4/24/2013 8:37:48 AM
Updated April 23, 2013
By the Pac-12 Conference
Area rivalries highlight this week’s action, as a number of Pac-12 teams kick off the schedule with midweek games against in-state nemeses. Once again, Oregon and Oregon State sit atop the Conference standings, but with several key league matchups slated in the coming weeks, no cushion is comfortable. It was a milestone week for UCLA head Coach John Savage, who earned his 300th career victory on Saturday against Oregon. Four Pac-12 relievers were named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List on Tuesday: UCLA sophomore David Berg, Oregon State junior Scott Schultz, Oregon junior Jimmie Sherfy and Arizona sophomore Mathew Troupe. Sherfy leads the Pac-12 and ranks second in the NCAA with 13 saves, while Troupe (9) and Schultz (8) rank third and fourth in the league, respectively. Berg, who picked up Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors, owns the Conference’s lowest ERA (0.85) and opposing batting average (.176). Five teams enter the week ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Oregon State sits at No. 6, followed by Oregon at No. 7, UCLA at No. 8, Arizona State at No. 17 and Stanford at No. 22. Pac-12 teams have compiled a 136-79-1 record (.632) against non-conference competition this season. Nine teams play midweek games this week, including OSU which edged Seattle University, 4-3, in extra innings on Monday. League play resumes Friday as Stanford travels to Eugene for a top-25 clash with Oregon, and Oregon State and USC square off in Corvallis. Washington State hosts UCLA for a weekend set, while California travels to Washington to take on the Huskies and Utah welcomes Arizona State for three games. Arizona will host Alabama State for a non-conference weekend series. Saturday’s game between Oregon and Stanford will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks.
PAC-12 BASEBALL NOTES
Arizona has won 10 of its last 13 games and three of its last four Pac-12 series. The Wildcats have scored first in 10 of those 13 games, posting a 9-1 record when they do so. They dropped two of three games in a wild series at Stanford last week after tipping ASU, 10-9, in a non-conference tilt on Tuesday. Arizona, which has produced an NCAA-leading 27 triples, is one of two Pac-12 squads with a team batting average above .300. Brandon Dixon leads the Pac-12 and ranks ninth in the country with 26 stolen bases. He also boasts a .377 batting average and a .589 slugging percentage— those totals rank second and third in the Pac-12, respectively. Meanwhile, Jonny Field has reached base in 26 consecutive games.
Arizona State (24-12-1)
Arizona State has won three straight series in Pac-12 play and five 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 racked up 37 runs in a three-game set against Valparaiso last week, its largest weekend scoring output of the season. The Sun Devils, who have scored six or more runs in 11 of their last 15 games, lead the league in extra-base hits (129). They lead the Pac-12 in doubles (85) and home runs (24) and rank second in triples (20). Defensively, ASU has allowed just four home runs and three triples in 37 games this season.
Cal beat Washington State twice over the weekend to clinch its first series victory over a Pac-12 opponent since opening the league slate with a sweep of Utah. The Bears have turned 33 double plays this year, a figure that is tied for third in the Pac-12. Andrew Knapp and Devon Rodriguez are tied for sixth in the Conference with 31 RBI. Rodriguez and sophomore third baseman Chris Paul are tied for eighth in the Pac-12 with five home runs apiece. Knapp also ranks among the league leaders in batting average (5th, .359), slugging percentage (6th, .552), on-base percentage (6th, .432), RBI (6th, 31) and total bases (4th, 80).
Oregon has won 19 of its last 24 games, during which it has allowed three runs or fewer on 15 occasions. The Ducks kicked off last week’s action with a 4-1 victory over Portland on the road before dropping two of three games against UCLA in a weekend set. Despite losing the series, they allowed just five runs, their second-lowest total over a three-game set this season. Oregon owns an NCAA-best .986 fielding percentage, and Duck pitchers have rung up 272 batters to rank second in the Pac-12. All-American reliever Jimmie Sherfy leads the Conference and ranks second in the nation with 13 saves.
