This week in Pac-12 baseball

Oregon State Athletics
 
OREGON STATE continues to make its case as the team to beat, notching its’ second-consecutive league series sweep to extend the team’s winning streak to seven. WASHINGTON--the league leader for a majority of Conference play--however, continues to keep pace with the Beavers, collecting a sweep of their own on the road at UTAH over the weekend. The Huskies hold a half-game lead on the Beavers, but trail in percentage points and will be off from Conference play this weekend. With three weekends left in the regular season, the Oregon State-Washington series on May 16-18 is setting up to be a showdown for the Pac-12 Championship. UW, who remains the only team to stay undefeated in Conference series in 2014, is looking to win its’ first Pac-12 title since 1998--the last year of the split divisions. OREGON picked up a huge sweep over ARIZONA at home over the weekend, as they needed the wins to stay in title contention after dropping three to the Beavers the previous week. Red-hot OSU reached their highest ranking of 2014 in Collegiate Baseball’s Top-30 and NCBWA’s Top-30, garnering the top spot in both polls. Washington remained unanimously ranked in the four major polls, including their highest ranking of the season at No. 6 in Baseball America’s Top-25. Oregon, meanwhile, remained ranked in three of the four to round out the Pac-12 teams. The Conference currently has five teams in the top-50 in RPI, as STANFORD and ARIZONA STATE join OSU, Oregon and Washington in the rankings. The mid-week slate is highlighted by a non-conference matchup between No. 1/2 Oregon State and No. 14 Oregon on Tuesday night, set to be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks at 6 p.m. PT. Conference play resumes this weekend with WASHINGTON STATE (vs. Utah), USC (vs. California), Arizona (vs. Stanford), Arizona State (vs. Oregon), and Oregon State (vs. UCLA) all hosting league series over the weekend. In a break from Conference play, the Huskies will welcome Bethune-Cookman to Husky Stadium for a three-game tilt Thursday-Saturday. In all, seven games will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks this week, starting with two on Tuesday evening, and kicking off the weekend slate on Friday with UCLA at Oregon State at 7:30 p.m. PT.   
 
UPCOMING SCHEDULE
Tuesday, May 6
Utah at BYU, 6:00 p.m. MT
Santa Clara at Stanford (Live Stream), 5:30 p.m. PT
#2/1 Oregon State at #14 Oregon*, 6:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Cal State Fullerton at UCLA, 6:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Wednesday, May 7
#14 Oregon at Portland, 3:00 p.m. PT
 
Thursday, May 8
Bethune-Cookman at #6/7 Washington (Live Stream), 5:00 p.m. PT
 
Friday, May 9
Bethune-Cookman at #6/7 Washington (Live Stream), 5:00 p.m. PT
Utah at Washington State* (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
California at USC*, 6:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at Arizona* (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
#14 Oregon at Arizona State* (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
UCLA at #2/1 Oregon State*, 7:30 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Saturday, May 10
Bethune-Cookman at #6/7 Washington (Live Stream), 2:00 p.m. PT
California at USC*, 2:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at Arizona* (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
#14 Oregon at Arizona State* (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
Utah at Washington State*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
UCLA at #2/1 Oregon State*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Sunday, May 11
Utah at Washington State*, 12:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#14 Oregon at Arizona State* (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. PT 
Stanford at Arizona*, 12:00 p.m. PT
California at USC*, 1:00 p.m. PT
UCLA at #2/1 Oregon State*, 3:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
 
Games are local to site and subject to change. 
Rankings are from Baseball America/Collegiate Baseball. *Conference games
 
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona (18-28, 7-17) 
The Wildcats faced a tough test on the road last weekend, traveling to top-25-ranked Oregon, who were fresh off dropping three to Oregon State and motivated to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. Unfortunately, the Ducks proved to be too much as Arizona dropped all three games in Eugene. Despite keeping it close in game two, the Wildcats fell in the 10th inning in what would have evened the series. After winning five of six, Arizona has hit a skid, losing eight of their last nine. Despite the rough stretch, 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 (.282, 2nd), on-base pct (.367, 4th), runs scored (235, 5th), hits (440, 1st) and runs batted in (206, 4th). Individually, Arizona has two hitters in the top-6 in batting average in the Pac-12, led by Scott Kingery’s .365 average, which is good for third. 
 
