Baseball Weekend Roundup

Stanford put together their second consecutive quality series when they took two-of-three from California last weekend at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal still sit in last place, but a bunched conference has given them an opportunity to gain plenty of ground in the games ahead. In this week's Roundup, check out all of the latest from around the Pac-10 plus notes on Stanford's chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Pac-10 Standings (records through games of Sun. 5/7)

                    Conf.   GB   Overall
Oregon State        11-4    -    34-11
USC                 10-8   2.5   24-22
Arizona State        8-7   3.0   30-16
UCLA                 8-7   3.0   25-19
Washington           9-9   3.5   31-19
Washington State     7-8   4.0   30-17
California           9-12  5.0   24-24
Arizona              6-9   5.0   21-25
Stanford             7-11  5.5   22-21

* Arizona: The Wildcats have had a difficult last two weeks falling further below the .500 mark.  Arizona lost two-of-three at Washington before a dreadful stretch of games last week.  After a 22-8 blowout loss in a non-conference game at Arizona State, the Wildcats dropped two-of-three at home to UNLV.  The pitching staff surrendered 31 runs in the final two games (both losses) leaving little hope for the remainder of the season.  Arizona hosts Washington State in a three-game series beginning on Saturday.

* Arizona State: The Sun Devils bounced back from their series loss to Stanford by blasting their in-state rivals in a midweek contest.  ASU had last weekend off and now gets set for a huge home series versus Oregon State.  The Sun Devils possess a solid RPI rating and are knocking on the door of second place in the conference.  A strong finish could lead to ASU hosting a regional the first week of June - possibly as a #2 seed.

* California: The Golden Bears saw their NCAA Tournament hopes take a severe blow last weekend when they dropped two-of-three at Stanford.  The series loss moved Cal back to a .500 overall record with just five games remaining on their schedule.  The Bears host red-hot San Francisco and then Santa Clara this week before returning to Pac-10 play the final week of the month at Arizona State.  With an RPI of 85, it'll probably take a sweep of those final five games (which would also get their final conference record to .500) just to have a shot at the postseason. 

* Oregon State: The Beavers, now ranked fourth in the country according to Baseball America, continue to roll along.  Oregon State took two-of-three from visiting Washington last weekend notching a convincing 7-1 victory in the rubber contest.  The Beavers currently own a three-game lead in the loss column over Arizona State and UCLA and are clearly in the driver's seat to win their second straight Pac-10 title.  An RPI of 33 (thanks to a non-conference schedule that wasn't particularly difficult) should prevent a national Top 8 seed, but Oregon State is definitely still in line to host a regional (as a non-national seed #1).

* UCLA: The surprise team in the conference, the Bruins have put themselves in a fantastic position to reach the NCAA's heading down the home stretch.  Despite a series loss at California two weeks ago, UCLA is still above .500 in conference play while their RPI rating checks in at an excellent 24 (one spot ahead of ASU for tops in the Pac-10).  The Bruins had last weekend off and now get ready for a huge three-game, home series versus rival USC. 

* USC: The Trojans have, all of a sudden, fallen on some hard times.  The early leader in the conference, USC has dropped three consecutive series' to the likes of Arizona State (road), Washington (home), and Washington State (road).  The recent cold stretch has sent the Trojans' overall record dangerously close to the .500 mark (an above .500 record is needed to qualify for the postseason).  And it doesn't get any easier as USC has four difficult road games on the docket for this week: at #3 CS Fullerton (Wednesday) and at UCLA (Friday-Sunday).

* Washington: Despite a series loss to Oregon State last weekend, the Huskies still find themselves in excellent shape to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.  An RPI rating of 53 probably needs to increase a bit, but Washington has only home games remaining on their Pac-10 schedule.  This week it's a matchup with Stanford before rival Washington State comes to town Memorial Day weekend.  If the Huskies take care of business down the stretch, then they should be playing come the first week of June.

* Washington State: It's been a great year in Pullman as the Cougars notched their 30th win of the season yesterday (a non-conference victory over Utah Valley State).  The two clubs will play the rubber game of their series today before WSU travels down to Tucson for a matchup with Arizona this weekend.  After a dismal 1-23 record in conference play a year ago, Donnie Marbut and the Cougars have clearly started to build a strong foundation up in the Pacific Northwest.  An RPI rating of 126 (thanks to a cupcake non-conference schedule) is nowhere close to being in the neighborhood for a potential NCAA berth, but Washington State has definitely proved they can compete with anyone in the conference.

