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4 storylines to watch heading into final week of Pac-12 baseball regular season

May 18, 2022

The Pac-12 baseball regular season comes to close Saturday, but there are still many questions to be answered. From tournament seeding, to yearly awards, to statistical leaders, many of these questions could linger until the regular season’s final game.

With that, here are four storylines to watch as the regular season heads into its final week. 

Who will clinch the last invitation to the Pac-12 Tournament?

All eight seeds in the inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament, which starts Wednesday, May 25 in Scottsdale, Arizona, are still to be determined with only two of the conference's 11 teams — Washington State and USC — eliminated from a chance to earn a bid.

While the seed order is up for grabs, the final bid will come down to a do-or-die series between California and Utah. Cal will have home-field advantage and the Golden Bears are running on a three-game winning streak, while the Utes have dropped nine in a row. 

But in a winner-take-all series, anything can happen. 

Which team will claim the regular-season title and the top overall seed in the conference tournament?

Along with bragging rights, the winner of the Pac-12 regular-season title will have a significant advantage in the Pac-12 baseball tournament by earning the No. 1 overall seed. The top team will face the path of least of resistance for the tournament trophy. 

Three teams — Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA — are all in the hunt for the regular-season title. With a sparkling 19-8 conference record, Oregon State is in the driver’s seat. But Stanford is just one game back and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Beavers. If Stanford wins its series against USC and Oregon State loses its series against UCLA, the Cardinal will claim the top spot and the No. 1 seed.

While it's a long shot, UCLA could steal the regular-season title if it sweeps the Beavers and USC sweeps Stanford.  

Who will win the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year race?

With one week to go, the 2022 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year award appears to be a three-man race. Oregon State’s Cooper Hjerpe and Stanford’s Alex Williams and Quinn Mathews have all had spectacular seasons for the top two teams in the conference. 

Hjerpe is sporting a Pac-12 best 9-1 record with a 2.42 ERA for the Beavers. He also leads the conference with 125 strikeouts, 34 more than the next pitcher. But Hjerpe is coming off his worst outing of the year, having allowed five runs in just 4.1 innings against Arizona. 

Williams on the other hand, just tossed eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball to take down Utah. The right-hander is 7-1 with a 1.75 ERA, tops in the conference. 

Mathews is a dark horse in the race, despite a 8-1 record and 2.50 ERA. The lefty has only made nine starts, compared to 13 apiece for Hjerpe and Williams. But Mathews has also been incredibly effective out of the bullpen, amassing a team-high four saves in addition to his sparkling record. Mathews also won three Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week awards to Hjerpe and Williams’ two.

With all three candidates making compelling cases to take home the hardware, the award could come down to how well the pitchers perform in their final starts. 

Who will win the Pac-12 home-run title?

Three sluggers enter the final week with a chance to claim the 2022 Pac-12 home run title. Stanford first baseman Carter Graham has a precarious hold on first place with 17 homers. Cal outfielder Dylan Beavers, who co-led the league last year, sits in second place with 16 big flies. Arizona outfielder Chase Davis is right behind him with 15. 

With all three bunched together, who knows where this race could end.