BASEBALL: Beavs on the bubble

PAC-10 BASEBALL is strong this season. Very strong. The conference, by many projections, will produce as many as eight teams who earn one of 64 NCAA postseason berths. Where do the Beavers stand headed into the season's final week? On the bubble. And that makes these last four regular season games code red critical for the men in black.

If the season were to end today, Baseball America projects Oregon State gets into the field of 64. The only Pac-10 teams they have on the outside looking in at the moment are Washington and USC.

But, of course, the season doesn't end today. Oregon State has four games remaining and all of them are against Pac-10 foes. So what has to happen for OSU to play on into the regionals?

Baseball America says a 3-1 mark should do it. A 2-2 record might still work.

Oregon State meets rival Oregon on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at PGE Park in Portland. They then close out the regular season with a series against Arizona -- at home in Corvallis -- running Friday through Sunday.

"THE BEAVERS also need a strong week to secure their at-large spot," writes Baseball America's Aaron Fitt. "OSU did manage a crucial Sunday win at Arizona State, avoiding a sweep, but they remain just 10-14 in the Pac-10, tying them with Washington for eighth place.

"Oregon State probably needs to go 3-1 in its final four games against Oregon and Arizona to slide into regionals with a losing conference mark. Then again, with so few deserving at-large candidates at the back of the field of 64, maybe a 2-2 week would be good enough."

IN ARIZONA, the Beavers will face an opponent with just as much to play for this weekend in Corvallis.

The Wildcats built up a huge cushion earlier but have fallen like a stone of late, losing four straight weekend series. But they still hold a very strong RPI, and a series win over OSU virtually assures them of a punched ticket. Even a 1-2 mark against the Beavs this weekend probably still does the job.

But if Arizona gets swept by Oregon State, the Wildcats are in real danger of missing it all. And they won't want to leave any doubt via yet another series loss.

Bottom line, expect the Beavs and Wildcats to both be primed. Their postseason lives may depend on who plays the most relaxed, crisp brand of baseball this weekend.

OREGON STATE has an official RPI of 30 in the just released NCAA figures, a bump up of three spots despite the series loss to ASU.

One note about the RPI. It's an integral, key factor in determining postseason berths, but it's not an end-all, be-all. At some point, the loss column takes over.

The Beavs failed to make the postseason in 2008, when they won a heady five series against teams in the 64-team field, and had a relatively strong RPI. But the loss column did them in, as they also held a 28-24 record (11-13 in Pac-10). This year, Oregon State heads into the final four games of the regular season at 28-21, and 10-14 in Pac-10 play.


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