With many teams looking evenly matched after week one of Pac-12 play, week two of conference play had much to prove in one direction or another: were the week one winners that good, were the losers that bad, and is there any middle ground in the conference?
Arizona State at No. 8 Oregon State
By the time the fourth inning ended on Friday night at Goss Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon State led 18-0 and Travis Bazzana had eight RBI on the way to a 21-0 shut out of Arizona State. Cooper Hjerpe improved to 5-0 on the season as he tossed one-hit ball over seven innings. Oregon State attacked almost every pitcher the Sun Devils send to the mound, scoring on four of the five arms.
Saturday afternoon the Beavers fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first, but they answered right back with three runs and continued to add to their total the rest of the day. Perhaps out of frustration, perhaps trying to inspire his team, Sun Devils head coach Willie Bloomquist was ejected in the bottom of the first inning for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. The ejection did not change the course of the game, Oregon State continued to cruise as they scored in five of the first six innings. Bazzana added a three-run home run to his weekend resume in the bottom of the eighth to push the lead to 12-2, which stood as the final score. Through the first two games, the Beavers had outscored the Sun Devils 33-2. Jacob Kmatz moved to 4-0 with the win for his 5 2/3 innings of work.
For the second week in a row with a series sweep on the line, Oregon State could not close the deal. The Beavers led 1-0 going to the ninth before the Sun Devils plated three runs with the help on an infield single and a bases loaded walk after falling behind 0-2. A pop fly ball off the bat of Kai Murphy was caught in foul territory, allowing the third run of the inning to cross the plate. Tyler Meyer tossed seven innings for Arizona State, giving up just one run on four hits and striking out nine Oregon State batters in the 3-1 win.
Oregon State, despite outscoring Arizona State 34-5 in the three games, settled for a 2-1 series win at home.
No. 17 Stanford at No. 16 Arizona
Alex Williams pitched well enough to win on Saturday night when Stanford traveled to Tucson to face Arizona in the only Saturday-Sunday-Monday scheduled matchup. The problem for Williams is that Arizona starter TJ Nichols pitched just a little better. Williams went seven innings allowing just an unearned run on three hits and striking out ten. Nichols pitched eight strong innings and allowed just two runs while striking out eight. Stanford led 2-0 in the seventh inning before the Wildcats finally scored a run. In the bottom of the eight, things fell apart for the Cardinal as sloppy defense allowed Arizona to eventually take a one run lead.
In the top of the ninth, Stanford put runners at second and third with no outs. One out later, Austin Kretzschmar hit a ball into shallow center which would have been the tying run on a sacrifice fly ball, if not for center fielder Mac Bingham catching the ball and throwing home to catcher Daniel Susac who made a swipe tag for the final out of the 3-2 Arizona victory.
In a relative repeat of Saturday’s opening game, both teams got great outings from their starting pitchers on Sunday. Quinn Mathews for Stanford went seven strong striking out eight and allowing just three earned runs. Garrett Irvin started for the Wildcats and went six strong allowing only two earned runs. The eighth inning once again came back to haunt Stanford as they took a 5-1 lead into the bottom half of the frame. Arizona took advantage of infield singles and walked batters, but a three-run home run from Chase Davis was the big blow for the Wildcats in the eighth as the eked out a 6-5 win.
Davis returned on Monday night to single-handedly ruin Stanford and help the Wildcats complete the sweep in the process. Defensively, Davis made a diving catch in left-center to end the first inning and keep Stanford from taking an early lead. Trailing 3-1 in the sixth, Davis hit a two-run home run to tie the game. An inning later, Davis hit a grand slam and the Wildcats scored six runs in the inning to take a 9-3 lead. Drew Dowd started for the Cardinal and was good through six, giving up just three runs, but the bullpen was not up to the task. In the other dugout, Dawson Netz was good over six innings allowing just the three runs, while Quinn Flanagan was dominant over the final four innings allowing just one hit and striking out five in the 10-3 romp.
Arizona got the sweep at home and after two one-run games, saved their offensive explosion for the final game and won in a blowout.
Utah at No. 29 Oregon
Utah took a 3-0 lead in the second inning on Friday night in Eugene. The Oregon offense went to work at that point, and they scored eleven runs between the second and the sixth innings. Brennan Milone, Anthony Hall, and Gavin Grant all hit two-run home runs as part of a balanced offensive attack for the Ducks. Utes batters only collected six hits on the night and the back-end of the Oregon bullpen was tremendous over the final 4 1/3 innings as it helped the Ducks to the 11-4 win.
Saturday’s second game featured another late Oregon rally to break the Utes again. Milone and Tanner Smith both homered for the second day in a row. But Utah took a 6-3 advantage to the bottom of the eighth when Oregon rallied for five runs. Pinch-hitter Josiah Cromwick was hit by a pitch on a 0-2 count to load the bases for the Ducks as the Utes began to unravel. Smith singled home two runs as part of a 4 RBI night to tie the game and after a sacrifice fly gave Oregon the lead, Milone doubled to extend the Oregon lead to 8-6. The back end of the Oregon bullpen was solid for the second straight game, keeping Utah off the board late.
