Trent Gilbert

Trent Gilbert’s first experience in the UA/ASU rivalry was a good one.
Photo by Andy Morales

It is time for the Pac-12 baseball version of rivalry weekend.

Oregon State and Oregon are meeting to decide the conference championship while Arizona and Arizona State do battle for Territorial bragging rights.

Here are this week’s college baseball polls:

OSU 6 4 3 7 4 4.8
Oregon 10 6 6 11 6 7.8
UCLA 8 11 11 9 10 9.8
ASU 13 13 14 13 15 13.6

BA = Baseball America
CB = Collegiate Baseball
NC = National Collegiate Baseball Writers
PG = Perfect Game
US = USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll

And then there were four. What’s bad for the conference is not only have Arizona and Stanford dropped out of the polls but they’ve slid so far it looks like the four ranked teams will be the only ones that make the tournament.

The good news for the Pac-12 is those four ranked teams are unanimous top-15 squads so there’s a solid chance all four end up hosting regionals. It’s a top-heavy league this year, as evidenced by the Beavers and Ducks making a run at a record-breaking conference record.

On to the penultimate series of the season:

ARIZONA (29-20 / 10-14) at #13.6 ASU (32-15 / 14-10)
The Sun Devils are battling roughly a dozen SEC teams for one of the final hosting slots. Game times are 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

#4.8 OSU (41-8 / 20-4) at #7.8 Oregon (41-11 / 19-5)
I’m glad Pac-12 Network is broadcasting the games on Saturday (2 p.m. Arizona/Pacific) and Sunday (12 p.m.) but what is going on Friday night at 6 that is more important? Old basketball games? Old bad basketball games?? Oh, no, I have no interest in seeing a conference championship decided on live TV. I’d much rather watch a replay of Kevin O’Neill’s team shooting 18% from 3-point land.

#9.8 UCLA (34-15 / 17-7) at USC (19-30 / 10-14)
If the Bruins win their final two series (at Stanford next week) they’ll finish with a better Pac-12 record than last year’s co-championship-winning 20-10 mark…and UCLA will still probably end up in third place.

Stanford (26-21 / 11-13) at Cal (22-28 / 10-17)
The Cardinal took the first two games against ASU…and hasn’t won since. Six straight losses in May is a great way to reduce your postseason travel budget.

Washington (19-31 / 10-14) at WSU (21-27 / 8-16)
It took the Huskies six games to match the 23 runs they scored against Arizona on May 3.

Kansas (31-21) at Utah (17-29 / 6-21)
The Jayhawks are still waiting for the Andrew Wiggins of baseball.

* * *

With Pat Murphy back coaching in the state of Arizona this is a great time to look back at what’s gone on in the UA/ASU rivalry the last couple of decades.

Nineteen years ago Arizona State’s hall of fame baseball coach, Jim Brock, died of cancer three days after the season ended. The Sun Devils turned to Murphy, formerly of Notre Dame, to run the program.

Murphy started slowly, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 each of his first three seasons in Tempe. Then he got things moving, advancing to the College World Series championship game in 1998 and winning the Pac-10 in 2000.

In 2002 Andy Lopez was tasked with rebuilding the baseball program at the University of Arizona. Murphy took full advantage of his head start and beat Lopez’s Wildcats nine of the first 10 times they met.

When Lopez surprisingly took Arizona to the College World Series in 2004 it looked like the tide was turning in the rivalry. Lopez had as many trips to Omaha in three years at the UA as Murphy had in a full decade at ASU. The head-to-head also reflected the change as the Cats won six out of seven versus Arizona State from the end of 2004 to the beginning of 2006.

Then Murphy and the Devils went on a tear. From 2005-2009 ASU made three College World Series appearances and won three straight Pac-10 championships. The rivalry gap never looked wider than in 2009 when ASU swept five games from Arizona by a combined score of 63-17.

Arizona State really had things going. The problem is the NCAA declared some of those things to be illegal.

ASU was found to have committed multiple infractions, wiping out all its baseball wins in 2007 and banning the team from the postseason last year. Murphy was forced to resign in November of 2009.

When Murphy and Lopez did battle from 2002-2009, ASU ended up with the upper hand:

2002 – 2009 UA ASU
CWS 1 3
Pac-10 titles 0 3
Head-to-head series 3 5
Head-to-head games 13 22

But if you ask a Wildcat fan to summarize the rivalry over the last dozen years or so, it looks like this:

National Championships 1 0
Sanctions 0 1

The next chapter in this storied baseball rivalry will be written this weekend.

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Scott Terrell is feeling Territorial. Stake your claim on Twitter and Facebook.