4/3/2013 9:19:59 AM
By the Pac-12 Conference
Conference play rolls on, and several marquee matchups highlight this week’s action. UCLA, Washington and Washington State renew non-conference rivalries, and the league slate delivers two games featuring ranked opponents. Five teams enter the week ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Oregon State slipped to No. 6 after suffering a pair of setbacks at San Diego. The Beavers are followed by Oregon at No. 7 and UCLA at No. 10. At 8-1, the Ducks are off to their best start in Pac-12 play since the program reclaimed varsity status in 2009. Arizona State, which reenters the rankings after a one-week hiatus, and Stanford round out the Conference’s representation in the poll at No. 23 and No. 25, respectively. Pac-12 teams have compiled a 118-67 (.638) record against non-conference competition this season. A pair of league pitchers, Stanford’s Mark Appel and Oregon’s Cole Irvin, tossed complete-game shutouts last week, while OSU’s Matt Boyd and ASU’s Ryan Kellog picked up their Conference-leading sixth wins of the year. Irvin earned Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week honors for his effort. UCLA hosts rival Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday before heading home for a series against Oregon State in a battle of top 10 foes. Washington takes on crosstown rival Seattle University in a midweek matchup, and then travels to Pepperdine for a three-game weekend set. Washington State squares off with in-state rival Gonzaga in Pullman before resuming Conference play against Utah in Salt Lake City. Arizona State opens the week on the road with a two-game series against Wichita State before returning home to meet Oregon. Arizona and California clash in Tucson, and USC, which kicks off its week against UC Irvine on Tuesday, hosts Stanford in a weekend set.
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona earned its first, second and third Conference wins of the season in a sweep of Utah in Tucson last week to snap the program’s longest losing streak since 2008. The Wildcats, who allowed 32 runs during the six-game slide (5.33 avg.), surrendered just eight runs in the set (2.67 avg.). Arizona leads the league in runs scored (199), RBI (180), triples (22), stolen bases (63), walks drawn (130) and on-base percentage (.408) and ranks second in batting average (.308) and total bases (386) and third in slugging percentage (.413). UA, which has raked a nation-leading 22 triples, is one of two Pac-12 squads with a team batting average above .300. Brandon Dixon leads the Pac-12 and ranks fifth in the country with 22 stolen bases.
Arizona State (15-8-1)
Arizona State has logged five wins over top-10 opponents this season, more than any other Pac-12 team. The Sun Devils, who have gone 5-3 (.625) against top-10 foes, also boast the highest winning percentage against top-tier competition among Conference squads. Freshman left-hander Ryan Kellogg, who threw the ninth no-hitter in ASU history on March 23, earned his league-high sixth win of the season against UCLA on Friday and became the first Sun Devil in more than 13 years to start his career 6-0. Kellogg leads the Pac-12 in opposing batting average (1.54), and his 1.37 ERA ranks fourth in the league. ASU has allowed just two home runs and one triple in 24 games this season. They have also held opponents to a .214 opposing batting average, which ranks second in the Conference.
California, which won its first seven games at Evans Diamond, dropped two of three at home to USC last week. The Bears erupted for a season-high 15 runs against the Trojans on Saturday to avoid the sweep, and sophomore third baseman Chris Paul went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and a grand slam and seven RBI in the win. In Conference games, Cal leads the league in runs scored (57), RBI (53) and home runs (8), and three Bears have hit two or more home runs: Devon Rodriguez (3), Paul (2) and Andrew Knapp (2). Cal pitchers have struck out a league-high 68 batters during league play.
Oregon has won 12 of its last 13 games, a stretch during which it has allowed three runs or fewer on eight occasions. The Ducks, who posted back-to-back shutouts against Washington last week, have allowed one run or fewer in five of their last seven outings. Freshman lefthander Cole Irvin garnered Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week accolades after pitching Oregon’s first complete-game shutout of the season on Saturday. He allowed just four hits while striking out a season-high 11 batters and registering one walk. At 8-1, the Ducks are off to their best Conference start since baseball regained varsity status in 2009. Oregon owns a Conference-best .988 fielding percentage,which ranks second nationally, and Duck pitchers have rung up 205 batters to lead the Pac-12.
