Pac-10 Baseball Roundup

The regular season is almost a month old with a number of teams in the conference off to strong starts. Included in this report are the latest standings and rankings of every team in the Pac-10. Plus, check out other notes, comments, and statistics as the conference season approaches.

Pac-10 Standings (overall records through games of Mon. 2/26)

Oregon State       11-2
Arizona            11-3
Arizona State      10-3
Stanford            7-5
USC                 9-7
California          7-7
UCLA                7-7
Washington State    3-3
Washington          1-5


Pac-10 in the Baseball America Top 25

9. Oregon State
14. Arizona State
23. UCLA


The Bootleg's Pac-10 Rankings

-- Preseason Rankings from our Pac-10 Preview article: 1. Arizona State, 2. Stanford, 3. Oregon State, 4. Arizona, 5. UCLA, 6. USC, 7. Washington State, 8. Washington, 9. California --

1. Arizona State
The Sun Devils were our preseason pick to claim the Pac-10 title and they remain in the top spot of our conference rankings thanks to a 10-3 start.  ASU has racked up single wins over #25 Texas A&M, Houston, and Missouri on neutral fields.  They've also swept Southern Utah and UAB in Tempe.  Only losses came to Missouri, #3 Vanderbilt, and #9 Oregon State. 

Offense was expected to be the strength of this team and that's certainly been the case so far.  Through 13 games, the Sun Devils are hitting a whopping .365 while scoring almost 11 runs per contest.  Four regulars are currently batting over the .400 mark.  North Carolina transfer Matt Spencer (.455, 4 HR, 20 RBI) is crushing the ball while returnees Petey Paramore (.524, 0 HR, 9 RBI), Brett Wallace (.471, 2 HR, 13 RBI), and Eric Sogard (.420, 1 HR, 10 RBI) are also off to red-hot starts.  There may not be a better hitting team in the country.  Meanwhile, JC transfer Brian Flores (2-0, 1.61 ERA) and Josh Satow (3-1, 2.03 ERA) have emerged as the top two starting pitchers. 

ASU has a big week upcoming with a non-conference tilt at Arizona on Tuesday before a weekend series at 10-1 Auburn.


2. Oregon State
The Beavers move up from their preseason ranking with a conference-best 11-2 overall record.  The defending national champions may not be as strong as their clubs from the last two years (both qualified for the College World Series), but the early returns seem to indicate they're not too far off.  Oregon State notched a huge three-game sweep at SEC foe Georgia a few weeks ago.  They've also swept Hawaii-Hilo and smoked ASU, 12-4, at a tournament in Surprise, Arizona.  All 13 of their games have been played away from Corvallis.  Oregon State's losses have come to Gonzaga and Saint Mary's on neutral fields.

The Beavers are hitting an impressive .311 as a team with standout catcher Mitch Canham - one of the few returning starting position players - leading the way (.462, 1 HR, 14 RBI).  OSU may have lost two of their outstanding starting pitchers from a year ago, but the one returnee in Mike Stutes (2-0, 3.27 ERA) is off to a hot start.  Fellow starters Joe Paterson (2-0, 1.93 ERA) and Daniel Turpen (3-0, 3.43 ERA) are also throwing well.

The Beavers will be challenged this weekend when they play four games at a tournament hosted by Texas A&M.  OSU will take on the 25th ranked Aggies (11-1 record) twice.


3. Arizona
The Wildcats slide up a spot with their 11-3 start to the season.  Arizona cleaned-up at home to begin the year with sweeps of Gonzaga, Utah Valley State, and New Mexico.  The schedule was tougher the last two weekends and the Wildcats held their own posting a 1-2 record at #10 Cal State Fullerton and a 2-1 mark at UNLV.  Arizona was an incredibly young team last year that finished strong to get to .500 in conference play.  That strong play has carried over to 2007 as the Wildcats appear poised to contend for one of the top spots in the Pac-10.

