This week in Pac-12 baseball

Arizona State Athletics

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Pac-12 baseball heads towards the halfway point of the season with another week full of non-conference weekday contests and weekend Conference matchups. New leaders emerged after the weekend as OREGON STATE tooks its first mistep of the season, dropping a weekend Conference series at home to ARIZONA STATE. That left the door open at the top of the standings and three teams-OREGON, WASHINGTON and UCLA--were quick to take advantage. The Ducks and Huskies picked up league sweeps at home while UCLA took two of three as they hosted WASHINGTON STATE in Los Angeles, all moving their records to 5-1 in league play to create a three-way tie on top. UW debuted their newly renovated Husky Ballpark with their first series sweep of ARIZONA since 2004 while the Ducks held Utah to just two runs in three games to extend their winning streak to five. The Beavers fell to fourth after going 1-2 on the week, followed by another three-way deadlock for fifth-place among USC, Arizona State and Washington State--all at .500. Washington joined the Beavers, Ducks and Bruins in the rankings this week as they came in at No. 19 in Collegiate Baseball’s Top-30. Meanwhile Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA continue to be ranked in the four major collegaite baseball polls, with a drop for the Beavers and boost for the Bruins in Baseball America’s: Oregon State (6), Oregon (11), and UCLA (18). After six teams take on non-league foes this week, including a Thursday night Arizona-Arizona State tilt--Conference play continues on Friday with STANFORD (vs. Oregon), UCLA (vs. Arizona State), USC (vs. Washington), CALIFORNIA (vs. UTAH) and Arizona (vs. Oregon State) all hosting league matchups this weekend. Eight games will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks this week, starting with two non-conference matchups tonight as Long Beach State visits #18/23 UCLA at 6 p.m. PT and Utah welcomes BYU at 7 p.m. MT. 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
 
Tuesday, March 25
#11/7 Oregon at San Francisco 2:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at St. Mary’s (Calif.) 3:00 p.m PT
Seattle U at #6/7 Oregon State 5:35 p.m. PT
Long Beach State at #18/23 UCLA 6:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
BYU at Utah 7:00 p.m. MT (P12N)
USC at Loyola Marymount 6:00 p.m. MT
 
Wednesday, March 26
#11/7 Oregon at San Francisco 2:00 p.m. PT
Arizona at Arizona State 3:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Thursday, March 27
San Jose State at Washington State (Live Stream) 6:00 p.m. PT
 
Friday, March 28
San Jose State at Washington State (Live Stream) 6:00 p.m. PT
#11/7 Oregon at Stanford* (Live Stream) 6:00 p.m. PT
Arizona State at #18/23 UCLA*   6:00 p.m. PT
#19 Washington at USC* 6:00 p.m. PT
Utah at California* 7:00 p.m. PT
#6/7 Oregon State at Arizona* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Saturday, March 29
San Jose State at Washington State (Live Stream) 2:00 p.m. PT  
#11/7 Oregon at Stanford* (Live Stream) 2:00 p.m. PT
Arizona State at #18/23 UCLA*   2:00 p.m. PT
#19 Washington at USC* 2:00 p.m. PT
#6/7 Oregon State at Arizona* 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Utah at California* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Sunday, March 30
San Jose State at Washington State (Live Stream) 12:00 p.m. PT
Utah at California* 12:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#6/7 Oregon State at Arizona* 12:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#11/7 Oregon at Stanford* (Live Stream) 1:00 p.m. PT
Arizona State at #18/23 UCLA*   1:00 p.m. PT
Washington at USC* 1:00 p.m. PT
 
Games are local to site and subject to change. 
Rankings are from Baseball America/Collegiate Baseball. *Conference games
 
TEAM NOTES
 
Arizona (11-15, 1-5) 
The Wildcats have hit a bit of midseason slump, dropping their last six games, including a weekend sweep at Washington to fall to 1-5 in Conference play.  Outside of a seven run opening series game against the Huskies, the Arizona offense struggled to produce runs--only scoring three total in the three other games over the week. Despite recent struggles, Arizona still ranks near the top of the Conference in every major offensive statistical category, including batting average (.308, 1st), slugging percentage (.404, 2nd), on base pct (.395, 2nd), runs scored (164, 1st), hits (277, 1st) and runs batted in (144, 1st). Two Wildcats also own the second and third spots in the Pac-12 in batting average in Scott Kingery (.400, 2nd) and Trent Gilbert (.385, 2nd). The Wildcats will look for pitching to improve as they aim to get back in the win column.
  