Oregon State (22-4)
Oregon State lost its first series since April 27-29, 2012, as it dropped the bookends of a three-game set at San Diego last week. The Beavers allowed 25 runs in the series, more than they had in their seven previous games combined. On Friday, Oregon State earned its first victory over the Toreros since 2005— OSU batters collected a season-high 18 hits, and all nine starters hit safely. Matt Boyd, who improved to 6-0 with the win, is one of just two Pac-12 pitchers with six wins this season. His .187 opposing batting average ranks fourth in the Conference, and his 1.69 ERA ranks seventh. The Beavers, who have held opposing batters to a league-low .210 batting average, rank third in the NCAA with a 1.89 team ERA.
Stanford took two of three from Washington State at Bailey-Brayton Field, a venue that has proven difficult for visitors this season. In earning its first series win in league play, the Cardinal limited one of the league’s top offensive teams to just three runs over the first two games of the set. On Thursday, senior right-hander Mark Appel pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits striking out 10 batters—it was the first time the Cougars had been shut out in 2013. Appel, the league-leader in strikeouts (64), has fanned double-digit batters in five straight starts (61 total) and has earned three complete-game victories this year. His .161 opposing batting average ranks second in the league, and his 0.96 ERA ranks 12th in the NCAA. The Cardinal owns the second-lowest team ERA in the Pac-12 at 2.54, and Stanford pitchers have struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings, a figure that leads the Conference and ranks 15th in the nation.
UCLA lost its first series of the season and dropped back-to-back tilts for the first time this year. The Bruins’ last series loss was to Stanford in April 2012, and they have not been swept since 2010. Including Saturday’s 10-inning win against ASU, they have played in four extra-innings games so far this year; they didn’t play an extra-inning game all last season. Prior to last week’s series against ASU, UCLA had allowed three runs or fewer in 15-of-21 games— they allowed four runs or more in each game against the Sun Devils, including a season-high 10 on Saturday. Still, the Bruins boast Pac-12-best 1.01 WHIP (2nd in the NCAA) and rank 10th in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (7.05). Three Bruin pitchers—David Berg (5th, .196), Cody Poteet (7th, .211) and Adam Plutko (8th, .214)—rank in the top eight in the league in opposing batting average. Berg owns the Conference’s third-lowest ERA (1.30).
USC claimed its second series victory over Cal in as many years, taking the first and second of three games in Berkeley last week. It was the Trojans’ first series victory over a Conference opponent on the road since May 2011. USC allowed eight total runs in games one and two, both wins, and conceded 15 runs in Saturday’s loss. In wins, the Trojans have managed a 1.98 cumulative ERA; in losses, they’ve posted a 7.15 team ERA. Junior left-hander Bob Wheatley ranks 6th in the Pac-12 with a 1.69 ERA, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Wyatt Strahan ranks 11th in the league with a 2.21 ERA. The Trojans are hitting a league-best .335 against left-handed pitchers this season.
Utah outlasted in-state rival BYU, 5-4, in 10 innings on Tuesday before dropping all three games in a weekend set at Arizona. Utah’s victory over BYU capped a season-high-tying three-game winning streak for the Utes, who began the run with a pair of road wins at Stanford to claim its second series victory over a Conference opponent since joining the league in 2012. The Utes rank second in the Pac-12 and 20th in the nation in triples per game (.48), and their 47 stolen bases also rank second in the Conference.
Washington hits the road again for four games this week, beginning with a tilt against crosstown rival Seattle University. UW claimed a 4-2 victory over the Redhawks at Husky Stadium on March 5. Senior outfielder Jayce Ray went 3-4 (.750) and scored a pair of runs in the win. Junior right-handed pitcher Austin Voth ranks second in the league and is tied for 19th in the country with 52 strikeouts. Junior righthander Trevor Dunlap, who is slated to make his second start as a Husky, has allowed just 16 hits in 23.2 innings this season.
Washington State (16-10)
Washington State topped Stanford on Saturday, 8-5, marking its first victory over the Cardinal since April 1 2011. Prior to Saturday’s win, the Cougars had suffered seven straight losses in the series, including the first two meetings this year. WSU has lost just once this season when it has allowed fewer than four runs— Thursday’s loss at Stanford is the exception— and they’ve conceded three runs or fewer in 10 of 16 wins. The Cougars rank at or near the top of the Conference in a number of offensive statistical categories. They lead the Pac-12 in batting average (.323), slugging percentage (.466), hits (295), doubles (59), home runs (18) and total bases (426) and rank second in RBI (166), on base percentage (.399) and runs scored (186). Three of the top nine batting averages in the Pac-12 belong to Washington State players.
Go Devils !!