Following an RBI-boosting sweep of New Mexico, the Arizona State baseball team steps back into Pac-12 play this weekend to host visiting Oregon for a three game series. The Sun Devils will only have three home games left following the set with the Ducks, so it will be imperative for the team to take care of business at Phoenix Muni while they still have the chance.
Saturday - ASU LHP Eli Lingos (3-2, 3.02) vs UO LHP David Peterson (3-3, 3.08)
Sunday - TBA vs TBA
ASU Update (26-15, 9-9 Pac-12)
If the maroon and gold were to make a serious push at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, two wins were needed last weekend against a quality New Mexico club. Instead, Tracy Smith's team got greedy and took all three.
The sweep jumped Arizona State's RPI rank all the way up to No. 57, which is around the typical cutoff point for a team to make the postseason. Just 14 games remain before Selection Monday, with over half of those coming away from the friendly confines of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Oregon Update (21-17, 9-9 Pac-12)
Many left this Oregon team for dead after it dropped four straight games in uninspiring fashion a couple of weeks back. The Ducks have bounced back nicely, however, winning four of their last five to put themselves in a position where they could sneak into the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year with a strong finish.
If that nice finish is to come to fruition, George Horton's team will need to pick up the pace offensively. Oregon ranks dead last in the conference in batting average, coming in with a .231 clip through 38 games.
As we touched on above, this series will be a big one for both teams as they attempt to jockey for postseason positioning. The Ducks are all the way down at 91st in the RPI, but they will play 11 more teams ranked in the top-60 before the season comes to an end.
For the Sun Devils, the task is simple, but it isn't easy. Eight or nine more wins should get them into the field of 64, while anything less than that will make things very dicey. They could also use some additional help from past nonconference opponents like UC Davis and Long Beach State, which have been playing some good baseball as of late. The more wins from them (and all OOC teams), the better.
Of course, an at-large slot isn't the only route to the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12's automatic bid (which goes to the conference champion) is still in play, and both Arizona State and Oregon are just two games back of league leaders Washington and Utah.
"I have run the scenario over a thousand times in my mind," said Smith last week. "I know that the season has been like a roller coaster up to this point, and in spite of all that, I'm sitting here saying 'We can still win the Pac-12 conference'. What a story that would be, given how the season has gone and all the things we have had to overcome from an injury standpoint."
ASU leads the all-time series against Oregon, 17-8. The Ducks did not field a varsity baseball program from 1982-2008.
The Sun Devils took two of three games between the two clubs last season in Eugene.
ASU enters the weekend ranked second in the Pac-12 in ERA at 3.29. Only Stanford is slotted higher in that category at the moment.
Friday and Saturday's games will start at 6:30 PM, while Sunday's series finale is slated for a 12:30 p.m. first pitch. All games can be viewed live here.