The Oregon Ducks head home to face the Bruins in Eugene this weekend at PK Park, just as the PAC-12 race is coming down to the home stretch. The Beavers and Ducks are the top two teams in the conference, with the Beavers in first by percentage points in the standings. Though the Ducks, just a game back in the loss column, they traveled to Goss Stadium last Tuesday and handed Oregon State a 6-3 loss. The Civil War matches up the best teams in the conference, but there is a lot of baseball left to play, especially in a competitive PAC-12 conference.
As of this week’s ranking, the PAC-12 has four teams in the top 25. The UCLA Bruins are ranked 13th, while the Beavers, Sun Devils, and Ducks are ranked among the top ten. Arizona was ranked in the top 25 last week as well, showing the conference has more than enough competition. What’s the best indicator of competitiveness? Strength of schedule. I give the edge to Oregon amongst the top of the conference based on strength of schedule and rankings this week. The Ducks have played numerous top ranked teams in non-conference play this season. They hung with the second-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores (33-4), who have been dominant against the entire nation with their pitching this year, led by the phenomenal Tyler Beede, is posting a 9-0 record with a 1.07 ERA this season. The Ducks lost the series to the Commodores early in the season, proving they could play with them after turning out a great performance, getting the win in the series finale.
Additionally, the Ducks have also played fourth-ranked Cal-State Fullerton, and still has a series ahead against the Gonzaga Bulldogs May 14-15. Within their own very competitive conference, they have beaten fifth-ranked Oregon State, and have three sweeps against PAC-12 teams: Washington, Arizona and just recently California. The Ducks can further prove themselves to be an elite team by winning their last five conference matchups, with the Oregon State series likely the deciding factor as to who will win the PAC-12 championship.
This will all just aid into the success that the Ducks are having right now, because it brings such positive energy and excitement to the dugout. This could propel the Ducks into continued success throughout conference play and ultimately becoming PAC-12 Champions.
PAC-12 Sleepers: The PAC-12 is an outstanding conference based on efficient success and competitiveness, but that can also put pressure on teams like the Ducks, Beavers, Bruins and Sun Devils. Even UCLA and Arizona can put pressure on the Oregon rivals.
–Stanford: The Cardinal hasn’t played many of their tougher games so far, but they have conference series wins against Washington, Washington State and USC; resulting in a 7-5 record in conference play. The pitching staff has been good enough to get wins, but has struggled at times. What can make a difference for them is their ability to hit the long ball. They have 16 home runs on the season, which is fourth in the PAC-12. If they get hot at the right time, their team has the ability to make a run at the title as well.
–Washington State: The cougars could be a possible team that can pull some upsets and surprise fans in the PAC-12. They came to Eugene last year, beating the Ducks at PK Park showing they’re a quality team and who can handle adversity well. They have lost series matchups to previously ranked Arizona and Stanford, but beat the Sun Devils in Arizona mid-March. They still have the chance to impress with games remaining against Oregon, Oregon State, USC, UCLA and Washington.