The Pac-10 baseball teams are ready to get things started for real. Well, some of them anyway.
The way college baseball packs so many games into such a short period of time you have to fit in your non-conference series wherever you can. This leads to an opening weekend where 40% of the Pac-10 teams are playing somebody else.
Fear ye not, TWIT-Pac will be here all season long to tell you what’s what and who’s where in the world of Pacific-10 baseball. Here’s this weekend’s schedule (all series are Friday through Sunday unless noted):
Cal (12-7 / 0-0) at ASU (20-0 / 0-0)
Oregon (17-6 / 0-0) at ARIZONA (18-4 / 0-0)
USC (11-10 / 0-0) at Stanford (10-5 / 0-0)
Cal Poly (7-13) at UCLA (18-0 / 0-0) – Thu.-Sat.
Cal State Bakersfield (9-9) at Washington State (12-5 / 0-0)
Long Beach State (9-10) at Oregon State (14-3 / 0-0)
Washington (9-10 / 0-0) at Dallas Baptist (14-8)
In case the gaudy record didn’t tip you off, Arizona State is the team to beat. The three-time defending league champs should have the best team again. The Sun Devils’ only issue is they fired their coach in the offseason for – I’m going to go out on a limb here – cheating.
But with a former assistant at the helm the Devils haven’t missed a beat. In the same way Barry Switzer won the Super Bowl and Tubby Smith has an NCAA tournament championship, Tim Esmay is going to look like a coaching genius with ASU’s loaded roster.
“Loaded” could also be used to describe the Pac-10, with five teams in the current Collegiate Baseball poll. Arizona is among them but we’re still not sure what to make of Andy Lopez‘s Wildcats.
It’s hard to get a gauge on a team that hasn’t played a road game. To make matters worse, they haven’t been very difficult home games. We knew this wasn’t going to be the toughest schedule in the nation but it’s been even softer than expected with Fullerton and Long Beach being down.
In fact, the Cats haven’t played a single weekend series against a team that currently has a winning record.
Even with those advantages the UA is still looking up at people in the Pac-10 standings. As good as we feel about the Wildcats’ 13-game winning streak it’s only the third-best active streak in the conference since ASU and UCLA haven’t lost to anyone. As happy as we are about the UA’s .818 winning percentage, it’s only good enough for fourth place.
Before the season started the Pac-10 coaches voted the Cats fifth behind ASU, OSU, UCLA and Stanford, and that’s probably still a good guess. If you want to bump the UA up to fourth, go ahead, but middle-of-the-Pac is still the best projection for this young team.
If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic the ASU, UCLA and Stanford series are all in Tucson. If the Cats can survive on the road and continue to hit well at home there’s a chance we could pass some people but that’s a lot to ask a squad with a shaky pitching rotation (nobody has been consistent after Kurt Heyer) and a shakier bullpen (the Cats are dead last in the Pac-10 with only one save as a team).
With the start of league plays comes a return to the airwaves as all three games of the Oregon series will be brought to us by Brian Jeffries on 1290 AM radio. Friday and Saturday’s games are at 6 p.m. and the first pitch Sunday is at noon.
Will the Wildcat wins keep coming? The early part of this rebuilding year has been anything but a disaster so maybe this team is too naïve to realize it shouldn’t be able to continue playing this well against Pac-10 teams. There’s only one way to find out.