Pac-12 baseball returns: ASU hosts No. 2 Oregon State, No. 9 Arizona at UCLA

Pac-12 baseball is back and this year’s conference play is guaranteed to be exciting.

The Pac has three teams currently in the top 15. Oregon State sits at No. 2, while Arizona is at No. 9 and Stanford is at No. 12.

Thursday night’s matchup between ASU and Oregon State will kick the weekend off.

The Sun Devils (9-7) are coming off of last weekend’s impressive sweep of Long Beach State, while the Beavers (14-1) are coming off a four-game sweep of Ball State and a nine-game win streak. ASU’s bats have been hot over the last week, but they’re still trying to figure out how to utilize the bullpen in the best way.

ASU’s Friday starter, junior lefty Eli Lingos, has established himself as the Sun Devils’ ace this season. In his 26.1 innings pitched, Lingos has a 2.39 earned run average and leads the team with 24 strikeouts.

At the plate, freshman outfielder/designated hitter Hunter Bishop showed up big for the Sun Devils over the weekend. Bishop led the team with five RBIs and had his first career home run and triple against the Dirtbags.

Oregon State leads the NCAA with a 1.20 ERA. The Beavers have held opponents to two runs or fewer in 12 out of 15 games.

On the bump for OSU, junior left-handed pitcher Luke Heimlich has stood out. Heimlich has a 0.31 ERA across 28.2 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts. Freshman reliever Jake Mulholland has also been a standout for the Beavers with a 0.00 ERA in his 15.1 innings pitched.

This weekend’s matchup between OSU and ASU will be the third time the teams have opened conference play against each other. Last year, the Beavers took all three games.

Arizona will get conference play started at UCLA on Friday. The Wildcats (13-2) have also been hot offensively leading the NCAA with a .357 batting average through Wednesday’s games. Junior outfielder Jared Oliva and junior infielder JJ Matijevic currently lead the Wildcats in doubles with 11 each.

Friday starter JC Cloney is 4-0 in his four starts this season. The senior left-handed pitcher has a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings pitched.

UCLA (6-9) sits at the bottom of the Pac coming into conference play. Last weekend, the Bruins took a trip to Texas to play the Longhorns, but dropped the series 0-3.

UCLA right-handed pitcher Griffin Canning is who to keep an eye on for the Bruins. Canning has a .96 ERA in 28 innings pitched with 38 strikeouts.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Oregon will travel to Cal, 2016 Pac-12 champion Utah will be at Washington and Washington State travels south to USC. Stanford has the week off.