Offensively, the Wildcats are hitting .312 with the power bats of Bill Rhinehart (.382, 4 HR, 15 RBI) and Brad Glenn (.370, 3 HR, 17 RBI) leading the way.  Preston Guilmet (2-0, 2.51 ERA), who became the Friday starter as a freshman last season, is off to a strong start in year #2.  Arizona's team ERA is a spectacular 2.98 through 14 games.

The Wildcats will host in-state rival Arizona State in a non-conference game this Tuesday before a weekend home series against Eastern Michigan.


4. Stanford
The Cardinal drop two spots after struggling on the road early combined with the strong play of the Beavers and Wildcats.  Stanford was swept at #10 Cal State Fullerton before dropping two-of-three at 13th ranked Texas.  The Cardinal though have been perfect at home (6-0) with sweeps of Fresno State and Kansas.  Stanford brings a five-game winning streak into this week's action.

Ryan Seawell (.367, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and Brian Juhl (.351, 2 HR, 7 RBI) lead an offensive attack that is batting .280 through 12 games.  Michael Taylor (.229, 2 HR, 8 RBI) has gotten off to a slow start from a batting average standpoint although the power numbers are strong.  The Cardinal pitching staff was blasted at Fullerton, but has been much better of late.  Freshman Jeff Inman (1-1, 4.87 ERA) may be their top starting pitcher.

Stanford will host rival California in a non-conference series this weekend.


5. UCLA
The Bootleg picked the Bruins fifth although Baseball America had other ideas placing UCLA atop the Pac-10 in the preseason to go with a #13 national rankings.  The Bruins are still ranked by BA (#23) despite a less-than-spectacular 7-7 start to the season.  UCLA, like Stanford, has struggled against elite competition getting swept at #12 Miami and dropping two-of-three to #10 CS Fullerton in a home-and-home series.  The Bruins also were hammered, 14-1, at #19 Long Beach State in a midweek game.  They have played well though against the likes of East Carolina (3-0) and Winthrop (2-1) in Los Angeles.

UCLA is hitting .280 as a team with Brandon Crawford (.407, 2 HR, 16 RBI), one of the top shortstops in the country, leading the way offensively.  The Bruins have to had to play without standout third baseman Jermaine Curtis because of academic issues.  Curtis is hopeful to return by the time the Pac-10 season begins in late-March.  Meanwhile, on the pitching side, UCLA had to replace their top two starting pitchers from last season's NCAA Tournament team, but the one returnee in Tyson Brummett (3-1, 1.34 ERA) is off to a hot start.  The rest of the pitching staff (4.71 team ERA) has had their share of ups-and-downs early on.

The Bruins are off this weekend.


6. USC
The Trojans have played a tough schedule thus far and are playing well (9-7 record) under first-year head coach Chad Kreuter.  USC opened the year with three straight home-and-home series' with #19 Long Beach State (1-2), #16 San Diego (2-1), and San Diego State (2-1).  They've also taken two-of-three at home from Tulane, but dropped midweek games to 17th ranked Pepperdine and UC Irvine.  Considering their schedule, the Trojans are off to a good start, but unlike the five teams rated above them, they've yet to sweep a weekend series.

The offense has struggled early with just a .273 team batting average.  Veteran Matt Cusick (.370, 0 HR, 12 RBI) and freshman Grant Green (.323, 1 HR, 11 RBI) are two excellent infielders that are playing well.  On the mound, freshman Brad Boxberger (0-1, 1.54 ERA) is quickly becoming one of the top starting pitchers in the conference.  Ryan Cook (2-0, 3.20 ERA), who struggled throughout much of his freshman season as a starter, is throwing much better now as a sophomore. 

The Trojans have a big series on tap for this weekend when they travel to Athens to face Georgia.


7. Washington State
The Cougars were a surprise team in 2006 when they knocked off a number of quality opponents in the conference.  The days of Washington State struggling at the bottom of the Pac-10 are definitely over as Donnie Marbut has a number of talented players on his club.  The Cougars have played well in their first two series' of the year taking two-of-three at a solid Cal State Northridge club before dropping two-of-three at #13 Texas. 

