You’re not going to hear any complaining from me.
Here’s baseball for you: The Cats had an 8-10 Pac-10 record even though our three weekend starters had a combined ERA of 4.20. Then we win just our second league series of the season after our starters post an ERA of 10.60. And you know what? They shouldn’t care. After losing games by the score of 1-0, 3-2 (twice), and 4-3 (twice), you don’t complain about 15-11 wins.
(I’m just never going to get over that 1-0 loss. A 1-0 college baseball game? Isn’t that like getting killed by an albatross?)
((Random stat: You know who had been our best starter in Pac-10 play going into the Stanford series? Our #3 guy, Eric Berger, and his 3.64 ERA. Strange year.))
The Monday finale was a really big win. It was the first time all year Stanford lost a three-game series after splitting the first two games. It was only the second time all year we won such a series, and the first since we kicked things off at Georgia.
After Stanford raced out to that 8-0 lead in game three I started writing our team’s eulogy in my head: “Arguably the biggest game of year, and we came out flat. We didn’t battle, we didn’t fight, and we didn’t have a chance. Now we’re alone in 8th place a full six games behind the team that is licking its filthy chops to tear into us next week.” Then we scored nine runs in the 3rd inning and I went diving for the mental delete button.
How quickly can things change? As we were getting killed on Monday the 11-inning loss the night before looked like it was going haunt us for weeks. But two monster innings later and suddenly we were one clutch hit away from a sweep.
Speaking of “suddenly” and “clutch,” what can you say about the runaway Colt Sedbrook? Ten games ago he was in a slump and on the bench. Since then he has a 5-hit game, a 4-hit game, two 3-hit games, and a total of six multiple-hit games. That’s 22 hits in three series. I don’t think Michael Jackson had that many hits. Maybe Colt can loan MJ some money too.
Speaking of money, what can you say about C.J. Ziegler’s grand slam? I hereby bestow upon CJZ the coveted Second Biggest Hit of the Year Award. (Brad Glenn’s 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to beat Washington State is still bigger. I have spoken.)
Now we play Those Guys again. A lot has happened since our 6-5 loss at ASU two months ago. We suffered through the lows of 6-game losing streak. We reveled in the highs of a 13-game winning streak. We experienced additional lows in losing two more conference series, followed by the highs of six wins in seven games punctuated by Arizona 15, Stanford 11. Can we keep the Devils from lowing our high?
If we’re going to beat ASU it’s probably going to take some close games. Continuing our one-run-game breakdown from a while back we see a pretty obvious split. To date the Cats are 6-1 in one-run games at home, and 1-6 in one-run games on the road. The only road win was the very first one, at Georgia on February 24. That may be good news for this series, but it’s something we’ll have to resolve come playoff time.
As for this weekend, the stakes aren’t quite what we expected when the year began. The thought was these three games would decide the conference, with national rankings on the line. Now the reality is ASU really doesn’t have anything to play for. Even if they lose all three games to us and Stanford wins all three of their final games the Devils are still the Pac-10 champs and will still have home field advantage all the way to the College World Series. They have no incentive to win this series. Well, besides that whole rivalry thing.
Arizona, on the other hand, has a ton to play for. The Wildcats can still host a regional. When you’re #12 in the RPI and you beat #24, if you can follow that up by beating #4, you stand a decent chance of being recognized as one of the top 16 teams in the country.
ASU and Cal State Fullerton are locks to host. If the West gets the same three regionals it got last year, and you eliminate #18 Cal for playing the college Wrigley Field (no lights), our competition for the remaining spot is #21 UC-Irvine, and the Stanford team we just beat.
The first order of business is beating Arizona State, no ifs, ands, or buts. If you don’t win at least two games against the Sun Devils you pack your bags and take what the NCAA gives you. But if we can achieve our primary objective, root for Stanford to lose at Washington, and cheer for UC-Santa Barbara to put a beat-down on Irvine. Go Gauchos!
Of course, all this assumes the Pac-10 gets a second regional, which didn’t happen last year. Who was on the selection committee then? ASU head coach Pat Murphy. Who is on the selection committee this year? ASU head coach Pat Murphy. So maybe we shouldn’t get our hopes up.
But let’s beat them anyway.
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