Conference slate on deck for Pac-12 baseball

Stanford Athletics

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Pac-12 baseball improved their non-conference record to 98-65-1 as most teams have completed the majority of their non-conference slate. OREGON STATE and OREGON--picked to finish 1-2 in the Conference--lived up to their billing during the first month of the season as the teams combined for a 27-7 record. CALIFORNIA and WASHINGTON meanwhile, predicted to finish in the bottom half the Conference, sit at three and four, respectively, heading into Conference play. Half of the Bears’ wins have come over ranked teams while the Huskies--after struggling a bit to start the season--have recorded seven wins in a row--the longest streak for the UW since they won 11-straight in 2008. While USC was the surprise of the Conference to start the season after going unbeaten through its first seven games, the Trojans will look to get back on the winning track as Pac-12 play begins after struggling over the last two weeks. Three teams continue to be ranked in the four major collegaite baseball polls, with little movement in the top two Pac-12 teams in Baseball America’s top-25: Oregon State (4), Oregon (12), and UCLA (25). The all-important Conference slate begins this weekend as the teams will have to chase the defending champion Oregon State Beavers, who are looking poised to repeat. ARIZONA and ARIZONA STATE both host mid-week home games before welcoming WASHINGTON STATE AND WASHINGTON to open up league play Friday-Sunday. UTAH will host the Beavers and the Trojans will travel to Oregon while UCLA will face California in the Bay Area. The Bruins and Bears’ Sunday matinee matchup will be the first Conference game of 2014 to appear live on the Networks. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. PT. 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
 
Wednesday, March 12
Air Force at Arizona, 1:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
New Mexico at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
 
Friday, March 14
#4/7 Oregon State at Utah*, 6:00 p.m. MT
USC at #12/9 Oregon*, 6:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
Washington State at Arizona*, 6:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
Washington at Arizona State*, 6:30 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
#24/24 UCLA at California*, 7:00 p.m. PT
 
Saturday, March 15
#4/7 Oregon State at Utah*, 1:00 p.m. MT
USC at #12/9 Oregon*, 2:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
#25/24 UCLA at California*, 6:00 p.m. PT
Washington State at Arizona*, 6:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
Washington at Arizona State*, 6:30 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
 
Sunday, March 16
#4/7 Oregon State at Utah*, 1:00 p.m. MT
USC at #12/9 Oregon*, 12:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
Washington State at Arizona* 12:00 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
Washington at Arizona State*, 12:30 p.m. PT (Live Stream)
#25/24 UCLA at California* 2:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Games are local to site and subject to change. 
Rankings are from Baseball America/Collegiate Baseball.
*Conference games
 
TEAM NOTES
Arizona (9-9) 
After winning six of their first eight games, the Wildcats have hit a rough stretch, winning just three of their last ten. Despite the lull, Arizona still ranks in the top two of the Conference in every major offensive statistical category, including batting average (.313, 1st), slugging percentage (.404, 2nd), on base pct (.405, 2nd), runs scored (111, 2nd), hits (188, 1st) and runs batted in (100, 2nd). The Wildcats also currently have three players in the top-11 in batting average, Scott Kingery (.419, 3rd), Trent Gilbert (.406, 5th) and Cody Ramer (.369, 11th) with Gilbert leading the Conference in slugging percentage (.667) and hits (28).
  
Arizona State (7-6)  
The Sun Devils have won five of their last seven, including two wins over ranked teams in #14 Oklahoma State and #19 Tennessee. Despite dropping the series against the Vols, ASU lost two of the three games by a combined 3 runs. Sohopmore left-handed pitcher Brett Lilek continues to be a force on the mound, pitching seven shutout innings in the 3-1 win over Tennessee on Friday. Lilek allowed just four baserunners on three hits and a walk while striking out three. He has now gone 14-consecutive innings without  allowing a run and is third in the Conference with a 0.86 ERA.
 
California (10-5)
The Bears started off last week on a rough note, with three losses in a row, including an 11-1 setback against Bay Area rival Stanford in a pre-league contest. But the Bears were able to bounce back over the weekend with two one-run wins over No. 24-ranked Arkansas--their fifth-win over a ranked team this year. The story for Cal through the first portion of the season has been the pitching staff, which ranks second in the Pac-12 with a 2.73 ERA and in the top five in opposing batting aveage (.239, 5th), innings pitched (135.0, t-5th), and wins (10, t-10th). Leading the way is Kyle Porter, who is posting a 0.95 ERA--fifth-best in the Pac-12.  
 