Washington State will participate in a tournament hosted by Lewis-Clark State this weekend (games versus Utah Valley State, Southern Utah, L-C State, and Air Force).


8. California
Like with last year, the Bears aren't a bad team, but the overall depth of the conference may result in another finish near the bottom of the Pac-10.  California didn't exactly take advantage of nine straight home games to open the year: 2-1 vs. UC Irvine, 2-0 vs. Portland, 0-1 vs. USF, and 1-2 vs. UNLV.  Last weekend, they went out on the road and were swept in two games by #19 Long Beach State before taking two straight from UC Santa Barbara.  The wins against the Gauchos snapped a five-game losing streak and got the Bears back to .500 (7-7).

The offense has been much-improved early on as evident by their .315 team batting average.  Fullerton transfer David Cooper (.444, 4 HR, 17 RBI) should be one of the top hitters in the conference.  Ace starter Tyson Ross (1-2, 2.28 ERA) is a standout pitcher coming off a solid freshman campaign.  Fellow starters Craig Bennigson (1-2, 2.89 ERA) and Alex Rollin (3-0, 3.98 ERA) are also throwing well, but the bullpen has struggled.

Cal travels to Stanford this weekend for a three-game series with their rival.


9. Washington
The Huskies are the only team in the conference that has yet to play good baseball in 2007.  Washington opened the year by getting swept at Cal Poly before managing just one win (over St. John's) at a tournament hosted by East Carolina.  The Huskies dropped single games to ECU and Duke.

Washington opens their home schedule this week as they begin a stretch of 12 straight in Seattle Tuesday versus Portland.  This weekend, they host a solid UC Irvine club.


PAC-10 THOUGHTS/COMMENTS
According to the early RPI numbers over on warrennolan.com, the Pac-10 is the #1 rated conference in the country.  Now, that's only through four weeks of play and RPI numbers don't mean very much at this point in the year, but the conference is off to a strong start in 2007.  If you judge a conference by top-to-bottom strength, then the Pac-10 may end up being the best in the country this season.  However, both the ACC (with six teams in the Top 15) and the SEC (with three teams in the Top 5) may have better clubs at the top. 

Through almost a month of play, it's no big surprise to see Arizona State and Oregon State atop the conference rankings.  As explained above, the Sun Devils may have the best hitting team in the country and if they get consistent starting pitching, there's no reason why they can't contend seriously for a national championship.  So far, so good for the Devils.  Meanwhile, the Beavers lost a lot of key parts from last season's title team, but Pat Casey is quickly showing that Oregon State doesn't rebuild anymore.  The Beavers have racked up 11 wins in their first 13 games this year without playing in Corvallis, so by all accounts, OSU will challenge Arizona State for Pac-10 supremacy this season.

After those teams, there are six others that appear to have legitimate shots at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament this year which speaks to the fantastic depth in the conference.  Arizona has dominated at home against lesser competition and held their own on the road against quality opposition.  Stanford initially struggled, but is playing much better of late.  UCLA has outstanding talent and is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth while USC has a record above .500 against one of the toughest schedules in the country.  All four of these teams clearly have their sights set on postseason bids this year and with some improvement over the course of the year, could definitely challenge for spots near or atop the conference.

Washington State and California have their work cut out for them, but both have enough quality players to wreak some havoc in the Pac-10 this year.  Meanwhile, Washington badly needs some wins soon before their record drops too far below .500.  The Huskies, at this point, look like the only team undergoing a rebuilding process.

Overall, there are again a number of very strong teams on the west coast.  Three Big West teams (#10 CS Fullerton, #19 Long Beach State, and #20 UC Riverside) and two West Coast Conference teams (#16 San Diego and #17 Pepperdine) are ranked this week by Baseball America.

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