Gold: After hot start, Pac-12 slumps on Day 2 of NCAA Tournament
Aside from one stubbed toe from the unlikeliest of Pac-12 teams to advance to the NCAA Baseball Tournament, the conference got off to a tremendous start on Friday on opening day.
But all that momentum came to a crashing halt on Saturday, with two teams disappointed, one team bounced, one team rained out and one victorious.
Heading into an all-too important Sunday, the Pac-12 is in a precarious position.
Here are my takeaways from the conference’s Saturday swoon…
Stanford in big trouble after losing grip against Aggies
A day after getting a gem of a performance on Saturday out of Quinn Mathews in a 13-2 win over San Jose State, Joey Dixon and Drew Dowd struggled on the mound for the Cardinal in an 8-5 loss to Texas A&M. Dixon allowed 5 hits and 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings, exiting with the game knotted at 4. Dowd came in and allowed 3 runs in a decisive 8th inning that saw the Aggies take control.
That’s what the No. 8 overall seed Cardinal lack now — control. Sunday’s midday matchup with Cal State Fullerton is now an elimination game, and the conference’s best chance at a Super Regional squad is in trouble.
The Cardinal are going to need more from the heart of the lineup, as No. 3 and 4 hitters Carter Graham and Braden Montgomery have gone a combined 2-for-17 on their own home field.
Soaring Ducks continue their hot streak
As I detailed heading into the Tournament, Oregon is one incredibly streaky squad.
But the Ducks sure are rolling now.
The Pac-12 Tournament champions, who were on the Tournament bubble before pulling out the surprise title, were the only league squad to win its Saturday game, putting the Ducks in prime position in the Nashville Regional. Oregon dealt Vanderbilt an 8-7 loss that got tight at the end as the Ducks had a little late-game hiccup against the No. 6-seed Commodores. A day after the Ducks completed a come-from-behind win, this time Oregon had to watch Vanderbilt try to rally. Oregon led 8-4 early but watched as the home team scored 1 run in the 7th and another 9 more in the bottom of the 9th before coming a run short.
If it seems that the Ducks are off to a great start, give credit to a lineup that has done the same. Oregon 1-2-3 hitters Rikuu Nishisa, Colby Shade and Drew Cowley have 5 multi-hit games in 2 days so far.
Huskies squander monster 1st inning in loss to Oral Roberts
So much for a cushion.
Washington instead slept on a bed of nails Saturday, as a 7-run 1st inning and 8-0 early lead were not enough to fend off a Golden Eagles lineup that scored multiple runs in 4 innings, including 12 runs from innings 3 through 5.
Despite the early deficit, ORU chased Huskies starter Kiefer Lord after 3.1 innings, with 10 hits and 7 earned runs.
Washington ultimately lived and died by the long ball. The Huskies had 4 home runs but allowed 4 themselves.
It was a frustrating ending for a UDub squad that had a nice win over a very talented Dallas Baptist squad on Friday, when another 7-run inning actually held up for the Huskies.
Now they’ll have to beat the Patriots again to extend their season, with DBU coming off a big win Saturday, as they eliminated host team and No. 11 overall seed Oklahoma State.
Arizona bids goodbye early after surprising NCAA bid
Fans of the Arizona State Sun Devils and USC Trojans must be kicking themselves after watching Arizona flame out in two games in spectacular fashion.
The Wildcats, who seemingly earned a Tournament bid at the expense of ASU and USC, put up little fight against a less-than-imposing Santa Clara squad, managing just 1 run in the 1st 9 innings as their prodigious power bats were nowhere to be found.
Arizona’s season ends not with a boom but with a whimper, as Chris Davis and Kiko Romero went a combined 0-for-7 on Saturday in a 9-3 loss to the Broncos.
For Chip Hale, earning an NCAA Tournament in a down year with a 12-18 conference record was enough of an achievement.
Beavers rained out in Baton Rouge
After one of the most resounding Day 1 wins of the entire tournament, an 18-2 beatdown of the Sam Houston Bearkats in which the Beavers piled up 22 hits and went 7-of-15 with runners in scoring position, Oregon State was probably champing at the bit to take on the super-talented LSU Tigers.
Alas, lightning stopped the Sam Houston State-Tulane matchup in the bottom of the 7th with the Bearkats up 7-2, booting the finish of that game to Sunday, along with OSU’s matchup with LSU. The loser of that game will have to take on the winner of the Sam Houston State-Tulane contest on Sunday night in an elimination game.