The Arizona Wildcats baseball team was hoping this week would start the home stretch toward a Pac-12 championship. The UA instead has to play catch-up and Oregon is the team looking to pad its lead in the standings.
There are just three weeks left in the regular season with nine teams holding onto tournament dreams and five schools hoping to host a regional. They don’t call it hardball for nothing.
Here are this week’s official RPI numbers from the NCAA for every team on Arizona’s schedule:
|New Mex. St.||27||21||0-2|
|E. Tenn. St.||146||139||3-0|
|N. Dakota St.||177||162||2-1|
Not surprisingly, Oregon got a nice boost after going 4-1 on the week and taking the series in Tucson. The Ducks and UCLA Bruins are both building resumes worthy of a top-8 national seed. It would be a big win for the conference if both could secure home games all the way up to the College World Series.
The handful of college baseball polls:
The bad news for the Wildcats is the RPI and rankings have reached a consensus that Arizona is the fourth-best team in the Pac-12, regardless of what the standings say. You don’t want to be at the bottom of the list when the regional bids are handed out. All the more reason to get back to winning ways starting today.
This Week in the Pac-12 (TWIT-Pac) previews all the winning ways around the league:
#15.2 ARIZONA (30-15 / 13-8) at Cal (25-19 / 9-12)
The Golden Bears are 7-2 in their last three series against teams not named Oregon.
USC (22-21 / 7-13) at #8.4 Oregon (35-14 / 16-8)
You’re going to have to wait an extra day to scoreboard-watch and root against the Ducks as this series runs from Saturday through Monday. A single Trojan victory would be a big plus for the Wildcats and Bruins.
#11.2 UCLA (32-13 / 12-9) at Washington (26-18 / 11-10)
The Huskies swept USC to get back in the NCAA tournament bubble discussion. Playing UCLA and ASU the next two weeks will give them opportunities for RPI-boosting wins.
WSU (24-20 / 9-11) at #14.4 Stanford (29-14 / 11-10)
The bad news for the Pac-12 coaches’ preseason pick to the win the conference is they’re in a three-way tie for fifth. The good news for Stanford is it finishes with three of the four teams below the logjam.
#20.6 OSU (30-16 / 11-10) at Utah (12-33 / 6-18)
Wildcat Universe should root for the Beavers to get red hot so they can do some damage against Oregon over Memorial Day weekend.
#21.4 ASU (29-17 / 14-10) at Gonzaga (29-17)
Gonzaga is 4-2 against Pac-12 teams (or 4-0 against Pac teams not named Oregon).
* * *
Coaches always talk about mental toughness and this is a weekend it gets put to the test for the BatCats. It’s human nature to be disappointed after coming up short in a big series like the Oregon showdown but Cal certainly doesn’t care about that.
The standings say Arizona is significantly better than the Bears but the stats say otherwise. California is third in the Pac-12 in hitting (the Cats remain first) and the Bears have a better team ERA (3.89) than the Wildcats (4.20).
If the UA is going to have success in Berkeley the offense needs to lead the way. Starting pitchers Kurt Heyer and Konner Wade have been less than dominating the last two series, giving up 18 earned runs in a combined 27 innings pitched (an ERA of 6).
Get the lead early, put pressure on the defense (Cal is the only Pac squad with a worse fielding percentage than Arizona) and give your pitchers some margin for error.
Cal doesn’t have lights on its home field so it’s all day games this weekend. Today’s contest starts at 3:30 so you can take a break from listening to Pitbull on i97.5 at work and switch over to Brian Jeffries on 1290 AM in Tucson. Saturday and Sunday’s games both start at 1 p.m.
– – – – –