Rivalry week on deck for Pac-12 baseball

Oregon State Athletics

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WASHINGTON continued to prove it deserves to be at the top of Conference as the Huskies remained undefeated in six Conference series in 2014 after picking up their first series victory at CALIFORNIA in eight years. The wins kept them out in front of idle OREGON STATE, who remain within striking distance at one and a half games back. Rivalry week has arrived as five Conference series over the weekend will be showdowns of in-state foes. The Pacific Northwest contests could be the most important this week, particularly the OREGON at Oregon State matchup, as the outcomes will have major implications on a Conference title race that is sure to be tight through the last month of the regular season. The Ducks--winners of nine straight--won’t be an easy out for the Beavers. The Huskies, meanwhile, will have to play well against the Cougars if they hope to retain their hold on first place. A cluster of teams behind the league leaders aren’t far removed, however, led by ARIZONA STATE and UCLA, who are just one game and game and a half, respectively, behind third-place Oregon. It was another good week in the rankings for Pac-12 Baseball, who have three teams--Oregon State, Oregon, and Washington-- unanimously ranked in the four major polls. UCLA returned to the rankings this week, marking the fourth team to garner a spot in the polls, coming in at No. 27 in the NCBWA Top-30. Meanwhile, UW and OSU both climbed in Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball’s Top-10, with the Huskies coming in at No. 7 and 5, respectively, while the Beavers hold the No. 5 and 4 spot in those same polls. It is a busy week of non-conference mid-week matchups as eight teams are in action on Tuesday and Wednesday. Rivalry week kicks off on Thursday with USC facing UCLA at the home of the Bruins for a 6 p.m. PT contest that will air live on Pac-12 Networks. In all, 11 games will air live on the Pac-12 Networks (regional sites included) and an additional two will air live on ESPNU in a Sunday Pac-12 double header, featuring the series finales of Oregon at Oregon State at 1 p.m. PT and Arizona State at Arizona at 4:30 p.m. PT.  

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
Tuesday, April 22
#5/4 Oregon State at Sacramento State, 1:00 p.m. PT
Utah at Utah Valley, 6:00 p.m. MT
#7/5 Washington at Seattle, 6:00 p.m. PT
Gonzaga at Washington State (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at Santa Clara, 6:00 p.m. PT
Hawai’i at USC, 6:00 p.m. PT
Loyola Marymount at UCLA, 6:00 p.m. PT
California at Fresno State, 6:35 p.m. PT
 
Wednesday, April 25
Stanford vs. St. Mary’s (California), 3:00 p.m. PT
 
Thursday, April 24
USC at UCLA 6:00 p.m. PT, (P12N)
 
Friday, April 25
Nevada at Utah (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. MT
Washington State at #7/5 Washington*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#19/7 Oregon at #5/4 Oregon State*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
USC at UCLA*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Arizona State at Arizona*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Saturday, April 26
Nevada at Utah (Live Stream), 1:00 p.m. MT
Nevada at Utah (Live Stream), DBL Header
California at Stanford*(Live Stream), 2:00 p.m. PT
USC at UCLA*, 2:00 p.m. PT 
Washington State at #7/5 Washington*, 7:30 p.m. PT (P12N)
#19/7 Oregon at #5/4 Oregon State*, 7:30 p.m. PT (P12N)
Arizona State at Arizona*, 7:30 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Sunday, April 27
Nevada at Utah (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. MT
#19/7 Oregon at #5/4 Oregon State*, 1:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
Washington State at #7/5 Washington*, 2:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
California at Stanford*, 2:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Arizona State at Arizona*, 4:30 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
 
Monday, April 28
California at Stanford*,  6:00 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 (17-23, 6-12) 
After winning two consecutive-Conference series, including a huge series win over UCLA last week, the Wildcats hit a bit of a road block at USC over the weekend, dropping all three games of the series as their Conference-leading offense was stymied by the Trojan pitching staff. The Wildcat offense managed just four runs in three games, but narrowly lost all three by a combined four runs. Despite the recent setback, the offense continues to be a team catalyst as it ranks near the top of the Conference in nearly every major offensive statistical category, including batting average (.287, 2nd), on-base pct (.370, 4th), runs scored (220, 3rd), hits (392, 1st) and runs batted in (192, 4th). Individually, Arizona has two hitters in the top-6 in batting average in the Pac-12, led by Scott Kingery’s .379 average, which is good for third. 
 