Arizona State (12-10, 3-3)  
The Sun Devils went 3-2 over the last week, but more importantly picked up a huge road series at top-5 ranked Oregon State--their first in Corvallis since 2007 and the third road series win over a top-5 team in school history. ASU started the week by splitting a pair of home contests against Wichita State, then headed north to face a Beavers team that had won 10 in a row coming into the series. After dropping the opening game, ASU responded in game two, coming from behind to win 3-2 in 10 innings. Sophomore left-hander Ryan Kellogg notched the win after giving up just two runs on nine hits, holding the Beavers scoreless through four consecutive frames to help secure the win. The Sun Devils used another come-from behind win on Sunday to hand OSU its first series loss of the season. After the weekend, ASU ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in batting average (.291) and hits (218) and third in slugging percentage (.389).  
 
California (11-12, 0-3)
After winning eight of their first ten, the Bears have hit a rough stretch as they have dropped 10 of their llast 13. They did, however, face a tough test over the week as they played four games on the road, including a weekend series to No. 7/10 Cal Poly. Despite going just 1-4 on the week, Cal was able to  steal one of four against the Mustangs, marking their sixth win over a ranked team this year. The Bears’ pitching staff has continued to perform well, despite the struggles, ranking fifth in the Pac-12 with a 3.18 ERA and opposing batting average (.248). The offense is led by Brended Farney and Nick Halamandaris, who are hitting at a .364 and .280 clip, respectively.   
 
Oregon (17-5, 5-1) 
The Ducks--ranked in the top-10 in three of four major polls-- have found a midseason groove, wrapping up a 15-game home stand with a series sweep over Conference foe Utah to extend their winning streak to five. Oregon--winner of its last nine out of 11--at 5-1 are now in a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-12 with Washington and UCLA. The pitching staff had an outstanding weekend against the Utes, giving up just two runs in three games. Junior Tommy Thorpe got the momentum started on Friday night as he pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and striking out five in a 1-0 victory. The lefty was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for his performance. As a staff, the Ducks own a 2.44 ERA, good for second in the Conference, while opponents are hitting just .197 against them--a Pac-12 best.
 
Oregon State (19-5, 4-2) 
The Beavers suffered their first stumble of the season, going 1-2 at home against ASU to drop their first series of the season and suffer their first back-to-back losses since Feb. 21-22. Since then OSU had gone 15-1, including winning ten straight heading into the weekend. After extending the streak to 11 with a 4-0 opening game win on Friday, the Beavers did something they don’t usually do--give up leads--as the Sun Devils used two come-from-behind performances to take games two and three. Despite dropping to fourth in the standings, OSU remaines ranked in the top-10 in every major poll. The pitching staff continues to own a Conference-best 2.01 ERA while ranking third in opposing batting average (.206) and second in innings pitched (215.0). Senior pitcher Ben Wetler leads the league in ERA at 0.59 and is one of three OSU pitchers in the top 8 in that category. The offense and defense continues to be solid as they rank in the top-5 in every major offensive statistial category in the Pac-12 in addition to leading the league in fielding percentage (.980).  
 
Stanford (8-10, 1-2) 
The Cardinal hosted the Trojans for their Conference opening series over the weekend, nabbing just one of three en route to the series loss. The opening game on Friday was a heartbreaker as Stanford led 3-1 heading into the eighth inning thanks to a near-flawless start by freshman Brett Hanewich, who held USC scoreless through six innings after giving up an unearned run in the first. The Trojans went on to score three runs in the top of the inning and Stanford coudn’t recover, losing 4-3. They evened the series on Saturday  after a 6-2 victory, but couldn’t take game three after giving up a 3-0 lead they held through five innings. Hanewich leads a young Cardinal pitching staff, posting a 1.46 ERA on the season, which is fifth-best in the Pac-12. As a team, Stanford’s 3.12 ERA is fourth in the Conference. The offense has been solid, with four regular starters with batting averages over .300--led by third baseman Alex Blandino at (.349) and Austin Slater (.339). In its eight wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 61-22.
 
