Arizona claims top spot in Pac-12 baseball power rn

Brian Rathbone Sports Contributor

No. 22 Arizona: 31-16 (14-10 Pac-12)

Last series: Swept Oregon State

This week: vs. Arizona State

I think Arizona is now the best team in the conference. The top of the order is filthy with two of the best hitters Zach Gibbons and Cody Ramers can really swing the bat and fill up the stat sheet. But it’s more than just those two, of the seven Wildcat batters with at least 130 at bats, all seven of them have driven in at least 21 runs. To top it off, their pitching staff has two pitchers with sub-3.0 earned run average, with Nathan Bannister being nearly unhittable at home. The Wildcats may be the scariest team in the Pac-12 right now.

No. 17 Washington: 27-16 (13-8)

Last series: Beat USC 2-1

This week: vs. Washington State

Your 2016 Pac-12 Champions, the Washington Huskies. The Huskies have be a very good team during conference play, but they haven’t been a dominant team. They have only lost one Pac-12 series (to Oregon State), but they have yet to sweep a Pac-12 team. The Huskies also have a pretty clear path the rest of the way; with only Washington State, Stanford and Utah left of the schedule. Not exactly murderer’s row, despite having to play at Utah to close out the season (more on them soon).

No. 24 Oregon State: 29-15 (10-11)

Last series: Swept by Arizona

This week: vs. Oregon

I’m not going to overreact the Beavers being swept by Arizona. The Wildcats are hot right now and play very well at home. Oregon State is in a bit of a hitting slump the past two weeks and have a limited number of arms available, what happened in Tucson was bound to happen eventually. The Beavers have three series left against teams that all have 10-11 records (Oregon, USC, UCLA), there is still time to get things turned around and get out of their team-wide slump.

Arizona State: 28-16 (11-10)

Last series: Beat Oregon 2-1

This week: at Arizona

The Sun Devils are catching fire. Winners of 10 of their past 14 games have seen Arizona State shoot up the rankings and are now making a push for postseason. Let’s look at the Sun Devils previous 28 games. In the first 14 games, ASU went 5-9 and lost five games by fewer than three runs. Where they have improved lately is in close games. During their recent 14-game stretch they have won eight games decided by three runs or fewer.

Utah: 17-24 (12-8)

Last Series: Tied with Washington State 1-1**

This week: vs. Stanford

I know what you’re thinking “Utah?” Yes. Utah. I’m in on Utah. The Utes are a good baseball team, despite their non-conference record of 5-16. They have now played 20 Pac-12 games and have won 12 of them, that’s a good enough sample size for me to confidently say this is a good team. In fact, if they finish in the top-3 in the conference standings, they should get an invite to the NCAA tournament. With four more conference wins, the Utes will have won more games this season than the previous three combined.

Oregon: 22-19 (10-11)

Last Series: Lost to Arizona State 2-1

This week: at Oregon State

I don’t know what to make of Oregon. One week they will sweep USC, the next they will get swept by UCLA. The Ducks were able to win the final game against a surging Arizona State team on the road, so they are very capable of beating good teams. With the Civil War looming, the Ducks are a pesky enough team that they could give the Beavers problems. Especially if the Ducks can get good pitching performances from their rotation.

Stanford: 23-19 (10-11)

Last Series: Beat Cal 2-1

This week: at Utah

The Cardinal took a dip after losing two of three against Oregon State, but Stanford bounced back and took the final two games of the series against rival Cal. The Cardinal aren’t a sexy team; they don’t have a dominant pitcher on their staff, but have a sound pitching staff top to bottom. They don’t score a lot of runs, but they don’t give up many with stellar defensive play. With Utah and Washington left on the schedule, the Cardinal could bring even more chaos to the Pac-12 race because of their pitching and defense.

UCLA: 23-22 (10-11)

Last Series: Lost to Utah 2-1

This week: vs. USC

UCLA and USC could be swapped here, but I UCLA popped into my head before USC, so that’s where we are going. It’s been a difficult year for the Bruins, a year after winning the conference and earning the No. 1 national seed, UCLA can’t string together consecutive weeks of winning. The Bruins have only won one conference series all season and could not follow that up with a win in the next series. Just one of those years for the Bruins.

USC: 21-24 (10-11)

Last Series: Lost to Washington 2-1

This week: at UCLA

Last year ended on a bit of a high note for USC, they pushed eventual national champion Virginia to the brink in regional round, taking the decisive game 11 innings before losing. The team with the most College World Series titles seemed like a team primed to make another postseason run. Instead, like the school they share a city with, continuous winning has been a struggle for the Men of Troy.

California 25-18 (11-13)

Last Series: Lost to Stanford 2-1

This week: at Northwestern

What happened to Cal? Remember when the Golden Bears were a top-15 team and had swept an Oregon State team that still had Drew Rasmussen? That seems like a long time ago. They have not won a Pac-12 series since the first week of April. Cal is trending the wrong way, maybe a non-conference trip to Northwestern can bring back the Golden Bear’s mojo.

Washington State 15-26 (8-15)

Last Series: Series tied with Utah 1-1**

This week: at Washington

Well this is awkward. Washington State is the only Pac-12 team without double digits wins, they are the one team that you can feel comfortable saying they don’t have a chance at Pac-12 title.

**Utah vs. Washington State played the final game of their series Monday night.

On Twitter: @brathbone3

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