Pac-12 at the Plate: Culture Shock, Walk-Offs

Photo Courtesy: Arizona State University Athletics

Pac-12 baseball has entered the final month of the regular season. Here on, Pac-12 at the Plate is the place to keep up with how ASU and Arizona baseball are stacking up in the conference. This week ASU (21-24, 7-14 Pac-12) heads to Washington, while No. 17 Arizona (31-16, 12-12 Pac-12) heads east for a non-conference series with the College of Charleston. Here’s what you need to know about last weekend’s conference series and what to watch for this weekend:

ASU’s Culture Shock

Distracting a bit from what was going on between the lines against Stanford last weekend, was what was happening outside of them. Late last week, pitchers Chris Isbell and Zach Dixon announced on their social media that they would be leaving the program. On Saturday, junior center fielder Andrew Shaps was dismissed for not buying in to team culture. After that announcement, it was released that senior outfielder Ryan Lillard and red-shirt senior transfer Jackson Willeford had left the program on mutual grounds.

Saturday evening, you could tell there was some shock among the players with the days’ events as the Sun Devils gave up 11 runs in the first four innings. A late rally wasn’t enough and ASU fell 13-8.

On Sunday, ASU snapped Stanford’s 11-game win streak, the longest in the nation with a 9-6 win. The Sun Devils put up five runs in the bottom of the first and were able to hold off the Cardinal behind big days for both reliever Connor Higgins and designated hitter Zach Cerbo. Higgins came in to relieve freshman Spencer Van Scoyoc in the second and finished the day with a final line of 7 2/3 innings allowing one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts. Cerbo had a career day going 3-4 with four RBIs.

ASU will head to Washington this weekend to take on the Huskies. With some momentum from Sunday’s win against Stanford and a big midweek win against the Wildcats, the Sun Devils have a chance to turn the season around in Seattle.

Walk-Offs in Tucson

Arizona’s matchup with Washington last weekend was crucial for the Wildcats to get back into Pac-12 play after two consecutive sweeps by Utah and Stanford.

The Huskies didn’t make the weekend easy for the Wildcats. After leading 4-3 after the sixth inning on Friday night, both teams went scoreless until the bottom of the ninth when junior outfielder Cal Stevenson went yard with Louis Boyd on base to give Arizona their first of two walk-off wins on the weekend.

On Saturday, Arizona took the series with a 3-1 win behind an impressive outing from junior lefty Cameron Ming. Ming pitched a complete game allowing only one run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

Sunday, the Huskies led the Wildcats 11-7 going into the bottom of the ninth. Throwing errors and a wild pitch plagued Washington when it mattered and Arizona was able to put up five runs in the ninth to get another walk-off win to sweep the series.

Stevenson earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after his big weekend. He had six runs, eight hits and six RBIs on the weekend with a 1.000 slugging percentage.

This weekend, Arizona will take on the College of Charleston in a non-conference matchup on the east coast.

Midweek Battle

After 5 hours and 45 minutes, Tuesday night’s rivalry matchup between ASU and Arizona ended in the Sun Devils favor, 14-13.

ASU led through the first four innings, then Arizona tied things up in the fifth after Alfonso Rivas hit a three-run homer to center. The Sun Devils didn’t let the score stay tied for long putting up five runs in the top of the sixth behind a triple from Hunter Bishop and a double from Carter Aldrete.

The Wildcats continued to defend their home turf and tied things back up at 10 in the bottom of the eighth after another three-run homer, this one from Nick Quintana.

ASU, still riding on their momentum from Sunday’s win against Stanford weren’t going to go easy, however, and after a bases loaded HBP, a two-RBI single from Carter Aldrete and sac-fly from Jeremy McCuin, the Devils regained a 14-10 lead heading into the bottom of the frame.

Arizona would put up three runs in the home half of the ninth, but ASU righty Eder Erives got out of the jam to secure the win.

The Wildcats used eight pitchers Tuesday. Junior right-hander Tylor Megill lasted 2 1/3 innings, the longest an Arizona pitcher would stay out on the bump all night. The Sun Devils used four pitchers. Freshman Chaz Montoya got the start going a solid 4 1/3 innings, then freshman Alec Marsh came in to relieve Montoya for three innings.

The in-state rivals last met back on Apr. 4, with the Wildcats getting the 11-2 win. They’ll meet again next weekend in a three-game conference series in Tempe.

Around the Pac

No. 1 Oregon State @ Oregon: Last week, the Ducks (9-12, Pac-12) and the Beavers (21-3) met in a midweek matchup with the Beavers taking it 4-1. The Beavers swept Cal last weekend and Oregon dropped a series to Washington State. OSU has yet to lose a series this season. They remain the unanimous No. 1 across all polls and still have the top ERA in the country at 1.99. This past week junior pitcher Luke Heimlich was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season. Heimlich leads the nation with a .71 ERA.

USC @ Utah: The Trojans (6-15) have found themselves at the bottom of the Pac after five straight conference series losses. Utah (9-12) dropped a non-conference matchup to UC Riverside last weekend, while USC was swept by UCLA. These two teams will be an interesting matchup, as Utah has been known to surprise in the conference these past two seasons and USC is looking to get out of their slump.

UCLA @ Washington State: The Bruins (13-8) have been impressive in conference play putting up a fight against No. 1 Oregon State and most recently sweeping USC, shutting out the Trojans 13-0 on Sunday. Washington State (8-13) has been somewhat shocking recently with three straight conference series wins against Washington, Utah and Oregon. The Cougars will keep UCLA on its toes looking to extend their series win streak to four.

No. 12 Stanford @ Cal: Stanford’s 11-game win streak was snapped by ASU on Sunday, but the Cardinal pitching has been on, shutting down Arizona’s hot offense the weekend before and holding off ASU much of the past weekend. Cal is the latest victim of Oregon State and will look to avoid getting shut down for a consecutive weekend by Stanford.