Two evenly matched Pac-12 teams squared off at the Sunken Diamond this weekend for a conference series with substantial implications as UCLA took the trip north to face Stanford.
Stanford opened the series with a 6-5 win on Friday. Cardinal ace Quinn Mathews was dominant for most of the game, but the Bruins did get three earned runs off of him over his 7 1/3 innings. Mathews allowed seven hits and struck out ten Bruins batters.
The Friday game was no slugfest as Stanford manufactured runs and led 3-0 after five innings. Ryan Bruno took the mound with one out in the top of the ninth inning to record the final two outs, picking up the save in the process. Both teams had ten hits in this opening matchup of evenly paired teams.
UCLA bounced back on Saturday to win 9-6. Kelly Austin allowed one earned run over seven innings for the Bruins. Across the diamond, Stanford used seven pitchers in the middle game looking for answers. Darius Perry had three RBI for the Bruins in the game, two of those came on plays in which he made an out.
A Drew Bowser two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning cut into the five-run UCLA lead, but the Stanford offense could not overcome the entire deficit. Stanford out-hit UCLA eleven to ten as the Bruins evened the series.
Stanford rallied late in a big way on Sunday to win the series and remain in the top spot atop the conference standings. UCLA used six pitchers in the finale.
With the Cardinal trailing by a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Alberto Rios hit a grand slam to put the series win just three outs away as Stanford took a 10-7 lead.
The Stanford bullpen threw 4 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief behind Cardinal starter Joey Dixon. Drew Dowd threw 2 ⅔ innings and Bruno tossed two hitless innings, striking out four Bruins to seal the victory and the series win.
The Cardinal out-hit the Bruins thirteen to ten on Sunday. The Bruins proved its offensive consistency with ten hits in each of the three games. And Stanford only out-hit the Bruins 34-30 over the weekend.
In a three game series in which the teams were practically as even as they could be at this point in the season, Stanford took the series on their home field by winning the final game in their last at-bat. Overall on the weekend, the Cardinal outscored the Bruins by only one run, 22-21. Had this series been played in Los Angeles, it easily could have gone the other direction.
USC went north to Seattle to face Washington and the Huskies promptly swept the Trojans. Washington won a high-scoring affair on Friday night with a 14-12 10 inning victory. On Saturday, USC took a 6-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning, but the Huskies manufactured six runs the rest of the way, without the benefit of a long ball, to capture the series with a 7-6 win. Jared Engman delivered a brilliant performance on Sunday with seven shutout innings allowing just two hits to the USC offense. Washington took a 4-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning and the Trojans mustered one run but still fell 4-1 as the Huskies completed the sweep.
Arizona State traveled to Eugene to face Oregon and the Sun Devils managed to avoid a sweep on Sunday with a 9-6 win. The Ducks scored 11 and 16 in the first two games, winning each game by six runs. Drew Cowley homered twice on Friday for Oregon, including a grand slam. Josiah Cromwick had three RBI on Saturday to lead the Ducks offense. Owen Stevenson was solid out of the bullpen in Sunday's win for Arizona State, allowing just an unearned run over three innings, and Blake Pivaroff closed out the victory with a hitless frame.
Oregon State hosted Arizona in Corvallis and swept the Wildcats. Friday's opener was a 2-1 walk-off thriller. Cam Walty and Trent Sellers were locked in a pitchers duel into the fifth inning when Arizona scored a run. Sellers went seven scoreless, but the Beavers were able to get to the Arizona bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning to take the game. Oregon State captured the series on Saturday with a 10-4 win. Both offenses came to play on Sunday and Oregon State was once again a walk-off winner with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for an 11-10 win. Garret Forrester was 5-for-6 with five RBI for the Beavers in the finale.
After this weekend, Stanford (28-13, 15-6) leads the Pac-12 with one more win than Arizona State (29-15, 14-6). Oregon (30-13, 13-8), Oregon State (30-13, 14-10), and Washington (25-13, 11-9) round out the top five. UCLA (24-15, 10-9) is just ahead of USC (25-17, 11-10) on the outside looking in. Stanford with 15 wins at the top and UCLA with 10 wins at the bottom, can all see their fates, and standings, change in a weekend.