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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pac-10 Baseball Preview

    For years the Pacific 10 Conference has been recognized as one of the deepest, most talented conferences in college baseball. It produced national champions in 2006 and 2007 – both Oregon State – and just last year it had five players taken in the first round of the draft.

    “”It’s a younger conference (than last year); a lot of teams lost a lot of good players to the draft,”” UA head coach Andy Lopez said just before the team officially started practicing. “”I don’t really know (who is the favorite) this year. In year’s past I would think ‘that team’s going to win,’ but I think (this season) will come down to who plays their best at home and who will be able to do their best on the road.””

    Just because this season doesn’t have a clear favorite doesn’t mean that it’s lacking talent. When Baseball America released their Pre-season All-American teams, the Pac-10 had four players on the first team, three players on the second team and three players on the third team.

    Here is the breakdown of each conference team’s national ranking with each squad listed based on the order of the Pac-10 Pre-season Poll.

    No. 13 Arizona State

    Key Returning Players: P Mike Leake, OF Jason Kipnis, 3B Raoul Torrez

    The Skinny: ASU edged out UCLA by just two points in the conference preseason poll. The Sun Devils – two-time defending conference champions – have a roster filled with young talent, thanks in large part to the No. 1-ranked recruiting class, but also with proven commodities. Leake, both a pitcher and utility player, is a First Team All-American and the reigning Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.

    No. 12 UCLA

    Key Returning Players: P Brendan Lafferty and Gavin Brooks, OF Gabe Cohen

    The Skinny: The Bruins return two of their weekend starters from last season as well as nine other letter winners on the mound. The arms on the team will undoubtedly be its strength. UCLA lost three starters from the infield alone, but the powerful bats of Cohen and first baseman Casey Haerther will likely produce enough power to help the pitchers win games.

    California

    Key Returning Players: CF Brett Jackson, UT Blake Smith, P Kevin Miller

    The Skinny: The Golden Bears will field one of the conference’s most feared lineups with big-boppers Jackson and Smith – First and Second Team All-Americans, respectively – giving opposing pitchers headaches in the middle of the lineup. Third baseman Jeff Kobernus and catcher Dylan Tonneson round out a truly stacked lineup. Pitching will be a concern after losing four starters from last year’s team, but Cal’s intimidating offense should provide the young pitchers some room for error.

    Washington State

    Key Returning Players: P Matt Way, C Greg Lagreid, UT Jared Prince

    The Skinny: Prince will be frequently appearing in Cougar box scores since he is the team’s top player and pitcher. He has hit .330 over the course of his first three seasons at Washington State, in addition to posting an 8-4 record on the mound. The team will go as far as its pitching will take them, and they are in good hands with Prince and Way, who was last year’s conference leader with a 2.86 ERA. The offense is a mystery at this point, but they will be competitive as long as Prince, Lagreid and second-baseman Travis Coulter can stay healthy.

    No. 15 Stanford

    Key Returning Players: P Jeff Inman, CL Drew Storen, 1B Brent Milleville

    The Skinny: After falling to national runner-up Georgia in the College World Series, the Cardinal’s return 18 letter winners from last year’s squad. Stanford – which is ranked third in the Pac-10 despite higher national rankings – welcomes back three starting pitchers, including Third Team All-American Inman and last year’s freshman All-American closer Storen.

    NO. 25 Oregon State

    Key Returning Players: C Ryan Ortiz, P Jorge Reyes, SS Joey Wong

    The Skinny: When you win back-to-back national championships like the Beavers did in 2006 and 2007, you are bound to deal with a heavy loss of talent. The team is deep, but without any clear-cut offensive stars outside of Ortiz, a Third Team All-American, head coach Pat Casey will have to rely on the teams’ arms. OSU was loaded with freshman pitchers last season, and if they’ve matured the way the coaches hope, then the Beavers will be a team to watch.

    Arizona

    Key Returning Players: P Preston Guilmet, CL Jason Stoffel, 3B Brad Glenn

    The Skinny: It’s no secret that the Wildcats lost a ton of talent in last year’s draft. That said, Arizona still has a nucleus of premier players as well as a host of talented youngsters. Guilmet will likely continue to be one of the best pitchers in the Pac-10, and Stoffel, a First Team All-American and potential first-round pick, is as sure a thing as any closer in America. Offensively the Wildcats, which will rely on offense more this season than in previous ones, return Glenn as well as third-baseman Dillon Baird and shortstop Bryce Ortega.

    USC

    Key Returning Players: SS Grant Green, P Brad Boxberger, P Kevin Couture

    The Skinny: The Trojans are lucky to have Green, one of the best players in the country. The shortstop, a First Team All-American, hit .390 last season and already holds the school record for triples. While Green is a star, his supporting cast is questionable. USC lost three of its most productive starters on offense and, with the exception of Green, doesn’t return a regular starter who hit over .300. The pitching staff is suspect, but Boxberger has completely recovered from his injuries last season and the Third Team All-American is locked in as the team’s Friday starter.

    Oregon

    Key Returning Players: None

    The Skinny: The University of Oregon is fielding a Division I baseball team for the first time since 1981. From 1982-2007 the Ducks were considered a club baseball team. This season will likely be bleak, but the future in Eugene is exciting thanks to a brand new stadium and former Cal-State Fullerton head coach George Horton.

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