Arizona State (24-20, 12-9)  
The Sun Devils had a break from Pac-12 play, but things didn’t get an easier as they traveled across the country to face top-10-ranked Oklahoma State for a three-game set over the weekend. ASU started out the week on a winning note, taking down New Mexico State, 2-0, at home on Tuesday. The Cowboys were a challenge, though, and despite hanging close in all three games, the Sun Devils couldn’t get out of Oklahoma City with a win. Saturday’s 6-5 loss was a heartbreaker, as ASU led 5-3 going into the eighth inning, but couldn’t hold on to the lead, ultimately falling in the 11th inning. With the Trojans dropping two of three over the weekend as WSU, Arizona State took sole possession of fourth place in the Conference with an important series with third-place Oregon on deck. Offense has been the catalyst in 2014 as they rank No. 4 in the Pac-12 in batting average (.275), slugging percentage (.374) and total hits (415). In Conference games only, the Sun Devils rank fourth in batting average (.260) and slugging percentage (.346) and third in on-base percentage (.346).
 
California (19-24, 7-14)
The Bears’ week began on a bright note as they held off cross-the-bay rival University of San Francisco 1-0 on Tuesday night at home; however, when Pac-12 resumed on Friday the top-5-ranked Beavers came to town as one of the hottest teams in the country and Cal couldn’t overcome the challenge. In dropping three games, the Bears allowed 24 runs while only producing seven. The struggles this season and below .500 record is in part to facing a tough schedule with half their games thus far against ranked teams, including a stretch of three of four series against ranked Conference opponents. The offense has been led by Devon Rodriguez and Derek Campbell, who are hitting at a .271 and .260 clip, respectively. Campbell’s six home runs are third for an individual player in the Pac-12.   
 
Oregon (34-13, 13-8) 
A week removed from suffering a sweep at in-state rival Oregon State, the Ducks regrouped at home over the weekend as they came out on the winning end of all three games against Arizona. The wins, coupled  with USC losses over the weekend, put the Ducks right back in title contention as they sit in third behind the Beavers and the Huskies. Oregon catcher Shaun Chase had a huge weekend, propelling the Ducks to victory as he went 7-for-11 (.636) with 7 RBI, three home runs, one double and four runs scored en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. Chase posted a multi-home run game in Friday’s series opener, then followed on Sunday with a grand slam in the eighth inning to secure the league series sweep.The team has won 12 of their last 15, and remain in the national rankings in three of the four polls. The pitching staff recovered from a rough weekend against the Beavers to give up just two runs in games one and three and eight total on the weekend. As a whole they have been the headliners this season, recording a 2.98 ERA--good for second in the Pac-12--and a .220 opposing batting average, also good for second. Additionally, their 373 batters struck out is a Conference-best. 
 
Oregon State (34-8, 17-4) 
The Beavers head into the final three weekends of the regular season playing some of their best baseball of the season. Winners of seven in a row, including two-consecutive league sweeps over then-top-10 ranked Oregon and California this past weekend, they reached the top of the rankings in the NCBWA top-30 and Collegiate Baseball’s top-30 and are ranked no lower than second in the other two major polls. They continue to hold a slim lead (by percentage) in Conference standings, but Washington remains a half-game better. After a stretch where the team lost three of four, they have responded by winning 14 of their last 16. Numbers-wise, OSU has 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 (.389) and second in runs batted in (245). The excellent pitching staff ranks first in the Pac-12 as a team in ERA (2.18) and owns three of the top five and four of the top 10 individual spots atop the Conference in the same category, led by Ben Wetzler. The senior is first in the Pac-12 and leads the country in ERA at 0.78 while leading the Conference in opposing batting average (.140). 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 (21-20, 9-12) 
The Cardinal turned in a 3-1 record on the road this week, inlcuding a series win at defending national champion UCLA to notch their third Conference series win on the season. The week started with a 3-2 victory after Pacific, and after a 7-2 loss in the series opener in Los Angeles on Friday, Stanford held the Bruins to just two runs over the next two games to take the series. After losing six of seven in late March/early April, Stanford has won 10 of its last 14. The Cardinal have also faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation and have recorded 18 wins over ranked opponents, resutling in a RPI that ranks 31st in the country. Left-hander John Hochstatter continues to be a force for the young pitching staff as he turned in another stellar game on Saturday against the Bruins. The junior recorded his second-straight complete game and first-career shutout in the 5-0 victory, and has now gone 17.2 consecutive innings without allowing a run. Since joining the rotation he has gone 4-0 and owns a 1.59 ERA, good for third in the Pac-12. Overall, the pitching staff’s 3.43 ERA is fifth in the Conference while opponents are hitting .232 against them--good for third in the league. In its 21 wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 127-60.
 
