Outfielder Jeff Gelalich possesses the consummate speed-power combination. He has muscled out six home runs to go along with his conference-leading 13 steals. Davis, Calif. native Cody Keefer (.365) and versatile Beau Amaral (4 HR, 7 SB) bolster the deep UCLA lineup. The pitching has also been good. Friday starter Adam Plutko (5-2, 2.98 ERA) carried a no-hitter through six at Oregon State, while Bruins' closer Scott Griggs has punched out 36 batters in just over 22 innings of work.
Prediction: UCLA is a darn good ballclub with a better bullpen than Stanford's. More than any other sport, though, baseball is about who is hot at the right time. The Bruins cooled off last weekend in the Pacific Northwest, while the Farm Boys rode a Bay Area heat wave into an offensive surge. Alex Blandino goes deep again, and Stanford takes two of three in the Pac-12 series of the year.
Pac-12 Power Rankings
1) Arizona (12-6; previous rank: 3)
The Wildcats have a one-game lead with 12 to play and East Tennessee State coming to town for a series that, as far the conference title is concerned, doesn't matter. The fun restarts next weekend, when Oregon visits Tucson in what will be a season-defining series.
2) Oregon (11-7; previous rank: 1)
The brutally deep Pac-12 asserted itself again this past weekend. Washington State, one if its bottom feeders, walked into Eugene and beat up the Ducks to knock them out of the conference lead. A 7-1 midweek Civil War loss to Oregon State must have been salt in the wound.
3) UCLA (11-7; previous rank: 2)
Young Oregon State is certainly a player in this title chase, and UCLA learned the hard way this past weekend in Corvallis. Friday starter Adam Plutko, though, carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and continues to pitch well. Hot-hitting Stanford will be his biggest test of the season this weekend.
4) Stanford (8-7; previous rank: 6)
The Cardinal's stock is rapidly regaining value after its three-game demolition of Arizona State. Bold prediction: if Stanford can scrap together four wins over its next two weekends at UCLA and Oregon State, they will win the conference. The schedule beyond this brutal six-game stretch is winnable: Washington State, Utah, and Cal.
5) Oregon State (8-7; previous rank: 5)
The Beavers are a dangerously complete team that is getting hot at the right time. Even more dangerous, however, is Oregon State's lethal grasp of the art of small ball. The Corvallis crew sports a .387 on-base percentage and has sacrificed successfully 66 times. The latter number leads the Pac-12.
6) Arizona State (9-9; previous rank: 4)
This is a talented Sun Devils team, but they aren't very mentally resilient. It's either sweep or be swept for Tim Esmay's squad. Maybe the postseason ban is to blame. Either way, Arizona State checked out mentally on Sunday at Stanford (four errors) after two tough losses to open the series.
7) Washington State (7-7; previous rank: 8)
So, the Cougs brought Oregon back down to Earth with a series win in Eugene. And with that, this club is only one game back in the loss column. I'm still not sure what to make of this Washington State team, but their home series against fellow .500 performer Arizona State this weekend is intriguing.
8) California (7-8; previous rank: 9)
Cal has re-established its pulse against substandard competition at home. Now, they head to Eugene to face an Oregon team that is angry after dropping two of three against Washington State. If David Esquer's club can scratch out another couple of victories this weekend, yet another team will enter the Pac-12 title hunt.
9) Washington (6-9; previous rank: 7)
Freshman Branden Berry's RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday helped the Huskies dodge a sweep at the hands of Arizona. With Utah and USC on the slate for the next six, though, the Huskies get a shot to legitimize their 2012 record.
10) USC (5-9; previous rank: 10)
The Trojans continued to waddle through mediocrity, even during their conference bye weekend. The going doesn't get any easier, as the schedule the rest of the way is brutal for USC. Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA are all on the docket. This will be a sub-.500 campaign for Frank Cruz's club.
11) Utah (5-13; previous rank: 11)
As expected, the wheels have come off in Salt Lake City.
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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