Oregon (12-4) 
The Ducks rebounded nicely after dropping their first series of the season, going 4-1 last week, including a series win over Ohio State over the weekend. In the four wins Oregon outscored its opponents 42-11. Almost half those runs came in a 20-4 win on Sunday in the series rubbermatch with the Buckeyes as the Ducks knocked in the most runs since the program was reinstated. Pitching has been a strong suite for Oregon as they head into the Conference slate ranked in the top five in several categories including ERA (2.98, 5th), opposing batting average (.313, 3rd), innings pitched (145.0, 4th), batters struck out (145, 1st) and wins (12, 2nd). Offensively the Ducks are led by senior outfielder Tyler Baumgartner, who leads the team in batting average (.391, 5th in the Pac-12) and is second on the team with 13 RBI.    
 
Oregon State (15-3) 
The Beavers find themselves in the top five in three of four major polls this week after reeling off seven straight wins. The Pac-12 favorites tore through their non-conference slate with a stellar combintation of offense and pitching as they lead the Pac-12 in several categories heading into Conference play. The pitching staff has posted a Conference-leading 2.03 ERA and have held opposing batters to a second-best .205 average. The offense has been just has productive as the Beavers lead the league in both runs scored (127) and runs batted in (115). OSU’s highlight this past week came from left-handed sophomore pitcher Jace Fry, who threw the fifth no-hitter in program history in a 2-0 victory over Northern Illionois on Saturday. Fry, who struck out a career-high 10 batters in the effort, improved his record to 3-0 on the season and was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for his oustanding performance. 
 
Stanford (7-8) 
Stanford picked up its first series win of the season this week taking two out of three at home against #26 Kansas. Starting Pitcher Cal Quantrill threw a complete game shutout, on Sunday giving up just four hits, walking two, and striking out seven. The Cardinal have four regular starters with batting averages over .300 leading--led by third baseman Alex Blandino at (.365) and Austin Slater (.340). In its seven wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 55-20.
 
UCLA (9-7) 
The top-25 ranked Bruins hit a bit of a rough patch in the last full week of non-conference play, losing three of four, including two tough one-run games against in consecutive days. The Bruins ended the weekend and started a new week on a winning note, beating cross-town rival USC 6-5 in a pre-conference slate matchup then bested a ranked UC-Irvine team 5-0. Junior catcher Shane Zeile had a stellar weekend for the Bruins, going 9-for-15 (.600) on the weekend, scoring six runs and four RBI with a double and a home run en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Week. Headlining Zeile’s weekend was his 4-for-4 performance in the win against the Trojans. Currently he leads the team in batting average (.431) and slugging percentage (.549), which are good for second and fifth in the Conference, respectively. 
 
USC (9-6) 
After starting the season unbeaten through the first seven games, the Trojans have struggled in the last couple weeks of non-conference play, dropping six of the last eight. USC did however pick up a win over then-No. 13 Cal Poly during that stretch in addition to wrapping up their pre-league slate with a 6-1 win over Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night. The Trojans’ offense has been led by Jake Hernandez, who leads the Pac-12 in batting average (.435) and is seventh in on-base percentage (.480) while the pitching staff has been headlined by senior Bob Wheatley, who has maintained a Conference-best 0.00 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. He has also recorded 16 strikeouts and six walks with two wins on the season. 
 
Utah (8-7) 
The Utes are coming off a solid week in which they won three of four games as they notched their first seires sweep of the season, with all wins coming by two runs or less. The offense found its stride in the three victories, scoring 21 runs--one more than Utah had scored in its previous six games. Max Schuman led the charge, hitting .562 (9-of-16) over the week with two RBI and a double while scoring two runs. Schuman recorded at least two hits in all four game, including a 2-for-3 one RBI performance in a 7-3 win over Missouri State. Sophomore pitcher Bret Helton had a standout performance in notching the win over Missouri State as he pitched gave up two runs in six innings with eight strikeouts. 
 
Washington (10-4-1) 
Washington has been on fire heading into Conference play, winning seven in a row after winning only three of its first eight. In that stretch, the Huskies have given up only 11 runs in those seven games, not allowing more than four in one game while only giving up one run or less in five of the seven wins. Robert Pehl turned out the top performance of the week, particularly in the 7-0 win over San Jose State on Friday where he hit for the cycle. Overall on the week, Pehl batted .421 (8-for-19) with four RBI and two runs scored. Crucial to Washington’s ability to win the run-one games is the team’s savy for saves as they have recorded six saves in 10 wins to lead the Conference.
 
Washington State  (4-8) 
The Cougars won their first series of the 2014 season as they picked up two out of three at home. In both the wins WSU held on to tight contests (8-6 and 4-3) to record the series victory. Sparking the Cougars’ offense over the weekend was junior outfielder Yale Rosen, who went 6-for-10 with five runs and three RBI. In series opener, Rosen went 3-for-3 with a double, home run, walk, two RBI and three runs as WSU won 8-6 then capped the series on Sunday with a 2-for-3 performance, adding a double and two runs. Joe Pistorese has headlined the WSU pitching staff with a team-best 2.05 ERA in 22 innings pitched. 
 
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