4/17/2013 7:47:11 AM
Updated April 16, 2013
By the Pac-12 Conference
We’re halfway through the Conference schedule, and the Pac-12 title race is starting to take shape. Oregon State and Oregon sit atop the Conference ladder, but only a handful of games separate the league’s top seven teams. Arizona has come on strong of late, winning seven of its last eight games, and has positioned itself well to make a run down the stretch. Arizona State and Stanford have won three straight Pac-12 series and are poised to make runs of their own. It was another great week for Pac-12 pitchers; USC’s Sean Silva and Brent Wheatley combined to pitch the Trojans’ first one-hitter in nearly two decades and Oregon State’s Matt Boyd tossed his second complete-game shutout of the season. Boyd, who allowed just two hits against Utah on Friday, joined Sam Gaviglio (2011) as the only two OSU pitchers to notch two shutouts in the same season over the last 12 years. In the same game, Utah right-hander Mitch Watrous allowed just four hits and one earned run in seven innings of work. Five teams enter the week ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Oregon State sits at No. 5, followed by Oregon at No. 7, UCLA at No. 11, Arizona State at No. 18 and Arizona at No. 25. Pac-12 teams have compiled a 128-75-1 record (.630) against non-conference competition this season. All 11 teams play midweek games this week, with Tuesday night’s Territorial Cup clash between Arizona and Arizona State airing live on the Pac-12 Networks. League play resumes Friday, and UCLA travels to Eugene for a heavyweight showdown with Oregon, while Oregon State and Washington square off in Seattle. California hosts Washington State for a weekend set, whille Arizona travels to Stanford to take on the Cardinal and Utah welcomes USC for three games. Arizona State will host Valparaiso for a non-conference weekend series.
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona has won seven of its last eight games and three straight Pac-12 series. The Wildcats took two of three games from Washington State in Pullman this weekend, as Arizona pitchers limited the Cougars to a .215 batting average in the series-- WSU entered the weekend batting a league-best .317. Arizona leads the league in batting average (.311), runs scored (238), RBI (217), triples (26), stolen bases (76), walks drawn (159) and on-base percentage (.409) and ranks second in hits (352) and total bases (489) and third in slugging percentage (.411). Arizona, which has produced an NCAA-leading 26 triples, is one of two Pac-12 squads with a team batting average above .300. Brandon Dixon leads the Pac-12 and ranks eighth in the country with 25 stolen bases. He also boasts a .386 batting average and a .598 slugging percentage—both totals rank second in the Pac-12. Five of the top 10 batting averages in the Conference belong to Wildcats.
Arizona State (22-10-1)
Arizona State has won three straight series in Pac-12 play and four straight overall, with two of those series victories coming against top-10 foes UCLA and Oregon. The Sun Devils have logged seven wins over top-10 opponents this season, more than any other Pac-12 team. ASU dropped the first of three games against USC over the weekend but won the final two to clinch the series. It marked the first time since 2007 that an Arizona State squad lost the opener against a Conference opponent on the road and went on to win the series. The Sun Devils, who have scored six or more runs in seven of their last 11 games, lead the league in extra-base hits (109). They lead the Pac-12 in doubles (73) and home runs (20) and rank second in triples (16). Defensively, ASU has allowed just four home runs and two triples in 33 games this season.
California, which won four straight games to open league play, has lost 10 of its last 11 games against Conference opponents, but six of those losses have come by two runs or fewer and three of the last four have been one-run decisions. The Bears are in the middle of an eight-game home stand, which resumes Tuesday against the University of San Francisco. Cal earned a 5-2 road victory over the Dons on March 26. Cal has turned 28 double plays this year, a figure that is tied for third in the Pac-12. Three Bears rank in the top 10 in the Conference in RBI— Andrew Knapp is tied for sixth with 28 RBI, while Chris Paul and Devon Rodriguez are tied for eighth with 27 each. Paul and Knapp are tied for fifth in the league with five home runs apiece. Knapp also ranks among the league leaders in batting average (9th, .334), slugging percentage (7th, .531), on-base percentage (.424), hits (7th, 44) and total bases (T-4th, 68).
Oregon has won 17 of its last 20 games, during which it has allowed three runs or fewer on 11 occasions. The Ducks, who are riding a league-high five-game winning streak, kicked off last week’s action with a 6-3 victory over Oregon State in Corvallis and swept California on the road in a weekend set. It was their first road sweep of a Conference opponent since the program was reinstated in 2009. Sophomore outfielder Scott Heineman was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after he batted .438 (7-for-16) with three doubles, three home runs, six RBI and five runs scored. He finished the week with a .500 on-base percentage and hit safely in all four outings. Oregon owns an NCAA-best .988 fielding percentage, and Duck pitchers have rung up 247 batters to lead the Pac-12. All-American reliever Jimmie Sherfy leads the Conference and ranks third in the nation with 11 saves.
