Just how open is this conference race?

ASU-UCLA

ASU & UCLA? The sign says it all.
Photo by Deirdre Hamill/The Arizona Republic

ASU’s stumble raised the eyebrows and hopes of a number of teams in the rest of the league. With Cal staying sweep-happy do we now have a four-team race in the Pac-10? Or are the Bears and Beavers just fooling themselves while we wait for the mammoth ASU/UCLA showdown in two weeks?

And what about a young Arizona team returning to the stadium where it holds a 20-5 record?

Oregon (21-11 / 4-5) at UCLA (26-3 / 4-2)
The Bruins’ two wins at OSU last week earned UCLA a #1 ranking in a couple of polls. Oregon’s two wins at Stanford earned the Ducks their first Pac-10 series victory since their baseball resurrection.

Stanford (15-13 / 4-5) at OSU (20-8 / 3-3)
If the Cardinal wants to be included among the good half of the Pac-10 they need to make a statement this weekend. If the Beavers want to maintain contact with the front runners they can’t afford to lose another series at home.

USC (15-17 / 2-7) at ASU (28-3 / 6-3)
The Sun Devils have already clinched a winning overall record. There’s no way they lose at home to the last-place Trojans…right?

Washington (18-13 / 3-3) at Cal (20-10 / 6-3)
As we disused last time Cal needs to bank more wins this weekend because it looks like a schedule recession is coming.

WSU (19-11 / 3-3) at ARIZONA (23-9)
The Cats are feeling a lot better about themselves after a three-out-of-four road trip. The Cougars are downright giddy after taking a series from ASU for the first time ever, ever, ever.

The stretch drive starts right now for the Wildcats. Of the next 20 games the only ones away from home are a three-game set at struggling USC and two single-game non-conference tilts at ASU.

After righting the ship at Washington and Gonzaga the UA has a very real shot at getting into the NCAA tournament, but to get there the Cats can’t waste winnable home games. You also don’t want to lose games to fellow bubble teams and WSU would certainly qualify. In fact, every Pac team except USC is still holding out hope it can win enough games to earn an invite to the Big Baseball Dance.

Last weekend Kurt Heyer showed no ill effects from the head shot at Cal. Kyle Simon pitched the game of his life on Sunday. The middle-of-the-lineup trio of Jett Bandy, Steve Selsky and Robert Refsnyder are all hitting .400 with an OPS of 1.000 or better. Arizona’s best players look primed to lead the team on another hot streak.

But then you go back to the freshman thing. Did the young Cats get out all the jitters in Berkeley? Or is there a wall around the corner?

No one ever said growing up in the Pac-10 was easy.