The Pac-12 baseball race seems to have come to a close with Oregon State’s defeat of the Oregon Ducks this past weekend, taking two out of three games at PK Park. The Beavers now hold a two game lead over both the Oregon Ducks (43-13, 20-7) and the UCLA Bruins (37-15, 20-7), both of which are now tied for second in the conference.
The Ducks and Bruins still have room to try and push for the title, but with only three games left on each teams’ schedule and the Beavers’ magic number being one, the task seems unreachable. Oregon State (43-9, 22-5 ) plays the 10th-place Washington State Cougars (22-30, 8-19) in Corvallis this weekend and it only needs to win one game to secure the Pac-12 championship.
The Cougars are just two games in front of the last place Utes, but they are a better team than their record states. WSU has struggled finding wins this season, but it has played tough against a number of the top teams, including the Ducks, mainly because of their offensive production. Washington State is in the top four in the Pac-12 in most of the statistical categories for offense: third in both batting average and slugging percentage, and second in hits with 532.
On the other hand, the team’s pitching has been mediocre at best.
With a team earned run average of 4.00, the Cougars have trouble containing opposing hitters. The only exception is Joe Pistorese. The southpaw from Montana has posted a 2.59 ERA and has been the workhorse of the staff with 93.2 innings pitched, but even his production doesn’t compare to the pitching of other conference teams.
An upset isn’t impossible for the Cougars, but it is highly unlikely.
The Beavers have by far the best pitching staff in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the country. The three-headed monster they possess on the mound in Matt Boyd, Ben Wetzler and Andrew Moore have accounted for 28 wins this season with the freshman Moore being the most impressive. The young ace from none other than Eugene is 11-1 on the year with an outstanding 1.34 ERA, the lowest of any freshman in the nation.
Oregon State’s rare combination of consistent pitching and a powerful offense was too much to handle for the Ducks this past weekend.
Oregon took Game 1 of the series on a magical pitching performance from sophomore Tommy Thorpe. The Ducks’ lefty dominated the Beaver offense with eight-plus innings of work on the mound allowing no runs on just two infield hits.
Despite the tough loss in the Civil War, Oregon’s pitching also has it’s own kind of three-headed beast as well, which has been dominant since they changed its weekend rotation before the California series. The three pitchers — Thorpe, Cole Irvin and Jake Reed — have a combined 14-4 record since the switch with a 1.84 ERA.
With the season coming to a close, Oregon is closing in on a school record for most wins in a season, a record that lasted for over 40 years until broken by George Horton and the Ducks in the 2010 campaign. Only three times has a team won more than 40 games in a season at Oregon, all three coming in the Horton era. This year has played out similarly; the Ducks have racked up 43 wins this season and still with three games left to play, they have a chance to set a new best in the regular season with just one win against the Utah Utes this weekend in the season finale.
Though the Ducks’ chances at winning the Pac-12 title took a hit after their series loss to the Beavers, they are still in the hunt for a regional seed, which will allow for PK Park to host regional games for the second year in a row.
CollegeBaseballNation.net has projected the Ducks as an 8th seed nationally, which would result in a number of first-round regional games being held at PK Park. Oregon State is also expected to host regional games while UCLA and Arizona State round out the projected Pac-12 teams to enter the postseason. Regional hosts and sites will be announced Sunday at www.ncaa.com/cws at 6 pm.
Last year the Ducks saw their exit from the postseason play after losing to Kent State in the Super Regional on a blooper last season, but this year they hope to elongate that success with a trip to the Omaha.