Stanford swept Washington at home last year, but the Huskies are a markedly different club than the pathetic unit that finished 6-21 in conference play a year ago. For one, 21 of 35 players on last season's squad have been replaced. After hitting only six sacrifice flies all of last season, Lindsey Meggs' club has already driven 11 of them this year. Pitching has also been decent, though not world-beating, behind Friday starter Aaron West (4-1, 2.01 ERA). Ultimately, it's the Huskies defense that has stolen the show. Washington is leading the nation with a .983 fielding percentage. Like Stanford, the Huskies are coming off a series loss; theirs came in rainy Eugene.
Prediction: The Cardinal will have to play markedly better than they did in Arizona last weekend to win this series, although the club's ninth inning turnaround against St. Mary's was encouraging. The hard Tucson field was good conditioning for the Stanford defense, and I fully expect the Cardinal to execute with its back up against the wall after a slow conference start. Washington is much improved, but Stanford is loaded, and matters tend to even out over the course of a baseball season. Better offense and better pitching will prevail. The Cardinal will sweep this series.
Pac-12 (11?) Power Rankings
1) Arizona (7-2; previous rank: 2)
Look at the hits column of the Pac-12 individual leaderboard, and you'll see only Wildcats: Alex Mejia, Joey Rickard, Robert Refsnyder, and Seth Mejias-Brean are the league's top four in the category. It was the stellar Saturday and Sunday complete game performances of Konner Wade and James Farris, though, that pushed this stocked Arizona squad to an eye-opening sweep over Stanford.
2) UCLA (7-2; previous rank: 3)
It's time to start taking the Bruins seriously. As effective as Arizona's offense has been, it's actually UCLA's attack that holds the Pac-12 lead in on-base percentage (.404). The Westwood boys are finally swinging the bats the way that people expected them to last year.
3) Stanford (2-4; previous rank: 1)
Stanford's offensive and defensive struggles (.171 average and six errors) in the desert almost caused them to tumble all the way down to No. 4, but an amazing five-run ninth inning comeback and 12th inning win over St. Mary's on short Monday rest looked to kick the Cardinal out of their three-game funk.
4) Oregon State (6-3; previous rank: 4)
A two-headed monster is taking over Corvallis. Junior Tyler Smith is dominating the Pac-12 with a .463 clip and a.526 on-base percentage, while freshman Michael Conforto is faring just fine driving him in (.359, 6 HR, 34 RBI). The dynamic duo helped the Beavers bust out the brooms against Arizona State.
5) Oregon (6-3; previous rank: 7)
Another weekend, another series win for the Ducks. Aaron Jones and Kyle Garlick are mashing the ball in Eugene (seven combined home runs), as the boys in green and yellow venture to UCLA in a series that should tell us whether or not this club belongs among the Pac-12's elite.
6) Washington (3-3; previous rank: 6)
The Huskies have hung tough primarily because of their nation-leading defense, which checks in with a stellar .983 fielding percentage. A lot of credit goes to assistant coach Dave Nakama, who previously turned Stanford into a Pac-12 fielding force during the past decade. Nakama's Huskies will meet his former team this weekend in Seattle.
7) Arizona State (3-6; previous rank: 5)
The Sun Devils' pitching numbers lead the Pac-12, their hitting is competitive, and their defense is adequate. Yet Arizona State was swept and they've only won a fraction of their conference games. The only possible explanation is a lack of motivation. The Pitchforks can blame NCAA sanctions for that.
8) Cal (1-5 previous rank: 10)
Texas may be down this year, but taking two out of three on the road in the Lone Star State is always a tough duty, so the Golden Bears jump two spots in this week's rankings because of their admirable representation of the Pac-12 in Round Rock. David Esquer's club committed only four errors on the weekend. That's notable, considering they had been averaging eight over the past two series.
9) Washington State (3-5; previous rank: 8)
The Cougars are the Pac-12's surprising leader in slugging percentage (.440, thanks in large part to Derek Jones' absurd .786 slugging start). An exasperating lack of pitching, though, is this team's downfall. Washington State gave up eight runs at home in the ninth to blow one of their two contests against USC.
10) USC (3-5; previous rank: 9)
The word ‘mediocre' just screams at you when watching this Trojan squad play, although Matt Foat continues to make solid contact for Frank Cruz's squad. Foat's average is still hovering up near .400.
11) Utah (3-6; previous rank: 11)
A home sweep at the hands of UCLA, which included a 16-0 loss, indicates one thing: Utah may be as bad as everyone thought. With conference leader Arizona visiting Salt Lake City next, It doesn't get any easier for the Utes.
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.
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