Pac-12 baseball regular season wrapping up this weekend
Oregon State Athletics
The series between OREGON STATE and WASHINGTON lived up to its’ billing, proving to be the series-of-the-year in the Pac-12 this season. While the Huskies robbed the Beavers from a chance to clinch their second-consecutive Pac-12 title at home by winning the series opener on Friday night, it was Oregon State who came out on top after taking the next two games to take a two game lead in the standings with three games to play. OSU needs just one win this weekend at USC to secure the title. Despite the series loss, UW is guaranteed to finish no lower than second--its highest finish since finishing in the same spot in 2004. Overall the series showcased the best the Pac-12 has to offer, and both the Beavers and Huskies looked poised to make deep postseason runs. OREGON and ARIZONA STATE seemed to have secured NCAA berths, both earning league series sweeps over the weekend. STANFORD continued its winning ways with a third-consecutive league series win vs. WASHINGTON STATE over the weekend, and this last league series will be key to solidifying its’ case for a NCAA tournament bid. After the huge series win, OSU is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation. UW remained unanimously ranked in the four major polls, including a pair of No. 8 rankings and a pair of No. 13 rankings in the fours major polls. The Ducks remained ranked in three of the four while ARIZONA STATE stepped back into the rankings at No. 21 in Collegiate Baseball’s Top-30 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 last week of the regular season wraps up with three non-conference contests on Tuesday night, including one last showdown between No. 1 Oregon State and No. 15 Oregon. Conference play concludes this weekend with Oregon (vs. CALIFORNIA), USC (vs. Oregon State), UTAH (vs. STANFORD), WASHINGTON (vs. UCLA), and Washington State (vs. Arizona State) all hosting league series. ARIZONA will finish the season with a three-game non-conference series vs. Abilene Christian. In all, 11 games will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks on the last weekend of play in 2014, starting with OSU/Oregon on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. PT.
Tuesday, May 20
USC at Cal State Fullerton 6:00 p.m. PT
Abilene Christian at Arizona State (Live Stream) 6:30 p.m. PT
#1 Oregon State at #15 Oregon* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Thursday, May 22
California at #15 Oregon 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Friday, May 23
Stanford at Utah* 12:00 p.m. MT
#1 Oregon State at USC* 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Abilene Christian at Arizona (Live Stream) 6:00 p.m. PT
(RV) Arizona State at Washington State* 7:00 p.m. PT
UCLA at #13 Washington* (Live Stream) 7:00 p.m. PT
California at #15 Oregon* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Saturday, May 24
Stanford at Utah* 12:00 p.m. MT (P12N)
(RV) Arizona State at Washington State* 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Abilene Christian at Arizona (Live Stream) 6:00 p.m. PT
UCLA at #13 Washington* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#1 Oregon State at USC* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
California at #15 Oregon* 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Sunday, May 25
Stanford at Utah* 12:00 p.m. MT
Abilene Christian at Arizona (Live Stream) 12:00 p.m. PT
(RV) Arizona State at Washington State* 12:00 p.m. PT
#1 Oregon State at USC* 12:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
UCLA at #13 Washington* 3:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona (20-32, 9-21)
The Wildcats’ struggles this season continued last weekend as they they traveled to the Bay Area for three games at Cal, dropping two of them. The weekend started well with a 6-0 win in the series opener on Friday, but the pitching staff couldn’t find their rhythm, giving up 13 combined runs in the losses on Saturday and Sunday. After winning five of six, Arizona has hit a skid, losing 12 of their last 15. Despite the rough stretch, the offense has been solid in 2014, ranking in the middle or near the top in nearly every major offensive statistical category, including batting average (.277, 4th), on-base pct (.355, 6th), runs scored (263, 5th), hits (491, 2nd) and runs batted in (229, 5th). Individually, Arizona has two hitters in the top-10 in batting average in the Pac-12, led by Scott Kingery’s .348 average, which is good for fifth.
