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Arizona baseball: Wildcats close out Pac-12 schedule with Oregon Ducks

Can Arizona pick up an important series win to close out the conference schedule?

Jason Bartel

Since the Arizona Wildcats drew the short end of the straw again, they will finish Pac-12 play before everyone else does this weekend when they travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks.

The Wildcats enter the three-game set with a 15-12 conference record, 32-18 overall. One win would give Arizona its first winning record in conference play since going 20-10 and sharing the Pac-12 crown with UCLA in 2012.

Friday (4 PM PT, Pac-12 Networks): Oregon LHP Cole Irvin (5-4, 3.75 ERA) vs. Arizona LHP Cameron Ming (2-1, 4.41 ERA)

Saturday (4 PM PT, Pac-12 Networks): LHP David Peterson (3-4, 3.50) vs. LHP JC Cloney (5-3, 2.61)

Sunday (Noon PT, Pac-12 Networks): RHP Matt Mercer (2-0, 4.40) vs. TBA

***technically all of Arizona's pitchers are TBA***

"They're very similar to us in terms of style of play," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said about Oregon on Wednesday. "We're looking forward to a really competitive weekend up there."

"I had a coach tell me 'When you're playing Oregon, it's going to be like playing you' after we were done with that series."

Arizona and Oregon (26-22, 12-12 Pac-12) have similar pitching numbers this year, but the offensive numbers are quite different. The Wildcats are hitting .288 as a team, whereas Oregon is just .238 at the plate.

The Ducks are coming off a 15-4 beatdown of Portland on Tuesday, which Johnson caught at least the first inning of.

"I watched the first inning against Portland on the computer, and they scored eight runs and I'm like 'where's this .234 (now .238) average? It doesn't look like it to me'."

The Ducks have won three of their last four, including a Civil War series win over Oregon State. But they are also just 4-5 over the last nine.

But when they have the lead late, closer Stephen Nogosek is going to make sure they get the win. He has 13 saves in 25 appearances, posting an ERA of 1.01 in 35 2/3 innings.

Oregon plays on an entirely turf field, but it's not like Astrodome turf that would come to most people's minds.

"It's pretty slow turf, so it's hard to get hits," explained coach Johnson. "It's good to bunt on, and it's going to favor pitching and defense, so we're really working on taking care of the ball in the infield and eliminating free bases."

It's not going to change how Arizona pitchers attack the Oregon hitters. At least not Bannister anyway.

"I like to get ground balls, so for me personally not as much (change) because the ball's slower on turf compared to where it can skip through the infield (at Hi Corbett)," the Friday night starter explained. "Our pitching plan and everything else is the same."

The Wildcats probably need to sweep this series if they are to take home the Pac-12 regular season championship at this point, since Utah is 15-9 and Washington is 14-10. Both of those teams can't lose all their games heading down the stretch, because they play each other next weekend.

Arizona also can't get lazy with a postseason bid essentially locked up either.

"We've put in the work, but we know we're right there and we know we need to cross the line and take whats ours," Bannister said of finishing the year strong. "Just need to do our best with attacking these three games, playing our style, our game. It's really worked so far, so I think if we play our style we'll have no regrets."