Oregon State (31-8)
Oregon State lost its first Conference series of the season as it dropped two of three at Washington last week. Junior left-hander Ben Wetzler tossed his first-career nine-inning complete-game shutout (8-0) on Sunday, allowing four hits and one walk and fanning six batters to help the Beavers avoid the sweep. Wetzler ranks fourth in the Conference with a 1.54 ERA, followed by freshman right-hander Andrew Moore (1.73) and senior lefty Matt Boyd (1.81), who rank fifth and sixth, respectively. All three rank among the top seven in the league in opposing batting average. As a team, OSU leads the Pac-12 in ERA (2.18, ranks third in the NCAA) and opposing batting average (.212) and has turned a league-high 42 double plays.
Stanford, which won three of four games last week, has notched four straight series victories. Last week, the Cardinal outlasted a red-hot Arizona ball club that entered the series with eight wins in its last nine games. All three contests were close, but the Cardinal managed wins on Friday and Sunday to claim the set. Junior first baseman Brian Ragira was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after a week in which he batted .444 (8-for-18) with four extra-base hits—including a pair of home runs— eight RBI and six runs scored. He hit safely and registered at least one RBI in all four games. Senior right-hander Mark Appel, the league-leader in strikeouts (84), ranks third in the Pac-12 with a 1.54 ERA and boasts a .188 opposing batting average. Cardinal pitchers have struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings, a figure that leads the Conference.
Head coach John Savage picked up career win No. 300 in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Oregon. UCLA, which clinched the series on Saturday, opened the set with a 1-0 victory on Friday. Defense has been critical for the Bruins, who are 19-0 this season when holding opponents to three runs or fewer. They own the league’s second-lowest team ERA (2.55, ranks ninth in the NCAA) and have issued a Conference-low The Bruins own the league’s second-lowest team ERA (2.63, ranks 14th in the NCAA) and have issued a Conference-low 2.52 walks per nine innings. They also rank second in the league and seventh in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. Sophomore right-hander David Berg, was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week after pitching 7.1 scoreless innings in relief, allowing just two hits and striking out four batters. He has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances (16 innings).
USC, which kicked off the week with a 5-2 victory over Loyola Marymount at Dedeaux Field, went 3-1 on the week and clinched its second Conference series win of the season with a 15-10 victory over Utah in 10 innings on Sunday. In wins, the Trojans have managed a 2.28 cumulative ERA; in losses, they’ve posted a 6.67 team ERA. Junior left-hander Bob Wheatley ranks second in the Pac-12 with a 1.51 ERA, ad sophomore right-hander ranks 11th with a 2.41 ERA. Stahan pitched eight innings (a career high) in a 7-4 victory over Utah on Saturday, allowing six hits and one run while striking out six. The Trojans are hitting a league-best .337 against left-handed pitchers this season.
Utah, which split four games last week, posted its first shutout of the season on Friday, a 10-0 victory over USC. Sophomore right-hander Mitch Watrous was dominant in the win. He pitched eight scoreless innings while allowing five hits and striking out five. With 18 games remaining on its schedule, Utah has already surpassed its win total from a season ago. The Utes rank third in the Pac-12 and 26th in the nation in triples per game (.40), and their 53 stolen bases rank second in the Conference. Utah mixes it up with rival BYU on Tuesday in the second of four games this season. The Utes tipped the Cougars, 5-4, in Salt Lake City on March 26.
In earning its first series victory in Conference play, Washington dealt Oregon State its first Pac-12 series loss of the campaign. The Huskies took games one and two of the set, outscoring the Beavers 15-4 in those games. Junior right-hander Austin Voth ranks second in the league and 13th in the country with 76 strikeouts. Trevor Dunlap, meanwhile, boasts the Conference’s ninth-lowest opposing batting average (.221). Washington takes on in-state rival Gonzaga in a two-game midweek series before returning home for a weekend set against California.
Washington State (19-18)
Washington State dropped two of three games against California this week, splitting the first two games of the set before falling in the rubber match, 2-1. WSU has lost just three times this season when it has allowed fewer than four runs and has conceded three runs or fewer in 11 of 19 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 hits (390) and rank second in batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.428), on-base percentage (.379), total bases (549) and home runs (21) and third in doubles (70).
Go Devils !!