By comparison, Oregon’s 7-2 win on Sunday to sweep the weekend series was a cake walk compared to the two previous come from behind victories. Utah scored one run in the third and fourth innings for their only real offense of the afternoon. Hall was 3-for-3 with a solo home run and an RBI single, and Smith’s only hit of the ballgame was a two-run home run. Once again, the Oregon bullpen was terrific; they handled the final 5 1/3 innings of the game and only allowed two hits to the Utes.
Oregon earned the home sweep over Utah after no team swept in the first weekend of conference play.
California at USC
Jaden Agassi took the hill for the Trojans against Josh White for Cal on Friday at Dedeaux Field. A triple by Tyresse Turner in the bottom of the first inning got the Trojans out to a quick 2-0 lead on their way to a 5-0 lead in the opening inning. USC added a run in the second and led 6-0 behind Agassi. Despite falling behind by six runs, White hung in and ended up throwing seven complete innings without allowing more damage, sparing bullpen arms. Two runs for the Golden Bears in the sixth inning on a double by Cole Elvis was all the offense they could muster against USC pitching as Cal fell 6-2.
USC sent Tyler Stromsborg to the mound to face Cal's Joseph King. King pitched 5 2/3 innings while Stromsborg pitched 6 innings. But neither starter factored in the final decision. Cal took a 5-1 lead to the bottom of the eighth, but USC tied the game at five going to the ninth. Dylan Beavers, who had tripled earlier in the game, hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth before the Golden Bears added two more runs to take a 9-5 lead. Cal’s bullpen closed out the game and the win evened up the series.
Sunday’s rubber match was the lowest-scoring game of the weekend series. Left-hander Ian May, in just his first career start, delivered 5 2/3 innings of quality pitching. May’s one mistake cost him his only two runs on Sunday, on a two-run home run by Tyler Lozano in third inning put the Trojans in front 2-1. Elvis provided a two RBI single in the sixth and Cal’s bullpen once against closed out the Trojans as they held on for the 3-2 win.
Cal went on the road against what appears to be a quality USC squad and after losing the first game, bounced back to take the final two games and the series 2-1.
Washington State at Washington
Washington State traveled across the state to Seattle to face Washington for the Apple Cup. Cam Clayton homered for the Huskies in the second inning before another run in the inning gave Washington a 2-1 lead which stood up until the sixth when they added another run. A solo home run by Kyle Russell got the Cougars within a run, but they fell 3-2 in the opener. Jared Engman earned the win for his 5 2/3 innings performance.
On Saturday, Washington’s Calvin Kirchoff took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Nate Swarts homered with one on. Kirchoff exited after 6 2/3 innings having allowed two runs on two hits with Washington leading 8-2. The Huskies offense scored at least one run in each of the first six innings, mostly on run scoring singles, as they also pounded out thirteen hits in the game. Stu Flesland and Stefan Raeth finished the final 2 1/3 innings without allowing a hit, in the 8-2 Huskies win.
For the second straight day, the Washington Huskies scored a run in at least six different innings to cruise to victory and sweep their cross-state rival. Washington State burned through eight pitchers in the Sunday contest, while Washington used just three.
Washington’s steady offense continued to drive home runs with singles, but they did see some power swings from Johnny Tincher and Michael Snyder who both homered in the 14-3 rout.
Washington swept Washington State in Seattle and outscored the Cougars 25-7, but also out-hit them 36-10 in the three games.
Oregon State has proven it can outscore anybody, but oddly enough, they have not done that on Sundays to this point. Their pitching has not fared well late on Sundays either. To compete long term, they need to fix at least one of those problems. For now, though, the Beavers continue to win each series and their high-ranking in most polls is well earned.
USC’s opening conference series win against UCLA looks slightly less impressive given UCLA’s performance since last weekend and given Cal’s taking the series in Los Angeles by winning the final two games. Cal’s best pitcher got smacked around in only one inning on Friday, but White stayed on the mound and gave his team seven innings when many pitchers would fold.
Arizona is potentially the wildest of wild cards in the Pac-12. Their offense can punish teams, or they can have days like Saturday when they produce three runs and they still win on the back of outstanding pitching. The hot and cold nature of the offense could run into problems if the right set of arms get in their way.
Stanford is scuffling right now. There is no shame in going to Tucson and losing. There is some shame in throwing games away with careless defense and combining that with very little offense. The starting pitching is really good, most of the time, and that consistency needs to be developed in order to repeat a trip to Omaha.
Washington looks to have some great pitching depth. It will be interesting to see what they can prove offensively when they face higher tier pitching in the coming weeks.
UCLA did not play a conference series this weekend; the Bruins played host to Harvard. The Bruins won Friday’s opener 25-2 before being shut out 5-0 on Saturday. UCLA took the series with a 3-2 win in eleven innings on Sunday.