Arizona State (30-21, 17-10)
The Sun Devils picked up their third-consecutive Conference series victory with a three game sweep at home over Utah, extending their season-best wininng streak to six. The 4-0 week started with an important non-conference win over UNLV, marking their second win over an Aztecs team ranked in the top-40 in RPI. The offense exploded this week, scoring 39 runs in the four wins. Leading the effort was shortstop Drew Stankiewicz, who hit .389 (7-for-18) with five RBI, two doubles, one home run, two stolen bases and five runs scored over the week. The junior earned his first-career Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his performance. ASU continues to sit in a tie for third-place with Oregon, and is looking like a prime candidate to recieve an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. After a rough stretch a few weeks ago in which ASU had lost four of five and five of eight, the Sun Devils seem to be getting back on track at just the right time. Offense has been the catalyst in 2014 and has continued to improve in the latter stages of the season. They currently rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in slugging percentage (.389) and hits (500) and No. 2 in batting average (.284) and on-base percentage (.373).
California (24-26, 11-16)
After being swept by No. 1 Oregon State May 2-4, the Bears have been playing well, winning five of their last seven--a stretch that includes victories in two-consecutive Conference series for the first time this year. Hosting Arizona in their final home series of the year, Cal rebounded from a shutout in game one to grind out wins in game two (7-6) and game three (6-4) on Saturday and Sunday. They capped the week with a 12-4 win at San Francisco on Monday night. Overall, the struggles this season and below .500 record is in part to facing a tough schedule with almost half their games 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 .280 and .264 clip, respectively.
Oregon (40-16, 17-10)
The Ducks rebounded well after dropping a league series on the road at Arizona State the week before, going 4-0 on the week, including a road sweep at UCLA. After a 14-8 non-league home win over Pacific on May 13, Oregon traveled south to take on a struggling UCLA team. It was their pitching staff that shined this week, holding the Bruins to one run in wins in both game one and game two. The sweep was completed thanks to a game-winning hit by sophomore Nick Catalano in the 11th inning, giving the Ducks a 5-4 win. The Ducks are still tied for third in the Conference and remain in the national rankings in three of the four polls. While their postseason spot is surely secure, there is still a lot on the line in terms of regional seedings with one league series left to play. As they head into the final weekend of the regular season and into the postseason, they will look to their pitching staff to lead the way. They have been the headliners this season, recording a 3.02 ERA--good for second in the Pac-12--and a .232 opposing batting average, also good for second. Additionally, their 443 batters struck out is a Conference-best.
Oregon State (41-9, 22-5)
The Beavers all but claimed their second-consecutive Pac-12 title with their biggest series win of 2014 as they took two of three from Washington at home over the weekend. It wasn’t easy for OSU, though, as they dropped game one 4-2 on Friday, dashing their hopes of clinching the title at home. On Saturday, UW and OSU produced the game of the year in the Pac-12, as pitchers Tyler Davis (UW) and Jace Fry (OSU), took a scoreless game to the ninth inning, with the Beavers getting the 1-0 win on a walkoff double in the bottom of the ninth. In the series rubbermatch, senior lefty Ben Wetzler pitched his best game of the season, giving up just two hits while striking out nine in a complete game shutout en route to being name Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week. After the huge series win, the Beavers are the consensus No. 1 in the country and are one win away from clinching the Pac-12 title. OSU also looks poised to earn a top-eight national seed in the NCAA tournament, giving them a chance to host both a regional and Super Regional. 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 (.390) and runs batted in (287). The excellent pitching staff ranks first in the Pac-12 and second in the country as a team in ERA (2.08) and owns three of the top four and four of the top-11 individual spots atop the Conference in the same category, led by Wetzler. The senior is first in the Pac-12 and leads the country in ERA at 0.84 while leading the Conference in opposing batting average (.146).
Stanford (27-23, 13-14)
The Cardinal are playing some of their best baseball of the season, and the winning ways continued over the week as they went 3-2 overall. With two of three wins over Washington State at home this week, Stanford has now recorded three-straight Conference series wins. After losing six of seven in late March/early April, Stanford has won 16 of its last 22. The Cardinal have also faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with a strength of schedule ranked No. 16 in the country, while they have recorded 18 wins over ranked opponents. Center-fielder Austin Slater had an outstanding week for Stanford, going 8-of-18 (.444) in four games with two RBI, three doubles, one triple and four runs scored. The junior is riding a career-long 13 game hitting streak, which includes hitting safely in 10-straight Pac-12 games. The pitching staff has been solid in 2014, with a 3.49 ERA that is sixth in the Conference with opponents hitting just .236 against them--good for third in the league. In its 27 wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 169-79.