Oregon State (28-6)
Oregon State maintained its perch atop the Conference standings with a weekend sweep of Utah during which the Beavers only conceded four runs—their lowest series total since allowing four runs in a four-game set against Bryant in early March. Senior left-hander Matt Boyd tossed his second complete-game shutout of the season in the opener against Utah. He joined Sam Gaviglio (2011) as the only two OSU pitchers to notch a pair of shutouts in the same season over the last 12 years. He allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out eight batters and allowed just one runner to reach second base. Boyd (1.55) and freshman right-hander Andrew Moore (1.61) rank third and fifth in the Pac-12 in ERA, respectively. Boyd also boasts a league-low opposing batting average (.176) and ranks third in the Conference in strikeouts (58) and innings pitched (63.2). As a team, OSU leads the Pac-12 in ERA (1.89, ranks second in the NCAA) and opposing batting average (.204) and has turned a league-high 37 double plays.
Stanford went 3-1 on the week, dispatching San Jose State on the road before posting bookend victories over Washington in a three-game weekend set. Senior designated hitter/left fielder Justin Ringo batted .444 last week with one double, one home run, six RBI and a pair of stolen bases. He drove in three runs— two of which came by way of a two-run home run— in the series finale against the Huskies. The Cardinal has scored 42 runs over its last six Conference games (7.0 average), more than two runs per game above its season average. Senior right-hander Mark Appel, the league-leader in strikeouts (78), ranks second in the Pac-12 with a 1.41 ERA and a .178 opposing batting average. Cardinal pitchers have struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, a figure that leads the Conference and ranks 25th in the nation. Stanford has won three straight Conference series after dropping two of three games against Utah to open league play.
The Bruins, who take on UC Irvine on Tuesday, have won 15 of their last 16 midweek tilts. Defense has been critical for UCLA, which is 17-0 this season when holding opponents to three runs or fewer. The Bruins own the league’s second-lowest team ERA (2.63, ranks 14th in the NCAA) and have issued a Conference-low 2.48 walks per nine innings. They also rank second in the legue and seventh in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. Sophomore reliever David Berg, who has not allowed a run in his last six appearances (8.2 innings), boasts a Conference-low 1.03 ERA. Junior right-hander Adam Plutko has not allowed an earned run in his last two starts (14 innings) and ranks third in the league in opposing batting average (.189) and seventh in strikeouts (45). Plutko picked up career win number 23 against Loyola Marymount on Saturday to move into a tie for sixth-place on UCLA’s all-time wins list. The Bruins are 20-2 when they score three runs or more in a game.
USC kicked off the weekend with a Friday night upset of Arizona State in Los Angeles. Junior left-hander Sean Silva and freshman right-hander Brent Wheatley combined to toss the program’s first one-hitter since 1996 as the Trojans topped the Sun Devils, 5-0, before a crowd of 451 at Dedeaux Field. Silva, who, in just his second career start, pitched 6.0 innings and allowed one hit while fanning a career-high four batters, garnered Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors. In wins, the Trojans have managed a 2.06 cumulative ERA; in losses, they’ve posted a 6.62 team ERA. Junior left-hander Bob Wheatley ranks 4th in the Pac-12 with a 1.58 ERA, and The Trojans are hitting a league-best .320 against left-handed pitchers this season.
Utah was swept by Oregon State in Corvallis last weekend, but the Utes were competitive throughout the series. They came out on the losing end of a defensive struggle on Friday, as OSU scored the game’s only run in the first inning. Sophomore right-hander Mitch Watrous allowed just four hits and one earned run in seven innings of work. Utah hung tough in games two and three of the set, but a four-run fifth inning by the Beavers on Saturday and a four-run third inning on Sunday proved insurmountable. The Utes have allowed four runs or fewer in seven of their last 10 games, a remarkable feat considering their last three opponents, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State, rank first, second and third in the league in runs scored, respectively. With 23 games remaining on its schedule, Utah has already matched its win total from a season ago. The Utes rank third in the Pac-12 and 30th in the nation in triples per game (.39), and their 49 stolen bases also rank third in the Conference.
Washington returns home for four games this week after playing its previous eight contests in unfriendly confines. The Huskies host Seattle University on Tuesday, a squad they have beaten twice this season. Washington tipped the Redhawks, 4-2, on March 5 and scored a season-high 14 runs in a (14-1) road victory on April 2. Senior designated hitter/right fielder Michael Camporeale was outstanding for the Huskies last week. He hit .389 (7-for-18) with two doubles, three home runs and nine RBI in four games and slugged 1.000. Junior right-hander Austin Voth ranks second in the league and is tied for 12th in the country with 71 strikeouts. Trevor Dunlap, meanwhile, boasts the Conference’s seventh-lowest opposing batting average (.225).
Washington State (18-15)
Washington State dropped two of three games against Arizona this week, splitting a double-header on Saturday and falling in the rubber match, 7-3. WSU has lost just twice this season when it has allowed fewer than four runs and has conceded three runs or fewer in 11 of 18 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 slugging percentage (.439), hits (354), and total bases (503), while ranking second in batting average (.309), on-base percentage (.388) runs scored (215) and RBI (188). Redshirt freshman Nick Tanielu boasts the league’s top batting average (.402), slugging percentage (.626) and on-base percentage (.492).
Go Devils !!