1 thing to know about all 9 teams in the 2023 Pac-12 Baseball Tournament
The second annual Pac-12 Baseball Tournament kicks off at Scottsdale Stadium this week as nine squads seek to secure the Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In a format change from last year's inaugural tournament, the 2023 edition expands the field from eight teams to nine teams and switches to pool play. Pool play will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with three games per day followed by the semifinals on Friday, May 26 and the Championship Game on Saturday, May 27. The first four days will air on Pac-12 Network. The Championship Game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Before the first pitch is thrown, here's one thing to know about the nine teams in the field in the order of their seed.
No. 1 Stanford — The Cardinal won the Pac-12 Tournament last year and is the favorite to repeat
The Cardinal powered its way to the trophy last year, outscoring opponents 35-20 in its four games. We could see more of the same this time around.
The 2022 champs were picked to win the Pac-12 and did not disappoint, claiming the regular-season championship by a five-game margin. The Cardinal leads the Pac-12 in homers (98) and hits .316 as a team. Tommy Troy (.405) leads the Conference in batting average and Alberto Rios (.400) is third. The Cardinal features four players in the top 12 in the Pac-12 in homers — Rios (16), Carter Graham (14), Braden Montgomery (14) and Troy (12).
The pitching isn't quite as potent, but left-hander Quinn Mathews can go toe-to-toe with anyone, logging a superb 3.21 ERA and a league-leading 121 strikeouts in 98.1 innings.
No. 2 Oregon State — The Beavers are the most complete team from a statistical standpoint
OSU ranks in the top two in the Pac-12 in runs scored (second), ERA (second), fielding percentage (first) and stolen bases (first). The Beavers got off to a slow start, but their talent eventually shined through, going 17-7 over their last 24 Pac-12 games to finish with an 18-12 conference record.
Travis Bazzana has paced the offense, hitting .376 with 10 homers and a league-best 36 stolen bases.
No. 3 Washington — Will Simpson leads a hot Husky offense
The Huskies had the fourth-highest scoring offense in Conference play and a lot of that stems from Simpson. His 18 homers are the second-most in the Pac-12. UW surged in the second half of the season, winning 12 of its last 15 games and scoring 11 or more runs in five of its last six. Not coincidentally, Simpson had five multi-hit games during that stretch.
Opposing teams have to be locked in from the first pitch as the Huskies have posted a 97-42 run differential in the first two innings of ballgames this season.
No. 4 USC — The Trojans are the most improved team in the Pac-12
The Trojans are making their first-ever Pac-12 Tournament appearance after failing to qualify for the first one. First-year head coach Andy Stankiewicz, previously at Grand Canyon, has quickly put the storied program back on a path to national prominence.
USC has cracked the Top 25 on multiple occasions this season and its 33-22-1 record is an eight-win improvement from last season while its 17-13 Pac-12 record is a nine-win improvement. The Trojans were predicted to place 10th in the Conference by the league's coaches but managed to finish fourth.
Sophomore right-hander Caden Aoki and his league-best 2.78 ERA highlight a pitching staff that led the Pac-12 in ERA. Blake Sodersten isn't far behind with a 3.82 ERA, making them the best 1-2 punch in the league from a statistical standpoint.
USC also has the fourth-highest scoring offense in the Pac-12, though it doesn't lean on one player. Five different Trojans have driven in 30 or more runs but none have knocked in more than 48 (Cole Gabrielson).
No. 5 Arizona State — The Sun Devils win the close ones
Willie Bloomquist's squad is 7-3 in one-run games this season, a huge improvement from its 1-7 mark last year. The Sun Devils are also 18-8 in games decided by three runs or less.
An improved bullpen and the addition of infielder Luke Keaschall has helped them turn their fortunes around. The San Francisco transfer is hitting .349 with a team-high 17 homers.
No. 6 Oregon — The Ducks keep setting power records
With 86 home runs this year, Oregon has set a new school record for homers in each of the past three seasons. Fifteen different players have left the yard this season, the most ever for an Oregon team. Drew Cowley leads the way with 15 homers. Sabin Ceballos and Jacob Walsh have 13 apiece.
That explosive offense could be needed in Scottsdale as Oregon's top pitcher, Jace Stoffal, has not pitched since April 28 due to injury.
No. 7 UCLA — The Bruins thrive in low-scoring games
UCLA has allowed the third-fewest runs in the Pac-12 but has also scored the least. So, the Bruins' winning formula is obvious: when they hold their opponents to four runs or less, they are 22-3. When they allow five or more runs they are 5-20-1.
Keep an eye on Kelly Austin. The UCLA ace has a minuscule 3.26 ERA in 12 starts.
No. 8 Arizona — The Wildcats rake
UA leads the Pac-12 in runs scored and batting average (.317). Despite the deep gaps and tall walls at Hi Corbett Field, the Wildcats have hit 84 homers this season, the third-most in program history. It has been a team effort as five players — Chase Davis (19), Kiko Romero (15), Mac Bingham (10), Tony Bullard (10), and Emilio Corona (10) — have gone yard at least 10 times.
Davis leads the Pac-12 in homers while Romero is No. 1 in RBI (80).
No. 9 California — Don't take the Bears lightly
Despite being the No. 9 seed, Cal is playing good ball right now, going 6-4 in its last 10 games and finishing the regular season with a series win over red-hot Washington. The Bears' bats flexed their power in Conference play, hitting a league-best 56 homers.
Cal launched 11 long balls in that Washington series alone and has clubbed 30 in the month of May.