Arizona's Bobby Brown

This new edition of Bobby Brown hopes to win a title.
Photo by Andy Morales

With Arizona playing a non-conference series, Oregon took full advantage by sweeping three from Cal and moving into 1st place in the Pac-12 baseball standings.

It sets up a true 1 vs. 2 showdown in Tucson this weekend between the Ducks and Wildcats. But can both teams hold off the challenges from teams 3 and 4? What exactly will it take to win this league?

Wait, you’re saying, haven’t we had the battle for 1st place three times already? Well…yes, when the Cats played Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA. And if you count UCLA against Oregon that’s four.

But this will be the last one.

You can look at the standard standings but whenever competing teams have played a different number of games it’s also useful to sort things by the loss column. A team can always win out but it can’t take away losses.

Losses Games Left
Oregon 7 9
Stanford 8 12
UCLA 9 9
OSU 9 12
WSU 9 13
ASU 10 9
Wash. 10 12
USC 10 13
Cal 11 12
Utah 15 9

So Oregon State has played the same number of conference games as Arizona but the Beavers have three more losses. With just four series left (and no more head-to-head opportunities) it’s going to be really hard for OSU to catch the Cats.

Drawing the line above Oregon State, here’s how the four remaining contenders have done against each Pac-12 team thus far:

ARIZONA x 3-0 1-2 2-1 2-1 2-1 2-1
Oregon x 2-1 2-1 1-2 3-0 1-2 3-0 2-1
Stanford 0-3 1-2 x 2-1 3-0 2-1 2-1
UCLA 2-1 1-2 1-2 x 1-2 2-1 2-1 3-0

Arizona’s best friend down the stretch will be those Beavers. The Wildcats already own a series win over OSU while the Beavers still play Stanford and Oregon.

Here are the remaining weekend series for the players in the Pac-12 race:

ARIZONA – 6 losses
at Cal
at USC

If we give Arizona exactly two wins in each remaining series that’s a .667 winning percentage which is the exact benchmark we’ve been discussing all year.
Projected Pac-12 record: 20-10

Oregon – 7 losses
at Arizona
(Seattle U.)
at OSU

If Oregon picks up two losses in Tucson the Ducks would only have one remaining loss to play with. USC at home looks sweepable but it’s reasonable to think OSU can take one in the baseball version of the Civil War.
Projected Pac-12 record: 20-10

Stanford – 8 losses
at OSU
at Utah

After starting 5-7 Stanford has hit its stride going 5-1 in the last two series. As a result Wildcat Universe should root hard against Stanford this weekend in Corvallis. The Cardinal finishes with three series against teams with losing conference records and it’s conceivable Stanford sweeps all three. The wild card is Washington State who hasn’t been swept by anybody all year.
Projected Pac-12 record: 21-9

UCLA – 9 losses
at Washington
at Cal

The Bruins have lost their last two series and haven’t swept anyone but last-place Utah. It looks like the defending champs’ run is done.
Projected Pac-12 record: 18-12

So, yes, it’s possible Arizona loses only one series all year and still ends up losing the conference to a team it swept.

The bottom line is the Wildcats have to win each of the four remaining series and either need to pick up one more sweep along the way or have Stanford stumble against Washington State.

But the Cats can’t worry about staying ahead of Stanford if they don’t catch Oregon first. The final head-to-head battle for 1st place begins at Hi Corbett Field on Friday.

* * *

The East Tennessee State series produced one close game and two laughers. Lots of guys fattened their batting stats but nobody enjoyed the Buccaneers’ visit more than Bobby Brown. The UA’s designated hitter batted 9-for-12 (.750) with a double, two triples, a home run, six runs, nine runs batted in and three stolen bases.

(OK, Johnny Field will be equally sad to see ETSU go. 11-for-15 (.733), four doubles, two triples, seven runs and seven RBIs.)

What makes Brown’s onslaught so remarkable is the number of chances he’s needed to get here. Pointing out that a college baseball player is a fifth-year senior is as much of a compliment as saying a woman has “a nice personality.” If you’re expected to contribute anything you don’t redshirt and you’re supposed to go pro after your junior year.

Brown’s path has been unorthodox. He sat out in 2008 and only got five at-bats the following season. He started 33 games as a redshirt sophomore and seemed poised to be a frontline player but last year he was relegated to pinch-hitting duty and had just 33 at-bats all season.

Brown began 2012 as the starting DH but even lost that job just three weeks in to freshman Joe Maggi. But Brown kept working, waited for his turn, and waited for his next turn. Now he’s the team leader with six triples, second on the squad in slugging percentage (.569), and third with two home runs. The persevering fifth-year senior is a key bat in the middle of a lineup trying to do some big things.

One of those big things is winning the first Pac-12 championship.

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Scott Terrell loves a good pennant race. Fly your flag on Twitter and Facebook.