Oregon St. (21-7, 4-2) returns to Pac-12 action this week after a pair of spring break non-conference series, against #7 UCLA (21-5, 8-1). The series at Jackie Robinson Stadium in LA will be the annual Thursday-Friday-Saturday series, as Sunday is Easter, and the Pac-12 moves all schedules up a day to leave the traditional holiday open.
After an 8 game home stand, in which the Beavers went 6-2, its also the beginning of a crucial 6 game stretch, the only time this season Oregon St. will play back to back conference series on the road, with the Civil War series in Eugene next week. The outcome could well determine if this will be another season with a trip to the NCAA Tournament, or, in the event of 4+ losses, possibly the first one that's over by Memorial Day since 2008.
At a minimum, this weekend's series will be pivotal for both the Bruins and Beavers, and the rest of the top half of the Pac-12 Standings, in terms of the conference race.
The Bruins, fresh off their second consecutive conference series sweep this past weekend in the Palouse, and 8 wins in a row overall, are already opening some space in the Pac-12 race. UCLA is alone in first place, a game ahead of #25 Arizona, #6 Arizona St., and #23 California, and 2 1/2 on Oregon St. and #9 USC, who are tied for 5th.
The Beavers had a rough weekend to cap their home stand, dropping the first 2 of the 3 game series against Cal-Poly, only avoiding the first ever sweep by a non-conference opponent in a series at Goss in the Pat Casey era with a 4-2 win Sunday.
The problem was primarily with the offense, as Oregon St. only scored 3 runs in their 8-1 & 7-2 losses to the Mustangs. The Beavers got only 4 hits Friday, and then on Saturday, stranded 9 batters, as the game plan went back to squandering outs. Things weren't much better in the win, where there as many stranded batters as hits, and one of the wins was a product of 3 consecutive walks.
An offensive improvement will be needed to get back on track against one of the best pitching staffs in the conference in the Bruins.
The current hottest player for UCLA is junior left fielder Ty Moore, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, after a 5 of 13 week that improved Moore to .384 for the season, and included 9 RBI's (with at least 1 in each of the Bruins' 4 wins last week), 2 runs scored, a double and the game winning 3 run home run in the 13th inning that beat San Diego St. 5-2.
UCLA leads the all-time series 34-30, but Oregon St. has won the series the last 4 seasons, including a sweep last year at Goss Stadium.
The entire series will be seen on the Pac-12 National, Oregon, and Southern California channels.
Oregon St. will as usual start the series with junior RHP Andrew Moore (2-1, 1.87 ERA). UCLA will counter with their ace, junior RHP James Kaprelian (6-1, 2.35 ERA).
Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey will also continue to use Christian Donahue in the leadoff spot, with Jeff Hendrix hitting second, an experiment that was successful in last Sunday's win.