The Pac-12, for the most part, is struggling to find their stride on the diamond this year. And the non-conference season is essentially over, so it's time for teams to separate themselves simply by beating each other head-to-head.
No change at the very top of this week's rankings as Oregon St. stays number one, but a couple of conference games in California and poor tournament outings have shaken things up farther down the list.
Let's get to it:
1. Oregon St. Beavers (14-3)
Previous rank: 1
Last week: 5-0 (1-0 vs. Portland, 4-0 vs. Northern Illinois)
This week: Tues. vs. Ohio State, @ Utah Fri-Sun.
Beaver pitching gave up a total of two runs in five games this week, while the offense scored 35 runs. They are clearly the top team in the conference right now, and I suspect they'll only get more dangerous as the season progresses.
2. Oregon Ducks (12-4)
Previous rank: 4
Last week: 4-1 (2-0 vs. Portland, 2-1 vs. Ohio State)
This week: vs. USC Fri-Sun
Oregon moves from fourth to second because USC and UCLA were horrible this weekend, and they dominated Ohio State in the final game of their three-game series to clinch the weekend victory. A good rebound after being swept at Cal State Fullerton the week before, and they get to start the conference season with two weekends at home before having to travel to Stanford. Jeff Gold improved to 4-0 as a starter this weekend, while Tyler Baumgartner sits at a .392 batting average for the season.
3. UCLA Bruins (8-7)
Previous rank: 2
Last week: 1-3 (Losses to Loyola Marymount, Houston and Pepperdine, win over USC)
This week: vs. UC Irvine Tues., @ Cal Fri-Sun
UCLA stays up at three, because frankly, there's no one to move ahead of them at this point. We'll see what the Bruins are made of this weekend when they travel to Berkeley, but it was a brutal weekend for them and USC at this Dodgertown Tournament they took part in. Those three teams are decent, but you can't be losing all three of those games as the defending National Champ.
4. Washington Huskies (10-4-1)
Previous rank: 8
Last week: 4-0 (2-0 @ Santa Clara, 1-0 @ San Jose State and Pacific)
This week: @ ASU Fri-Sun
UW has won seven straight now. During those games, their pitching staff has only allowed 11 runs total. Heading to Tempe will test just how good this team is. But as of this moment, they move up to the top of the second-tier of teams.
5. Arizona St. Sun Devils (7-6)
Previous rank: 6
Last week: 1-2 vs. Tennessee
This week: vs. New Mexico Wed., vs. Washington Fri-Sun
That win over Tennessee is the only loss the Vols have this season, so I'm not going to punish ASU for losing that series. It also marked the return of Ryan Burr to the closer role, which is where he belongs anyway. The Devils always struggle against UNM, so look out for that midweek game before the hot Huskies travel to Packard to start the Pac-12 season.
6. California Golden Bears (10-5)
Previous rank: 5
Last week: 2-3 (0-1 vs. Stanford, 2-0 vs. Arkansas, 0-1 vs. San Francisco and Tulane)
This week: vs. UCLA Fri-Sun
The Stanford loss was pretty bad, and the Bears started their own Cal Baseball Classic 0-2 before facing Arkansas twice on Sunday. Cal downed the Razorbacks twice, both one-run games. But they get the chance this weekend to prove themselves with UCLA coming to town.
7. Arizona Wildcats (8-9)
Previous rank: 7
Last week: 0-2 vs. Long Beach St., 1-1 vs. UC Santa Barbara and Mississippi State
This week: vs. Air Force Tues and Wed, vs. Washington St. Fri-Sun
The Long Beach series was rough, but the Cats rebounded on Friday and Saturday, taking a game from both UCSB and MSU before dropping one to each team on Sunday. Trent Gilbert has found his stroke at the plate just in time, and other Cats like Scott Kingery and Zach Gibbons are still hitting. A sweep at home against WSU is a necessity though.
8. Stanford Cardinal (7-8)
Previous rank: 9
Last week: 1-0 vs. Cal, 2-1 vs. Kansas
This week: off
An 11-1 destruction of Cal, followed up by a solid weekend where their only loss was in 13 innings to the Jayhawks, Stanford seems to be righting the ship after a rough start against some of the best competition in the country. The struggling Trojans come to town in two weekends, which may be exactly what the Cardinal need to jump-start their Pac-12 campaign.
9. USC Trojans (8-6)
Previous rank: 3
Last week: 0-4 (Losses to UC Irvine, Houston, Pepperdine, UCLA)
This week: vs. Loyola Marymount Tues, @ Oregon Fri-Sun
The Trojans drop six spots thanks to a winless week and four games where they allowed at least six runs in each game. USC is now 1-6 after starting the season 7-0, so they are most definitely in a funk, and a trip to Oregon is not exactly what the doctor ordered.
10. Utah Utes (8-7)
Previous rank: 10
Last week: 3-2 (0-1 vs. BYU, 1-0 vs. Abilene Christian and Missouri St., 1-1 vs. UT-Arlington)
This week: vs. Oregon St. Fri-Sun
If a team ever had a chance to make a statement early in the year, it is Utah, at home, vs. Oregon State. BYU crushed them by a score of 20-3 last Tuesday, but the Utes won their first three games of the weekend before dropping one to UTA. They just haven't had the competition that some of the other teams above them have had, so it's tough to put them above teams like USC or Stanford at this point.
11. Washington St. Cougars (4-8)
Previous rank: 11
Last week: 2-1 vs. Texas State
This week: @ Arizona Fri-Sun
The Cougs had a chance to pick up a sweep at home, but lost on Sunday 5-3. All three games were close, so not exactly super encouraging for WSU fans. But enjoy your time in the basement, and the schizophrenic Arizona team might throw them a bone and give them a win in Tucson because that's what Arizona does.
12. Honorable Mention:
Long Beach St.
The Dirtbags improved to 4-0 in Pac-12 play with their two wins over Arizona last week. They also have wins over ASU and USC, and have outscored their P12 foes by a combined 27-7. Not bad. So what if they're not really in the conference? Seems like they would be able to win it. And we need 12 teams in the Pac-12.
That does it for this week. Join me next week where there's sure to be a lot of movement thanks to teams actually playing each other! Get excited, it's the important part of baseball season now!