Arizona State (21-16, 10-8)  
ASU suffered a mistep on the road at Stanford over the weekend, dropping two of three to break the streak of four-consecutive Conference series wins. After three-straight weeks of being ranked in Collegiate Baseball’s top-30, the Sun Devils run ended on Monday. The week started on a high note with a 5-2 win over No. 20 UNLV before heading to the Bay Area for three against the Cardinal. It was a hard-fought series that featured superb pitching with all three games were decided by one run. In addition, the teams only gave up six runs a piece the entrie series. In the lone win on the weekend, sophomore Ryan Kellogg pitched seven strong innings to propel the Sun Devils to victory, giving up just two unearned runs on seven hits while striking out three. The left-hander has allowed just one earned run and one walk across the past 15 innings in two wins over Conference foes. Offensively as a team, the Sun Devils have been solid as they rank No. 3 in the Pac-12 in slugging percentage (.386) and total hits (362). 
 
California (16-19, 5-10)
The Bears faced a tough test vs. top-10 ranked Washington at home over the weekend, but managed to notch their eighth win over a ranked team in a 7-1 victory in the series finale on Sunday. Losing 14 of their last 20 is in part to facing a tough schedule with more than half their games thus far against ranked teams, including two-straight series against ranked Conference opponents. Despite the recent setbacks, the Bears’ pitching staff has continued to be solid, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 with a 3.52 ERA and fifth in opposing batting average (.255). The offense is led by Brenden Farney and Derek Campbell, who are hitting at a .333 and .271 clip, respectively. Campbell’s five home runs remain tied for tops for an individual player in the Pac-12.   
 
Oregon (31-10, 10-5) 
The Ducks took sole possession of third-place in the Conference and moved within one game of second-place Oregon State with a weekend home sweep of Washington State. Oregon has now reeled off nine wins in a row, including 13 of their last 15, and improved its national ranking in every major poll. After starting the week with a 4-3 win over San Diego, the Ducks outscored the Cougars 19-5 over the weekend and allowed just one run in two of the three games. Junior left-hander Tommy Thorpe had another solid outing for Oregon in an 11-1 victory on Thursday night, giving up just two hits in seven innings of work while striking out eight. The Oregon pitching staff as a whole has been the headliners this season, recording a 2.86 ERA--good for second in the Pac-12--and a Conference-best .216 opposing batting average and 333 batters struck out. Freshman lefty Matt Krook leads the way with a 1.79 ERA this season, good for fourth in the Conference.
 
Oregon State (27-8, 11-4) 
The Beavers were idle last weekend with a bye from Pac-12 play and still sit in second-place, just one and half games back of first-place Washington. OSU remains ranked in the top-5 in every major poll, with its highest ranking of No. 4 in the two of four polls. A huge series awaits this weekend as the Beavers face the Ducks during rivalry week in the Conference in a battle of top-10 ranked teams. Numbers-wise, the Beavers have an impressive combination of offense, defense and pitching firepower. The offense is ranked in the top-5 of the Conference in every major category, including first in on-base percentage (.394) and second in runs batted in (203) and runs scored (222). While the defense owns a Conference-best .979 fielding percentage, the excellent pitching staff ranks first in the Pac-12 as a team in ERA (2.31) and owns three of the top six individual spots atop the Conference in the same category, led by senior Ben Wetzler, who is first in the Pac-12 in ERA at 0.68 and opposing batting average (.129). The weekend rotation of Wetzler, Moore and Fry have recorded a 1.72 ERA, which is the third-best weekend rotation in the nation. 
 
Stanford (15-17, 6-9) 
Stanford turned in what was arguably its best week of the season as they went 3-1 over the week with two walk off victories and a series win over then-No. 27 Arizona State at home. The Cardinal have been through the gauntlet as of late, with four-straight series against ranked Conference foes. Despite the tough schedule, Stanford managed to come out with series victories in two of the four series, capping the stretch off with exciting finishes last week. Senior first-baseman Danny Diekroeger was the catalyst behind the winning efforts as he recorded back-to-back walk-off game-winning hits to beat Saint Mary’s (California) on April 15 and Arizona State on April 17. In the series rubber match against the Sun Devils on Sunday, Diekroeger provided the only run on a solo shot that proved to be the game-winner. On the week, he collected a team-best seven hits while all three of his RBI were game-winners. He became the first Cardinal to earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors in 2014. Stanford pitchers also had a good week, limiting the Sun Devils to just six runs on 17 hits over three games. The pitching staff’s 3.27 ERA is fourth in the Conference while opponents are hitting .227 against them--good for third in the league. In its 15 wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 94-44.
 
