This week in Pac-12 baseball

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At the halfway point of the season an unexpected leader has emerged at the top of the Pac-12 standings as WASHINGTON--a team picked to finish 10 out of 11--has a slim lead over league-favorite and defending Pac-12 champion OREGON STATE. After a weekend series sweep of STANFORD, the Beavers aren’t far behind with just one game separating OSU and UW. In the first Conference series matchup of two top-20 ranked teams, the Huskies got the best of OREGON in two of three contests to stay undefeated in Pac-12 series in 2014. While there is still a lot of season left the play, the Huskies have been impressive, winning 19 of their last 21. Overall, league-play heated up over the weekend, with six games going into extra innings and 10 of the 18 contests being decided by two runs or fewer, including eight of those being one-run finishes. Another surprise near the top is WASHINGTON STATE, who picked up its first Conference series sweep since 2010 to fall into a third-place tie with UCLA. 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. ARIZONA STATE and the Bruins of UCLA mark the fourth and fifth teams to garner rankings this week, coming in at No. 25 and No. 29, respectively, in Collegiate Baseball’s Top-30. Meanwhile, UW (9) joined Oregon State (6), in Baseball America’s Top-10, marking the Huskies’ first appearance in the top-10 in that poll since a Tim Lincecum-led team was ranked in week two of 2005. Six teams will partake in non-conference midweek matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday, including a Arizona-ASU non-league contest on Wednesday night. Conference games just get more important from here on out with a month and a half of regular season games left to play. Hosting league games this weekend are ARIZONA (vs. UCLA), Arizona State (vs. CALIFORNIA), USC (vs. UTAH), Washington State (vs. Oregon State) and Washington (vs. Stanford). Oregon will also play hosts this weekend to UC Riverside in a non-conference weekend series during the Ducks’ league bye-week. Pac-12 Baseball will make its’ debut on ESPNU on Saturday as Arizona takes on No. 29 UCLA in a 7:30 p.m. PT contest. Four other games will air live on Pac-12 Networks, starting on Friday night at 7 p.m. PT in Tucson.    

Tuesday, April 8
USC at #24 Pepperdine, 3:00 p.m. PT
UC Davis at Stanford (Live Stream), 5:30 p.m. PT
#9/8 Washington at Seattle, 6:00 p.m. PT
#29 UCLA at #18/19 Cal State Fullerton, 6:00 p.m. PT
Portland at #25/12 Oregon (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
BYU at Washington State (Pasco, Wash.), 6:30 p.m. PT
Wednesday, April 9
Oregon at Portland, 3:00 p.m. PT
Arizona at #25 Arizona State (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
Friday, April 11
Stanford at #9/8 Washington*, 5:00 p.m. PT  
UC Riverside at #25/12 Oregon, 6:00 p.m. PT
#6/5 Oregon State at Washington State* (Live Stream), 6:00 p.m. PT
Utah at USC*, 6:00 p.m. PT
California at #25 Arizona State* (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
#29 UCLA at Arizona*, 7:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Saturday, April 12
#6/5 Oregon State at Washington State* (Live Stream), 2:00 p.m. PT
Utah at USC*, 2:00 p.m. PT
UC Riverside at #25/12 Oregon (Live Stream), 2:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at #9/8 Washington*,  6:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
California at #25 Arizona State* (Live Stream), 6:30 p.m. PT
#29 UCLA at Arizona*, 7:30 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
Sunday, April 13
UC Riverside at #25/12 Oregon (Live Stream), 12:00 p.m. PT
#6/5 Oregon State at Washington State*, (Live Stream) 12:00 p.m. PT
California at #25 Arizona State*, (Live Stream) 12:30 p.m. PT
Utah at USC*, 1:00 p.m. PT
Stanford at #9/8 Washington*, 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
#29 UCLA at Arizona*, 4:00 p.m. PT (P12N)
Games are local to site and subject to change. 
Rankings are from Baseball America/Collegiate Baseball. *Conference games
Arizona (14-19, 4-8) 
The Wildcats got back on track last weekend, taking two of three at Utah to pick up their first Conference series win of 2014. After dropping eight in a row, Arizona has won three of its last five and will look to continue the winning ways against cross-state rival Arizona State and then at home against UCLA over the weekend.  The Arizona offense continues to be a highlight as it ranks near the top of the Conference in every major offensive statistical category, including batting average (.298, 1st), slugging percentage (.393, 3rd), on-base pct (.384, 2nd), runs scored (197, 1st), and hits (338, 1st). As a team, the Wildcats rank 17th nationally in total hits. Individually, the Wildcats have three hitters in the top-10 in batting average in the Pac-12, led by Scott Kingery’s Conference-best .398 average. Kingery is currently tied for 24th in the nation in that category. 