This Weekend:
* Stanford at Washington
* Washington State at Arizona  (Saturday-Monday)
* Oregon State at Arizona State

RPI Update:
(rankings from through Sunday, May 7th)
24. UCLA
25. Arizona State
33. Oregon State
42. USC
46. Stanford
53. Washington
85. California
86. Arizona
126. Washington State

Baseball America Poll:
-- Pac-10 --
4. Oregon State (34-11)
18. Arizona State (30-16)

-- West Coast --
3. CS Fullerton (35-12)
4. Oregon State (34-11)
18. Arizona State (30-16)
20. Pepperdine (33-17)

-- Top Ten --
1. Rice (39-9)
2. North Carolina (39-8)
3. CS Fullerton (35-12)
4. Oregon State (34-11)
5. Nebraska (36-8)
6. Texas (36-15)
7. Clemson (33-13)
8. Kentucky (37-11)
9. Oklahoma (37-13)
10. Arkansas (34-15)

Stanford Update:
With just 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinal head down the home stretch still holding onto the possibility of reaching the NCAA Tournament.  Stanford has recorded consecutive series wins to get their overall record back over .500 (22-21).  After taking two-of-three from nationally ranked Arizona State two weeks ago, the Cardinal picked-up two more wins over rival California in a series that concluded yesterday at Sunken Diamond.  The results of last two weeks have put Stanford back above water, now they'll need to continue their strong play on the road for a realistic shot at the postseason.

Stanford still finds themselves in last place, but their current 7-11 record is looking much better than the 3-9 mark they held just two weeks ago.  And there's plenty of room to move up as the Cardinal sit just 1/2 game back of California and Arizona.  Meanwhile, Stanford is only three games behind USC for second place, but with just six games left in the Pac-10 schedule.

No team from the Pac-10 has ever reached the NCAA Tournament with a sub-.500 conference since the merger in 1999.  That said, teams from other conferences have certainly reached the postseason without a .500 conference record.  And there may not be a team in the country that boasts a better non-conference power rating than the Cardinal.  A 5-1 record versus top-ten opposition Fullerton and Texas (plus a road series win at Fresno State) could be a deciding factor for the committee, even if Stanford sits at just 11-13 on Selection Day.  Despite their current last place standing, the Cardinal still check in at #46 in the RPI rankings (fifth-best among Pac-10 clubs).  Last year, for reference, Stanford reached the NCAA's with an RPI of 38 (according to Boyd's World), a 32-23 overall record, and a 12-12 Pac-10 mark.

For the Cardinal to be in the discussion on Selection Day, it should take series wins at Washington and at UCLA over the next two weekends.  That'll be a tall task considering Stanford is just 6-10 away from Sunken Diamond this year and have dropped their last three road series' (USC, Oregon State, Arizona).  The Huskies and Bruins, meanwhile, are also fighting for NCAA Tournament berths, so they'll each have plenty to play for as well.

If the Cardinal can get it done though, it would be hard to ignore a team that finishes the year with four straight series wins against top-level Pac-10 competition.  The RPI rating would also continue to improve (especially with a good showing against UCLA).  But in the mean time, Stanford still has six non-conference games left to be played - including two this week.  These games also become very important as the Cardinal look to put some distance between themselves and the .500 mark.  They're also very significant from RPI purposes.  Stanford has three games remaining (one versus Sacramento State and two versus UC Davis) against clubs with incredibly weak computer rankings.  The Hornets and Aggies have had such poor seasons that their RPI's are approaching the 200 mark.  Even just one loss in games versus these teams could be a crippling blow when it comes to Stanford's power rating.  The selection committee has certainly showed in recent years that the RPI will weigh heavily in determining the field of 64.

On Deck:
It's another five-game week for the Cardinal as they'll take on the Santa Clara Broncos on Tuesday night down at the Mission Campus.  The Broncos are coming off a very difficult weekend having been swept on the road by San Diego.  That dropped their WCC record down to 7-11 while their overall mark now sits at 26-22.  Santa Clara scored five runs in the tenth inning to defeat Stanford, 6-1, on April 25th at Sunken Diamond.  The teams will meet again next Tuesday (the 16th) on the Farm.

It's another bus trip on Wednesday for Stanford as they travel to the Central Valley for a single non-conference tilt with Sacramento State.  The Hornets are just 20-27 overall with an 8-10 record in WAC play.  Sac State was swept by first-place Hawaii two weeks ago and then took last weekend off.  Stanford handled the Hornets by a 12-5 score at Sunken Diamond back on April 18th.

On Friday, the Cardinal begin a three-game series in Seattle against the Washington Huskies.

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