This week in Pac-12 baseball
Oregon State Athletics
OREGON STATE made a statement over the weekend, sweeping top-10 ranked OREGON at home in the annual rivalry series to take over first-place in the Pac-12 (Conference winner is determined by league winning percentage). WASHINGTON--the league leader for a majority of Conference play--however, is staying close, holding a half-game lead on the Beavers but trailing in percentage. UW remains the only team to stay undefeated in Conference series in 2014. With four weekends left in the regular season, it’s looking like the championship could come down to the Beavers and Huskies, who face off in the second-to-last league series of the year, May 16-18. But ARIZONA STATE, USC and OREGON are very much still in the hunt as they sit in a tie for third and fifth-place, respectively. The Trojans have the hot hand right now as they have recovered from a rough midseason stretch to win nine-straight, including two-consecutive Conference series sweeps. The winning streak is USC’s longest since 2001 while 2005 was the last time the Trojans had recorded back-to-back league series sweeps. It was another good week in the rankings for Pac-12 Baseball, who have two teams--Oregon State and Washington-- unanimously ranked in the four major polls. Oregon remained ranked in three of the four while USC and Arizona State entered Collegiate Baseball’s Top-30 at No. 24 and No. 26 to bring the number of ranked Pac-12 teams to five. The Beavers lead the pack as they soared to No. 2 in three of four and hit No. 3 in the fourth. The Pac-12 currently has five teams in the top-40 in RPI, as STANFORD joins OSU, Oregon, Washington and Arizona State in the rankings. Tuesday will be a busy day of non-conference matchups with six teams in action, followed by another full slate of Conference games over the weekend. In the lone non-conference weekend series, the Sun Devils face a tough test on the road at top-20 ranked Oklahoma State--a series that could prove huge for ASU’s tournament resume. In all, four games will be televised live this week, with three appearing on Pac-12 Networks and one on ESPNU. Coverage kicks off Friday night with Arizona at Oregon at 7 p.m. PT.
Tuesday, April 29
UCLA at UC Santa Barbara, 3:00 p.m. PT
Seattle at #7/7 Washington, 5:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at Pacific, 6:00 p.m. PT
UC Irvine at #24 USC, 6:00 p.m. PT
San Francisco at California, 6:00 p.m. PT
New Mexico State at #26 Arizona State (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
Friday, May 2
#7/7 Washington at Utah* (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. MT
#26 Arizona State at #18/12 Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m. CT
#24 USC at Washington State* (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at UCLA*, 6:00 p.m. PT
Arizona at #15 Oregon*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#2/2 Oregon State at California*, 7:00 p.m. PT
Saturday, May 3
#7/7 Washington at Utah* (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. MT
#26 Arizona State at #18/12 Oklahoma State, 3:00 p.m. PT
#24 USC at Washington State* (Live Stream), 2:00 p.m. PT
Arizona at #15 Oregon* 3:00 p.m. PT, (P12N)
#2/2 Oregon State at California*, 6:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at UCLA*, 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
Sunday, May 4
#26 Arizona State at #18/12 Oklahoma State, 1:00 p.m. CT
#7/7 Washington at Utah* (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. MT
#24 USC at Washington State* (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. PT
#2/2 Oregon State at California*, 1:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at UCLA*, 1:00 p.m. PT
Arizona at #15 Oregon*, 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Monday, May 5
Grand Canyon at #7/7 Washington (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
Games are local to site and subject to change.
Rankings are from Baseball America/Collegiate Baseball. *Conference games
Arizona (18-25, 7-14)
Following a sweep at USC the previous week, The Wildcats dropped two of three at home against cross-state rival Arizona State. In the two losses, the Wildcat offense managed just one run, but avoided the sweep on Sunday as the offense exploded for six runs and the pitching staff gave up just one. After winning five of six, Arizona has hit a skid, losing five of their last six, with the win on Sunday breaking a five-game losing streak. Despite the recent setbacks, 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 (.285, 1st), on-base pct (.370, 3rd), runs scored (227, 3rd), hits (415, 1st) and runs batted in (198, 4th). Individually, Arizona has two hitters in the top-5 in batting average in the Pac-12, led by Scott Kingery’s .365 average, which is good for fourth.