UCLA (23-29-1, 10-17)
After a stretch in which the team won nine of 10, UCLA has struggled in the second half of the season, going 7-21-1 since then--a stretch that includes 10 losses in a row and three-straight conference series losses, the latest a sweep to No. 18 Oregon. Things don’t get any easier as they face top-10 ranked Washington on the road in the final series of the regular season. It’s been an injury riddled season for the defending national champions, who have had five regular starters miss time due to injury in addition to All-American closer David Berg missing more than a month due to a bicep strain. The misfortune of injuries have forced a variety of lineups and pushed inexperienced players on to the field and into the batters box. While that bodes well for the future, the Bruins won’t realize their hopes of repeating as an NCAA berth seems unobtainable. A bright spot for the Bruins this year has been right hander James Kaprielian, who has had a stellar sophomore campaign with a team-leading 2.48 ERA and 97 strikeouts.
USC (27-22, 14-13)
After being idle last week in their break from Conference-play, the Trojans started the last week of the regular season on a positive note with a 6-3 win over Grand Canyon. After posting a nine-game winning streak--their longest since 2001--just a few weeks ago, the inconsistency the Trojans suffered through March and early April crept back in. After dropping two of three at home to California the last time they were in league action, USC has lost two-consecutive league series and five of their last eight. This last week will be more than paramount for their postseason resume; unfortunately, they face the top team in the Conference and the No. 1 in team in the country in OSU, making a chance at NCAAs seem out of reach. The fifth-place Trojans are 82nd in the country in RPI. A bright spot for USC this year has been the offense, led by seniors Jake Hernandez and Kevin Swick, who are hitting at a .348 and .306 clip, respectively. Hernandez currently ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in batting average.
Utah (16-33, 4-23)
The Utes went 1-3 over the week, picking up a come-from-behind walkoff 5-4 win over in-state rival BYU. Unfortunately, Utah ran into a Sun Devils team that seems to be getting hot at just the right time and they dropped three against the Sun Devils over the weekend. Utah will wrap up the 2014 season this weekend as they host Stanford for a three-game tilt from Friday-Sunday. Leading the offense this year has been sophomore outfielder Wyler Smith and senior infielder TJ Bennett, who are hitting .262 and .283, respectively. The pair have combined for 99 hits and 42 RBI on the year.
Washington (38-13-1, 20-7)
The Huskies fell just short of pulling off one of their biggest series win in school history as they just barely dropped two of three at No. 2 Oregon State over the weekend in what proved to be the series of the year in the Pac-12. After taking game one 4-2 to dash the Beavers’ dream of clinching the title at home, UW lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, losing 1-0 on a walkoff in the ninth after a brilliant pitching performance by Tyler Davis. On Sunday, the nation’s leader in ERA proved to be too much for the Pac-12’s leading offense, as they managed just two hits and four base runners off Ben Wetzler--who pitched his best game of the year--in a 3-0 loss. It was their first Conference series loss of the season, but despite that, the top-10 ranked Huskies still look to be in prime position to host a regional for the first time in school history. It will be important for UW to win their last Conference series at home against UCLA this weekend, and a sweep would make regional hosting chances even stronger. Regardless of outcome the Huskies are guaranteed to finish no lower than second--their highest finish since finishing in the same spot in 2004. Since consecutive losses on Feb. 21-22, the Huskies have gone 37-9. Washington is having a stellar season on all sides of the ball as they own the Conference’s best batting average (.284), are second in slugging percentage (.388) and third in on-base percentage (.371). Senior Brian Wolfe--a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Week in 2014--is second in the Conference with a .374 batting average. The team’s fielding percentage of .981 leads the Conference and is fifth in the nation.
Washington State (23-28, 13-14)
While the Cougars have been playing well, including a stretch where they won five of nine, the struggles crept back in as they went 1-4 over the last week. Facing a Stanford team that is fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, the Cougars managed to avoid the sweep on the road with an impressive 10-1 victory in Sunday’s series finale. Despite the losing record over the week, the Cougars sit at just under .500 in Conference play and are tied for sixth in the Conference. While the postseason seems like a longshot for the Cougars, WSU has turned in a solid season with a relatively young roster--which could bode well for the future. A pariticular highlight this year for the WSU relief staff has been closer Ian Hamilton, who leads the Conference with 14 saves--a mark that ranks tied for eighth in the country.