College Baseball: PAC-12 Season Preview

2015 Review

The PAC-12 has always been one of the premiere baseball conferences in the country and 2015 was one of the best years the conference has had in quite some time. While perennial contenders like Stanford and Arizona struggled, Southern California showed that it was ready to be back in the conversation as one of the best baseball schools in the country. The UCLA Bruins were the early favorite to run away with the conference title race, but there were a number of teams knocking on the door at the end of the season.

The conference only had one regional host (UCLA), but did get at-large bids for the top six teams. A number of teams were within striking distance of the Super Regional round, but none of them got out of the regional round. California and UCLA both lost in their respective regional championship games, while Arizona State, Oregon, and Oregon State went 1-2, and USC went 2-2.

2015 Conference Standings

  1. UCLA (45-16, 22-8)
  2. Oregon State (39-18, 19-10)
  3. California (36-21, 18-12)
  4. Arizona State (35-23, 18-12)
  5. Southern California (39-21, 18-12)
  6. Oregon (38-25, 16-14)
  7. Washington (29-25, 14-16)
  8. Arizona (31-24, 12-18)
  9. Washington State (29-27, 11-19)
  10. Stanford (24-32, 9-21)
  11. Utah (16-36, 7-22)

Conference Champion in Italics

No Conference Tournament

PAC-12 In the Rankings

#5 Oregon State

#9 California

#11 UCLA

#12 Southern California

#14 Oregon

The Way I See It For 2016

  1. California
  2. UCLA
  3. Oregon State
  4. Southern California
  5. Oregon
  6. Stanford
  7. Arizona State
  8. Arizona
  9. Washington
  10. Utah
  11. Washington State

What to Watch For

    • California was one of the best defensive teams in college baseball last year, which is one of the reasons that they pressured Texas A&M so much in the  College Station Regional. The offense was lacking and that’s why the Golden Bears were ultimately beaten by the Aggies. For Cal to take the next step this season, they have to be better at the plate. With a lot of production coming back from last year’s team, there’s no reason to not believe they take the next step. The Bears return their entire weekend rotation in right-handers Dauton Jefferies and Ryan Mason, and southpaw Matt Ladrech. Also, seven positional starters return to the field. Brett Cumberland (.254 BA, 32 RBI) does a great job behind the plate and is one of the best defensive catchers in the college game, while shortstop Preston Grand Pre (.264 BA, 26 RBI), and second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz (.990 fielding percentage) return to the middle infield.
    • UCLA is always good. Always. No matter how much talent the Bruins lose from team to team, they seem to rebuild quickly. This season, UCLA returns 24 players from last year’s team that dominated throughout the regular season. Though the Bruins will replace three of their four starters from last year, don’t mistake that as a lack of depth. Grant Dyer (4-2, 1.83 ERA in’15) will take the ball to start the weekend while 2015 Freshman All-American Griffin Canning (7-1, 2.97 ERA) and highly touted freshman Kyle Molnar (25th round draftee by St. Louis in 2015) will follow. As usual, look for the Bruins to beat you with strong pitching and suffocating defense. That doesn’t mean that they can’t beat you at the plate as well though. UCLA returns four starters from last season’s stellar lineup. All-Pac-12 selection Luke Persico (.285 BA, 43 RBI) will make the move from first base to the hot corner this season, the third position Persico has played in this his third season at UCLA. In the outfield, the Bruins return most of their core of players from 2015. Look for Christoph Bono (.241 BA, 30 RBI) to supply not just strong defense, but also a decent bat in the order. Don’t be surprised if UCLA wins the PAC again.
    • Many won’t remember, but Southern California has one of the strongest baseball traditions in the country. The Trojans have 21 trips to Omaha and lead the country with 12 National Championships. However, USC hasn’t been since 2001 and haven’t won since 1998. Until last season, the program had been struggling to reclaim their championship form and hadn’t made the tournament in a decade. With a 39-21 record in ’15, the Trojans returned to the post-season. The strength of the team is the pitching staff as USC is replacing it’s top three hitters from last year’s team. Jeremy Martinez (.296 BA, 45 RBI) will try to build on a successful ’15 season as he moves behind the plate to replace Johnny Bench Award winner AJ Ramirez. Martinez has spent some time behind the plate at USC, but this will be the first time that he is looked upon to be the every day catcher.
    • The Oregon schools have been mainstays in the top tier of the NCAA baseball landscape for a decade. The Beavers won back-to-back titles in ’06-’07 and have reached the Regional round of the tournament seven straight years. The consensus around the baseball world is that not only do the Beavers have a dynamite pitching staff led by Drew Rasmussen, but they also have a pretty good looking lineup as well. KJ Harrison hit 10 home runs last season and drove in 60 runners. As a freshman. Look for him to take an even bigger step this season.
    • Meanwhile in Eugene, the Ducks have a tough pitching staff as well. It’s not often that you see a team with three projected starting pitchers that all throw from the left side. Sophomore starter Matt Krook, injured last season, was just named to the Golden Spikes Award Watchlist. The question mark surrounding this Ducks team is going to be the offense.

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