UCLA (21-16, 9-6) 
The Bruins rebounded from a tough series loss at Arizona the previous week to pick up their first Conference series win since mid-March as they took two of three on the road at Utah. After a stretch in which the team won nine of 10, UCLA has struggled a bit, losing eight of 13. However, the series win over the weekend should give them some confidence heading into the rivalry series against USC this upcoming weekend. The offense came alive against the Utes as they knocked 16 runs across the plate, while only giving up four in the wins on Thursday and Saturday. Redshirt rreshman right-hander Nick Kern had the best day of his young career on Thursday, hitting a game-wining two-run home run in the top of the ninth before earning his first career save in the bottom half of the inning. It was his first collegiate plate appearance, making the feat even more impressive. Overall, Kern is 1-0 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 relief appearances and has posted a 2.00 ERA in eight Pac-12 apperances. As a team the Bruin pitching staff owns the third-best ERA in the Pac-12 at 2.91. All-American closer David Berg has been impressive with nine saves in 25 appearances.
 
USC (20-17, 9-9) 
After starting the season on a hot streak, the Trojans have struggled to maintain consistency through the middle part of the season, but have recently rebounded during a stretch of two-consecutive Conference series wins, including five-straight victories. The latest was a sweep at home over Arizona, where they won three close games decided by a total of four runs. It was USC’s first Pac-12 series sweep since 2009 and its first over Arizona since 2011. Junior Wyatt Strahan had the best week for the Trojan pitching staff, throwing his first-career complete game shutout in a 1-0 win over the Wildcats on Thursday. The right-hander gave up just five hits while striking out eight over the nine innings. For his performance, Strahan earned his first-career Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honor. The Trojans have climbed their way back to .500 in Conference play, sitting in sixth place and just one game back from fifth-place Arizona State. USC has three starters hitting over .300 in Jake Hernandez (.336), Jeremy Martinez (.336) and Kevin Swick (.307). 
 
Utah (12-23, 3-15) 
While Utah dropped another Conference series over the weekend at home against UCLA, the team did pick up its third Conference win in an 8-6 victory over the Bruins on Friday. The Utes continue to hang tough in games despite continuing to come out on the short end with 11 of their losses coming by two runs or less. Sophomore third-baseman Cody Scaggari had an excellent week for the Utes, hitting .583 (7-for12) over the week with one walk, one strikeout, two doubles and a home run. Sophomore outfielder Wyler Smith and senior infielder TJ Bennett are also regular contributors for the Utes’ offense, hitting .238 and .265, respectively. The pair have combined for 62 hits and 27 RBI on the year. 
 
Washington (27-8-1, 14-4) 
The Huskies have yet to lose a Conference series in 2014, notching their six-straight on the road and first series win at California in eight years with wins in games one and two on Thursday and Friday. With the wins, UW continues to sit alone at the top of the Conference standings with a 14-4 record, but the idle-Beavers remain within striking distance at one and half games back. Since consecutive losses on Feb. 21-22, the Huskies have gone 26-4, including a stretch of 10 wins in a row. UW continued climbing all four major polls this week, gracing the top-10 in three of them. The highest rankings come at No. 5 in Collegiate Baseball’s top-30 and No. 7 in Baseball America top-25. Both rankings are the highest in Washington baseball program history in those polls. No other poll ranks them lower than 11th. Washington is having a stellar season on both sides of the ball as they own the Conference’s best slugging percentage mark (.404), batting average (.292) and on-base perecentage (.379). As a pitching staff, they rank fifth in the Pac-12 in ERA (3.30) and sixth in opposing batting average (.255), while the team’s fielding percentage of .979 is second in the Conference and 12th in the nation.
 
Washington State  (17-19, 7-8) 
The Cougars in are in the midst of one of the toughest schedules in the Conference as they faced their second-consecutive top-25 ranked league opponent in Oregon over the weekend. The Ducks and their hot streak proved to be too much for WSU as they dropped all three games on the road. After winning six in a row, Washington State has dropped six of their last eight, mostly due to the stiff competition against the best teams in the Conference. Despite the loses, they still sit at just under .500 in Conference play; however, the brutal stretch continues as they head across the state to face the first-place Huskies in the rivalry series over the weekend. A bright spot for the WSU relief staff has been closer Ian Hamilton. He has been stellar for the Cougars, tying for the Conference lead with 10 saves on the year, which is also tied for tenth in the nation.
 

 

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