Arizona State (17-12, 7-5)  
ASU seems to be slipping into a midseason groove after some struggles in early March as the the No. 25-ranked Sun Devils--according to Collegiate Baseball- notched their third-consecutive Conference series win and have now won seven of their last nine. Hosting USC over the weekend, ASU pulled out two close games on Friday (5-3) and Saturday (10-9) to secure the series, then came up just one run short in its chance to sweep the Trojans on Sunday in a 8-7 loss. Sophomore DH/C RJ Ybarra stole the show over the weekend, going 4-for-8 (.500) with two doubles, eight RBI and one run scored to help the Sun Devils collect their second-most runs (23) in a series in 2014. As a team the Sun Devils rank No. 2 in the Pac-12  in batting average (.296), slugging percentage (.397) and total hits (300). 
California (14-15, 3-6)
The Bears traveled to Washington State over the weekend and suffered their second Conference series sweep of the season against the Cougars. While it looked like Cal might be getting back on track with a sweep over Utah the previous weekend, the latest setbacks make it 10 losses in the team’s last 14 games. To the Bear’s credit, they have faced a tough schedule with more than half their games against ranked teams, putting their RPI at 34th nationally. Despite the recent setbacks the Bears’ pitching staff has continued to be solid, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 with a 3.63 ERA and opposing batting average (.255). The offense is led by Brended Farney and Derek Campbell, who are hitting at a .354 and .264 clip, respectively. Campbell’s five home runs are currently tops for an individual player in the Pac-12.   
Oregon (22-10, 7-5) 
The Ducks came out of the week with a winning record at 3-2; however, they suffered a second-consecutive Conference series loss at top-25 ranked Washington over the weekend to drop them into a tie for fourth in the Pac-12 standings. After taking game one 10-3 over the Huskies, Oregon couldn’t find its bats against hot pitching on Saturday, losing 1-0 in a defensive battle. In Sunday’s rubbermatch, the Ducks lost a heartbreaker, giving up a walk-off three-run double after taking a two-run lead in the top of the tenth inning. Despite the setbacks last week, the Ducks have won 10 of its last 15 and continue to be ranked in the top-25 in every major poll this week. Redshirt junior outfielder Kyle Garlick sparked the Ducks’ offense this week, hitting .444 (8-for-18), with five RBI, two doubles, one triple, one home run and and three runs scored. As a team, the Oregon pitching staff is having a solid season, recording a 2.89 ERA--good for third in the Pac-12--and a Conference-best .208 opposing batting average and 261 batters struck out. 
Oregon State (25-6, 9-3) 
The Beavers have returned to their winning ways after suffering a Conference series loss a few weeks ago. With a sweep of Stanford at home over the weekend, OSU has now won five in a row and six of its last seven to take sole control of second-place in the Pac-12. From Feb. 23 - March 21, the team went 15-1, including winning 10-straight during one stretch. OSU remains ranked in the top-6 in every major poll, coming in at No. 5 in three of the four. Numbers-wise, the Beavers have an impressive combination of offense, defense and pitching firepower. The offense is ranked in the top-4 of the Conference in every major category, including first in on-base percentage (.395) and runs batted in (176), second in runs scored (195) and third in hits (294). While the defense owns a Conference-best .981 fielding percentage, the excellent pitching staff ranks first in the Conference as a team in ERA (2.15) and owns three of the top five individual spots atop the Conference in the same category, led by senior Ben Wetzler, who is first in the Pac-12 in ERA at 0.38 and opposing batting average (.106). 
Stanford (10-14, 3-6) 
One week after recording its biggest series win on the season over a then top-10 ranked Oregon, Stanford couldn’t overcome a second-consecutive series over a ranked Conference foe as they dropped three of three at Oregon State over the weekend. The Cardinal refused to go down without a fight, though, as they lost the three games by a combined five runs, including 1-0 and 2-1 losses in consecutive days on Saturday and Sunday. While the offense struggled against a stellar Beavers pitching staff, the Cardinal pitching corp had a solid weekend against a very potent OSU offense, giving up just seven runs total and three in the pair of one-run losses. Right-hander Cal Quantrill continued his impressive freshman campaign, throwing eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts in an eventual Cardinal loss. Quantrill leads the Cardinal pitchers with a 2.60 ERA in a team-best 45.0 innings pitched. As a team, Stanford’s 3.63 ERA is sixth in the Conference while opponents are hitting .255 against them--also good for sixth in the league. The offense has been solid, with four regular starters with batting averages over .300--led by third baseman Alex Blandino at (.321) and Brett Michael Doran (.321). In its ten wins this season, Stanford has outscored opponents 69-26.