UCLA (14-8, 5-1) 
Winning ways continued for the top-20 ranked Bruins over the past week as they picked up another Conference series win after taking two of three from Washington State. UCLA has won seven of its last eight and sits in a three-way tie for first in the Pac-12 after the weekend series victory. It wasn’t easy as the Bruins failed to score in the series opening loss on Friday before rebounding to even the series on Saturday with a 4-2 victory. The rubbermatch on Sunday was a slugfest between the Cougars and Bruins, and it took a come-from-behind extra inning effort to get the 8-7 victory and secure the series. The defending national champions got another stellar performance from junior left-hander Grant Watson in Saturday’s win, as he tossed eigth innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out five en route to his fourth win of the year. In his last four starts, Watson is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA and improved his career record to 22-5 with the win. His 1.76 ERA on the year also ranks seventh in the league. As whole the pitching staff is third in the Conference with a 2.55 ERA, second in opposing batting average (.199), and fourth in innings pitched (201.0).  
 
USC (12-10, 3-3) 
The Trojans’ up-and-down March continued last week as they went 2-2, but the week came with a bright spot as the two wins were on the road at Stanford, securing the weekend Conference series on the road. After losing a close one to Stony Brook in a midweek contest, USC used some of its early season come-from-behind magic to knock in three eighth inning runs to hold off the Cardinal 4-3 in the series opener on Friday. Stanford evened the series on Saturday and jumped out to an early lead in Sunday’s rubbermatch; however, the Trojans tapped into their bats, scoring six unanswered runs--including three in the top of the 10th--to record the series victory. Junior right-hander Wyatt Strahan headlined the weekend for the Trojan pitching staff, giving up three runs (2 earned) on Friday in eight innings with five strikeouts and no walks to earn his second win in as many starts. 
 
Utah (9-13, 0-6) 
The Utes ended a four-game losing streak from the previous week with a midweek 7-3 win at home over Utah Valley. They then headed back to the state of Oregon for the second-consecutive weekend--this time to take on another top-15 ranked team in the Ducks. While Oregon proved to be just be a little too much as the Utes were swept for the second-straight weekend, they did hang tough with the Conference-leaders. In the series opener, junior right-hander Mitch Watrous was stellar, giving up just one run and striking out nine in eight innings of work. Unfortunately the Ute offense couldn’t produce any runs and Watrous’ impressive performance ended in a loss. The pitching staff went on to give up just seven runs in the next two games, but the offense struggled against a stout Oregon pitching staff, scoring just one run on Saturday and Sunday combined. Utah will try to get back on the winning track in another midweek contest against BYU before heading to the Bay to take on California. 
 
Washington (16-5-1, 5-1) 
So far, Washington is proving itself as the surprise of the Conference this season, sitting in a three-way tie with Oregon and UCLA at the top of the Pac-12 and fresh off a home sweep of Arizona. Debuting a newly renovated Husky Ballpark, UW picked up its first series sweep over Arizona since 2004 and improved its record to 11 games over .500--the first time the Huskies have reached that mark in five years under head coach Lindsay Meggs. Including an early-week win over Portland, the Huskies extended their winning streak to six, while they have won 13 of their last 14. Helping UW to a 4-0 record on the week was senior outfielder/first baseman Brian Wolfe, who went 9-of-16 (.563) with a home run, 4 RBI and five runs en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Week--the second-consecutive week a Husky has earned the honor. Capping an impressive week, Wolfe hit a three-run homer--the first home run in the new Ballpark--to give the Huskies an 8-0 lead in the 5th inning on Sunday to secure the series sweep. Over the last 14 games the Husky starting pitching staff has a 2.23 ERA while the bullpen has recorded a 1.53 ERA. Jeff Brigham leads the way for UW with a 1.06 ERA, good for second-best in the Conference.
 
Washington State  (9-12, 3-3) 
Despite dropping the weekend Conference series at UCLA and a non-Conference matchup at Cal State Fullerton on Monday, the Cougars have been on a bit of an upswing as of late winning five of their last eight. Before dropping games two and three to the Bruins on Saturday and Sunday, WSU had won five in row, including a two-game sweep over a top-25 ranked San Diego squad. With the series opening win over UCLA on Friday night, Washington State had recorded three-straight wins over ranked opponents in the midst of their streak. They are currently tied for fifth in Conference-play, holding a .500 record as they host San Jose State over the weekend as they get a breather from Pac-12 competition. Redshirt sophomore Ben Roberts has emerged as an offensive threat for WSU, hitting .413 in 16 games played, while Yale Rosen and Nick Tanielu continueto deliver at plate, hitting .343 and .300, respectively, and each recording a team-best 24 hits on the season.
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