Arizona State (23-17, 12-9)
ASU rebounded nicely following a series loss at Stanford, taking games one and two at Arizona over the weekend to get back on the winning track and stay towards the top of the standings. After a one week absence from Collegiate Baseball’s top-30, the Sun Devils returned to No. 26 on Monday. They also received votes in NCBWA’s weekly poll as well as in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. The Sun Devils pulled out game one by a narrow 2-1 victory in the series opener on Friday, but took game two on Saturday soundly thanks to sophomore Ryan Kellogg. The lefty led ASU to its first shutout of Arizona in Tucson since 1972, giving up seven hits and zero runs over nine innings. He was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for performance, his second-career honor in just his second year with the Sun Devils. The left-hander has allowed just one earned run and three walks across the past 24 innings in three 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 (.377) and total hits (383).
California (18-21, 7-11)
The Bears went 2-2 over the week, picking up their first road series win of 2014 over Bay Area rival Stanford. The offense had a great series against the Cardinal, scoring 17 runs in three games while giving up 13. Cal has gone 4-4 after losing five in a row in early April. Their below .500 record is in part to facing a tough schedule with just under half their games thus far against ranked teams, including a stretch of two-consecutive series against ranked Conference opponents. The offense is led by Brenden Farney and Derek Campbell, who are hitting at a .310 and .261 clip, respectively. Campbell’s five home runs are tied for second for an individual player in the Pac-12.
Oregon (31-13, 10-8)
The Ducks saw their nine-game winning streak end over the weekend at in-state rival and top-five ranked Oregon State. Oregon suffered its first sweep of the season and dropped to fifth in the Conference standings after three tough road contests. After a 3-1 loss on Friday, the Ducks held a lead late in the game on Saturday, but surrended it to a potent Beavers offense and ultimately losing 4-2. Despite the sweep, Oregon has won 13 of their last 18, and remain in the national rankings in three of the four polls. While it was an uncharacteristically shaky weekend for the Oregon pitching staff, as a whole they have been the headliners this season, recording a 3.01 ERA--good for second in the Pac-12--and a .218 opposing batting average, also good for second. Additionally, their 351 batters struck out is a Conference-best. Freshman lefty Matt Krook leads the way with a 1.79 ERA this season, good for sixth in the Conference.
Oregon State (31-8, 14-4)
The Beavers picked up a huge sweep at home over top-10 ranked Oregon to move into first-place (by percentage) in Conference standings. With the impressive weekend, OSU continued to rise in the polls, coming in at No. 2 in three of the four major polls, with a ranking of No. 3 in the fourth poll. After a stretch where the team lost three of four, they have responded by winning 11 of their last 13. Numbers-wise, OSU 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 (.392) and second in runs batted in (215) and runs scored (244). While the defense owns a Conference second-best .979 fielding percentage, the excellent pitching staff ranks first in the Pac-12 as a team in ERA (2.18) and owns three of the top seven individual spots atop the Conference in the same category, led by senior Ben Wetzler, who is first in the Pac-12 and second in the country in ERA at 0.73 and leads the Conference in opposing batting average (.135). Reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year Michael Conforto leads the league with a .410 batting average, which is also good for eighth in the country.
Stanford (18-19, 7-11)
While the Cardinal finished the week with a winning 3-2 record, the two losses came against Bay Area rival California as they dropped the league series with a loss in the rubbermatch finale on Monday evening. The week started with two-consecutive non-conference wins over Santa Clara and St. Mary’s on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the weekend began with a loss to the Bears in the series opener on Saturday, 7-4. In game two on Sunday, the Cardinal held Cal to just one run while scoring four to even up the series. Monday night’s finale was rough for the Stanford pitching staff as they gave up nine runs while the offense only managed five as they dropped the series. Regardless of the rough outing over the weekend, the pitching staff’s 3.50 ERA is sixth in the Conference while opponents are hitting .230 against them--good for third in the league. In its 18 wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 114-56. The Cardinal have also had 18 games against ranked opponents this year, contributing to an RPI that is 34th nationally.
