 7.0 innings of work to pick up his first win on the season.