UCLA (18-12, 6-3) 
The 29th-ranked Bruins had a second-straight 2-2 week, picking up non-conference wins over Loyola Marymount and taking one of three vs. Long Beach State in the Bruins’ break from Pac-12 play. With no Conference contests over the week the Bruins still remain in a tie for third-place in the Pac-12 standings, but at the halfway point in the season UCLA has hit a bit of rough patch, losing four of its last six after a stretch in which the team won nine of 10. Sophomore right-hander James Kaprielian was brilliant for a second-consecutive start, tossing nine shutout innings in a no decision on Friday, giving up just three hits and striking out three. In 2014, Kaprilian has recorded a 2.48 ERA with a team-high 57 strikeouts in 54.1 innings pitched, good for third and fourth in the Pac-12, respectively. As a team the Bruin pitching staff owns the second-best ERA in the Pac-12 at 2.75. All-American closer David Berg is quietly having another impressive year, recording 9 saves with a 1.75 ERA, ranking second and fourth in the Conference.
USC (15-15, 4-8) 
After starting the season on a hot streak, the Trojans have struggled to maintain consistency through the middle part of the season, losing their third-straight Conference series and dropping five of the team’s last seven. Despite the series loss at No. 25 Arizona State over the weekend, the Trojans went .500 over the week, starting and ending the week on winning notes with a 4-3 victory over Long Beach State last Tuesday followed by an 8-7 win in the series finale agains the Sun Devils on Sunday. It was a week of close games as the wins came by a combined two runs and the losses by a total of three. Regardless of the recent setbacks, the Trojans still sit at .500 overall and have four starters hitting over .300 in Jake Hernandez (.337), Kevin Swick (.328), Garrett Stubbs (.324) and Jeremy Martinez (.303). Kyle Davis has paced the bullpen for USC, making 13 appearances and posting a 0.75 ERA, one win and three saves in 24.0 innings in relief.   
Utah (10-19, 1-11) 
While Utah dropped another Conference series over the weekend at home to Arizona, the team did pick up its first Conference win in a 7-3 victory in the series opener on Friday. The Utes continue to hang tough in games despite continuing to come out on the short end with nine of their losses coming by two runs or less. The offense struggled in the two losses, but exploded for seven runs in Friday’s win to tie for the most they have scored in a Conference game this season. Junior right-hander Mitch Watrous has been a bright spot on the Utes’ pitching staff, posting 43 strikeouts on the year in 50.0 innings pitched, good for fifth and eighth in the Conference, respectively. Freshman outfielder Max Schuman and senior infielder TJ Bennett are at the forefront of the Utes’ offense, hitting .250 and .261, respectively. The pair have combined for 44 hits and 22 RBI on the year. 
Washington (22-6-1, 10-2) 
The red-hot Huskies have yet to lose a Conference series in 2014 as they recorded their biggest series victory against top-20 ranked Oregon, picking up games two and three at home vs. the Ducks. With the wins, UW continues to sit alone at the top of the Conference standings with a 10-2 record. The Huskies--winners of their last 19 of 21--moved up in all four major polls this week, with the highest ranking coming at No. 8 in Collegiate Baseball’s top-30 while its No. 9 ranking in Baseball America is its first appearance in the top-10 in that poll since week two of 2005. After dropping the series opener on Friday 10-3, UW grinded out a 1-0 win on Saturday to even the series, thanks to junior right-hander Tyler Davis, who struck out a career-high 12 batters in a career-best 7 2/3 innings of work to earn the win. For his performance, Davis was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week, marking the fourth-consecutive week a Husky has won a weekly honor from the Conference after UW position players were honored the three previous weeks. It took a dramatic three-run double from Andrew Ely in the tenth inning for the Huskies to win the rubber-match on Sunday, 5-4. Ely now owns the nation’s longest-active hitting streak at 19 games.  
Washington State  (15-13, 6-3) 
After an up-and-down pre-Pac-12 schedule, the Cougars are riding a recent upswing, winning six in a row after recording their first Conference series sweep since 2010 over the weekend at home as they hosted California. The Cougs have now won 11 of their last 15 and find themselves in a tie with UCLA for third-place in the Pac-12. Junior OF Yale Rosen had a stellar week for WSU, going 7-for-10 (.700), with two doubles, two RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Week. Rosen leads the team with a .396 batting average, which ranks third in the Conference. In Friday’s 3-0 victory, junior left-hander Joe Pistorese turned in the first nine-inning complete game shutout in a Conference home game since 1995 and the first-ever shutout against California in program history. Closer Ian Hamilton has also been stellar for WSU, leading the Conference with 10 saves on the year, which is also tied for fourth in the nation.



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