UCLA (22-19, 9-9)
A week after picking up their first Conference series win since mid-March, UCLA ran into a red-hot USC team, who stole all three-games at the home of the Bruins in a Thursday-Saturday rivalry series. After a stretch in which the team won nine of 10, UCLA has struggled a bit, losing 11 of 17. After starting the week with a shutout win over Loyola Marymount, a solid Bruins pitching staff struggled against the Trojans, giving up 20 runs in three losses, including 10 in a 10-0 loss in the series opener on Thursday night. Friday didn’t get any easier as UCLA gave up a late lead to drop game two by a narrow margin of 3-2 and again couldn’t find their groove on either side of the ball in a 7-4 loss in the series finale on Sunday. Despite the rough outings this weekend, as a team the Bruin pitching staff owns the third-best ERA in the Pac-12 at 3.11, while they rank 15th in the country in walks per nine innings (2.55), 18th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.77) and 16th in WHIP (1.13).
USC (24-17, 12-9)
After starting the season on a hot streak, then struggling through the middle part of the season, the Trojans seem to be getting hot at the right time with just over three weeks left to play in the regular season. USC has now won nine in a row and 10 of their last 12. The strech--their longest winning streak since 2011- includes two-straight league series sweeps, with the latest victim being cross-town rival UCLA. The back-to-back Conference series sweeps also marks the first time since 2005 that the team has accomplished such at feat. The Trojans outscored the Bruins 20-6 in the three wins, and outscored opponents 40-10 in their four wins over the week. USC earned Conference weekly honors for the second week in a row, this time on the offensive side of the ball as first baseman Jake Hernandez was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. The senior hit .556 over the week, tallying an impressive 10 hits over four games with five RBI. Against the Bruins he went 7-for-13 with four RBI and did not strikeout in any of his 18 at bats. The Trojans have climbed back to the top of the Conference standings, sitting in a tie for third place with Arizona State. USC has three starters hitting over .300 in Jake Hernandez (.367), Jeremy Martinez (.324) and Kevin Swick (.321).
Utah (13-25, 3-15)
Utah went 1-2 in non-conference play over the week as they had the weekend off from league play. The offense exploded in the lone win this week, a 12-0 shutout over Nevada. Two of four games scheduled for Saturday against Nevada were canceled due to rain, but the Utes managed to split what turned out to be a two game series with the Wolfpack. The Utes have continued to hang tough in games despite coming out on the short end this season, with 11 of their losses coming by two runs or less. Sophomore third-baseman Cody Scaggari had another excellent week for the Utes, hitting .500 (7-for14) over the week with two doubles, three RBI and four runs scored. Sophomore outfielder Wyler Smith and senior infielder TJ Bennett are also regular contributors for the Utes’ offense, hitting .252 and .260, respectively. The pair have combined for 69 hits and 32 RBI on the year.
Washington (29-10-1, 16-5)
The Huskies still have yet to lose a Conference series in 2014, notching their seventh-straight at home against cross-state rival Washington State over the weekend. The week started out rough however, as the Huskies dropped a non-conference contest against Seattle University 1-0 on Tuesday and then gave up a late lead in the series opener on Friday against the Cougars to record their first three-game losing streak in 2014. With weather moving game two to Sunday for a double header, the Huskies needed to win both to stay on pace with Oregon State, who swept Oregon over the weekend. UW did just that as they won two close games on Sunday (2-1 & 2-0) to stay in the hunt for the title. Since consecutive losses on Feb. 21-22, the Huskies have gone 28-6, including a stretch of 10 wins in a row. UW continued two sit in the top-15 in all four major polls, gracing the top-10 in two of them with the highest ranking of seven coming in two of the four. Washington is having a stellar season on all sides of the ball as they own the Conference’s best slugging percentage mark (.392) and are second in batting average (.284) and on-base perecentage (.371). As a pitching staff, they rank fourth in the Pac-12 in ERA (3.15) and fifth in opposing batting average (.250), while the team’s fielding percentage of .980 leads the Conference and is ninth in the nation.
Washington State (18-22, 8-10)
The Cougars have been through the gauntlet in Pac-12 play, facing three-consecutive league foes ranked in the top-20 in the country. The tough schedule is to blame for the recent skid as the Cougars have lost nine of their last 12 after winning six in a row in late March/early April. Facing rival and seventh-ranked Washington on the road over the weekend, the Cougars got off to a great start in a come-from-behind 6-4 victory in the series opener; however, dropped two close games in a double-header on Sunday to lose the series. While the pitching staff gave up just four runs in the two games on Sunday, the Huskies pitchers proved to be too much as the Cougs managed just one run in the two close games. A bright spot for the WSU relief staff has been closer Ian Hamilton. He has been stellar for the Cougars, leading the Conference with 11 saves on the year, which is also tied for eighth in the nation.