UCLA (23-21-1, 10-11) 
After a stretch in which the team won nine of 10, UCLA has struggled as of late, going 7-13-1 since then. The week started on a strange note as a Tuesday night non-conference contest with UC Santa Barbara ended in a tie due to darkness. The weekend, however, began on a good note as James Kaprielian continued a stellar sophomore campaign, giving up just five hits and striking out 10 in 6.2 innings of work to earn the victory in the Bruins’ 7-2 win over Stanford. The righty’s 82 strikeouts currently rank first in the Pac-12 while his 2.43 ERA ranks eighth. As a team the Bruin pitching staff owns the third-best ERA in the Pac-12 at 3.14, while they rank 21st in the country in walks per nine innings (2.68), 20th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.67) and 17th in WHIP (1.16). 
 
 
USC (25-20, 13-11) 
The Trojans’ nine-game winning streak--their longest since 2001--ended last week in a 6-2 loss to a now-ranked UC Irvine squad. USC went on to drop games one and two at Washington State to end another streak of three-consecutive Conference series wins. They did, however, manage to salvage game three in a 7-1 victory and--despite the setbacks over the week--have now won 10 of their last 13. The fifth-place Trojans sit at 65th in the country in RPI, making the last three weeks of the regular season paramount for their postseason resume. A bright spot for the Trojans this year has been the offense, led by seniors Jake Hernandez and Kevin Swick, who are hitting at a .361 and .314 clip, respectively. Hernandez currently ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in batting average.
 
Utah (13-28, 3-18) 
The Utes suffered a sweep to seventh-ranked Washington over the weekend, but did manage to put up 22 runs against a solid Huskies’ pitching staff. In Sunday’s series finale, the Utes came back from a 10-1 deficit and a 13-12 deficit in a wacky game that ended in a final score of 21-17 in the Huskies’ favor. Despite the struggles the season, the Utes have fought to stay close in games, with 11 of their losses coming by two runs or less. Sophomore third-baseman Cody Scaggari continues to lead the Ute offense, hitting .288 with 30 hits and nine RBI. Sophomore outfielder Wyler Smith and senior infielder TJ Bennett are also regular contributors for the Utes’ offense, hitting .244 and .271, respectively. The pair have combined for 76 hits and 34 RBI on the year. 
 
Washington (33-11-1, 19-5) 
The Huskies still have yet to lose a Conference series in 2014, notching their eighth-straight after sweeping Utah on the road over the weekend. The week started with a non-conference loss to Seattle University for the second-straight week, this time by a score of 6-3. The Huskies recovered to take games one (8-4) and two (11-1) from the Utes in dominant fashion. In Sunday’s finale, UW gave up leads up 10-1 and 13-12 but still managed to pull out the 21-17 win in the highest scoring league game of 2014. While the Beavers hold a lead in percentage points atop the league standings, the Huskies are up a half game and continue to keep pace with OSU. Since consecutive losses on Feb. 21-22, the Huskies have gone 32-7, including a stretch of 10 wins in a row. UW continues to sit in the top-15 in all four major polls, gracing the top-10 in two of them with the highest ranking of six coming in Baseball America. Washington is having a stellar season on all sides of the ball as they own the Conference’s best batting average (.293) and slugging percentage mark (.404) and are second in on-base perecentage (.377). As a pitching staff, they rank sixth in the Pac-12 in ERA (3.49) and seventh in opposing batting average (.257), while the team’s fielding percentage of .980 leads the Conference and is fifth in the nation.
 
Washington State  (20-23, 10-11) 
After going through the gauntlet in Pac-12 play, facing three-consecutive league foes ranked in the top-20 in the country, the Cougars welcomed another league team on a hot streak to Pullman last weekend in USC. The Trojans were fresh off a nine-game winning streak and looked like another dauting task for WSU. The Cougars responded well, though, taking games one and two on Friday and Saturday to secure the series. It marked their fourth and fifth win over a ranked opponent this year and kept them just under five hundred in league play. After a stretch where the team lost four in a row, they have gone 3-3 in their last six with three weekends left in the regular season. A bright spot for the WSU relief staff has been closer Ian Hamilton. He has been stellar for the Cougars, leading the Conference with 12 saves on the year, which is also tied for ninth in the nation.
 
 
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