Five Pac-12 teams made the 2012 NCAA baseball tournament and four of them remain. Three from the conference have yet to leave home.
Two teams meet today at high noon at Hi Corbett Field to begin a best-of-three super regional but only one squad will leave Tucson with a ticket to Omaha and the College World Series.
This Week in the Pac-12 (TWIT-Pac) is happy to have so many teams left to talk about. All times are Arizona/Pacific and all game threes are if necessary.
#3 St. John’s (40-21) at #1 ARIZONA (41-17)
Fri 12 p.m.
Sat 12 p.m.
Sun 1 p.m.
If you go by the Major League Baseball draft, the best hitter and two best pitchers on the field will be members of the Red Storm. St. John’s Jeremy Baltz was selected in the second round (two rounds ahead of Arizona’s Alex Mejia) and pitchers Matt Carasiti and Kyle Hansen were both taken a few slots ahead of the UA’s Kurt Heyer in the sixth round.
#2 TCU (40-20) at #1 UCLA (45-14)
Fri 6 p.m.
Sat 6 p.m.
Sun 7 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Fri), ESPN2 (Sat, Sun)
The Bruins are the hottest team in the Pac-12, having won seven straight and 14 of 15. Maybe giving up those 10 runs in the ninth against Purdue was the best thing that could’ve happened to them.
#3 Kent St. (44-17) at #1 Oregon (45-17)
Sat 8 p.m.
Sun 7 p.m.
Mon 4 p.m.
Oregon’s final-weekend struggles carried over into the first game of their regional when they needed a ninth-inning rally and some umpiring fortune to beat Austin Peay. But they don’t award style points in baseball, the Ducks got their sweep and are now just two wins away from their second College World Series appearance ever and first since 1954.
#1 Stanford (41-16) at #1 Florida St. (46-15)
Fri 4 p.m.
Sat 3 p.m.
Sun 4 p.m.
Unlike its Pac-12 brethren the Cardinal got no bracket help and will have to travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to face the No. 3 national seed. The Seminoles only gave up four runs in their regional sweep while Stanford needed to beat Pepperdine by a run twice.
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Half the remaining teams in the tournament are from either the Pac-12 or SEC, yet the two conferences don’t meet at all in the super regional round. It is possible the entire College World Series field could be made up of the SEC (Florida, South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas) and the Pac-12. Both conferences have three of their participants hosting this weekend.
Last week we said it would be disappointing if the Pac didn’t get two teams to Omaha. After the regional events two is the bare minimum and the league should get greedy. Not only are three Pac-12 teams playing at home but none of the hosting trio is facing another 1-seed. Yes, every team you face at this stage in the postseason is really good but you have to take advantage of situations like this when they present themselves.
That’s the theme for Arizona: opportunity, and making the most of it. After 20 years in between hosting regionals and a first super regional at home in the 14-year history of the format, there are no guarantees everything will line up like this again anytime soon.
On top of that, this is definitely the final home series the Wildcats’ recently-drafted “Fab Five” will spend together as a unit. This is the moment these juniors have been pointing to since the start of the season. It’s what the program has been building toward for three years.
The trick is to keep that extreme sense of urgency from becoming excessive pressure.
By winning three straight and getting strong starting pitching last week, the UA’s Andy Lopez was able to mask his team’s biggest weakness (bullpen? What bullpen?). Now, with no more than three games this week he can be as creative as he needs to be if any of his starters falter. Tyler Crawford, Tyler Hale and Mathew Troupe don’t have to be reserved as extra starters. Stephen Manthei is completely rested, having only appeared in one game in the past month.
The best way to help any pitching staff is to put runs on the board and the Cats would be best served by duplicating last week’s strategy: get on base, bunt, and string line drives together.
St. John’s lost the last two series of the regular season – including one against Louisville – to drop into a tie for the Big East regular season championship. SJU bounced back to win the Big East tournament before the very impressive sweep of the Chapel Hill Regional.
The entire Red Storm starting pitching rotation was drafted this week. They’re experienced and battle-tested as they prepare to face Arizona’s hot bats in the hot sun.
Opportunity arrives at 105 degrees.
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