OSU baseball: Previewing the rest of the Pac-12
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 00:02
No. 9 Stanford (Last year: 41-18 overall, 18-12 Pac-12)
When starting pitcher Mark Appel turned down a $3.8 million offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, it cemented Stanford as one of the top teams in the Pac-12 heading into 2013. The 6-foot-5 right hander was an All-American last year. He had a 10-2 record, a 2.56 earned run average and 130 strikeouts. He was widely regarded as the best player in the 2012 MLB Draft, but fell to No. 8 because of high contract demands from his agent, Scott Boras.
The Cardinal also feature two preseason All-Americans: outfielder Austin Wilson and first baseman Brian Ragira. Wilson hit .285, scored 56 runs and hit 10 home runs. Ragira batted .329, led the team with 83 hits and drove in 50 runs.
Stanford is a consensus top-10 pick by all the different national rankings, and received half of the first-place votes in the Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll.
No. 12 UCLA (48-16, 20-10)
As the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, the Bruins are always scary in the ultra-competitive Pac-12. With a good blend of pitching and offense UCLA should challenge for a third straight conference title. With their entire starting rotation returning, the Bruins will be tough to score on. Junior right-hander Adam Plutko will lead a deep staff that features four different pitchers with sub-three ERAs in 2012.
The Bruins aren’t slouches at the plate, either. UCLA’s biggest threat at the plate, Jeff Gelalich, returns for his senior season after leading UCLA in batting average and home runs, hitting .351 with 11 long balls. With six players who hit better than .300 returning for 2013, UCLA will certainly be a force to be reckoned with yet again.
No. 15 Oregon (46-19, 19-11)
Whether Oregon State fans like it or not, the Ducks have become one of the premier college baseball teams in the nation — and their head coach, George Horton, just signed a five-year extension.
Oregon is clearly a one-dimensional team, led by the pitching staff. But it still got them to third place in the Pac-12 and to the Super Regionals. The Ducks did lose two of their best pitchers, Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Alex Keudell and reliever Matt Housey (1.72 ERA) but still return a deep and talented staff.
The bullpen should still be the strongest area of this team. Jimmie Sherfy was tied for second in the NCAA in saves with 19, had a 2.20 ERA and a ridiculous 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Thomas Thorpe also returns his 2.11 ERA and .179 batting average against to the back end of the ‘pen.
The biggest question mark for the Ducks, and a reason they weren’t able to get past Kent State (a four-seed) in the Super Regionals is their offense. Only Utah (the doormat of Pac-12 baseball) finished with a lower batting average in the conference and had more batters strike out than Oregon.
No. 24 Arizona (48-17, 20-10)
The Wildcats are the defending national champions and the Pac-12 alpha dogs until proven otherwise. Arizona unexpectedly ran the table last season and is deservedly loaded with confidence going into 2013. But there’s a reason the defending champs are ranked No. 24 behind Pac-12 rivals OSU, Stanford, UCLA and Oregon. The Wildcats lost their ace and five key contributors on offense.
Still, the Wildcats led the nation in hits last season and return the majority of last year’s pitching staff. The Pac-12 batting champ Johnny Field will lead what promises to be a dangerous offense, but the pitching staff is what will likely win games for Arizona. Outside of losing All-American Kurt Heyer, the entire staff returns for another year and should benefit from postseason experience.
Arizona has seemingly become an afterthought already, but has proven it can beat anybody once the postseason roll around.
Arizona State (36-20, 18-12)
With 50 straight years of 30 plus wins it’s a safe bet that the Sun Devils will be competitive once again. The Sun Devils aren’t one of the conference favorites for the first time in a while, but with the third best recruiting class in the nation, they won’t be underdogs for long.
First Team All-American Trevor Williams can shutdown any team in the country and will make ASU near impossible to sweep in a weekend series. Highly touted freshmen left-handers Ryan Kellogg and Brett Lilek could make an immediate impact on the hill. If they can do anything like what southpaw Jace Fry did for Oregon State last season, the Sun Devils could find themselves at the top of the conference.
ASU doesn’t have the usual power it’s accustomed to, but returns enough starters to stay near the top of the Pac-12 in offensive production.
California (29-25, 12-18)
The Golden Bears looked promising for the first half of the 2012 season, but a 3-9 stretch late in the season (including getting swept by Oregon and Arizona) derailed their season.
Things look bleak on the offensive side of things for Cal, losing its top three hitters (Danny Oh, Mitch Delfino, Tony Renda) to the MLB Draft last June.