Pac-10 Packs Powerful Punch
By Abbey Mastracco
for Pac-10 coaches' survey results
The Pac-10 conference boasts a huge talent pool
this season, as four of the conference’s nine baseball programs
are ranked in the top 10, with UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona
each topping polls.
UCLA holds the No. 1 position in Baseball
America’s preseason Top 25 and is followed by Arizona.
Reigning two-time College World Series champ Oregon State is at
No. 7 and Arizona State is No. 9, although the Sun Devils hold
the top spot in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Arizona
is No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll.
“The conference is as deep as it has ever been,”
UCLA head coach John Savage said. “Everybody has their work cut
out for them.”
The Pac-10 has some of the nation’s premier
players returning this season, as 13 players from the conference
were named to the Wallace Award watch list, six of them being
from ASU. The Pac-10’s teams excel across the board this season,
making a clear-cut winner difficult to predict.
“You have to win every weekend, you can’t take a
weekend off,” said Andy Lopez, Arizona’s head coach. “In the six
years I’ve been [in the Pac-10], it’s gotten better and better
Oregon State again didn’t get much preseason
love, but its performance in the CWS the past two seasons has
led to more high expectations for the Beavers.
“To finish sixth or seventh in the conference
last year and still win the College World Series speaks a lot
for the conference,” Lopez said. “They’ve played consistent
baseball over the last couple seasons, and you see a difference
2007 National Coach of the Year Pat Casey has a
solid mix of veterans and top-ranked recruits hoping to travel
the road to Omaha for the fourth year in a row.
Despite the fact that several key players who
were on the Beavers’ roster last season are gone, Savage still
feels they could defend their title.
“They are the defending national champions,
they’ve got the trophy,” Savage said. “So until someone knocks
them off, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. They’ve
done an unbelievable job the last several years of putting a
team together that will compete at the highest level”
Savage is hoping to knock them off in 2008 with
the top recruiting class in the conference and the No. 7
recruiting class in the country.
“The entire staff has done an outstanding job of
putting these classes together,” Savage said.
The Bruins’ recruiting class will bring major
depth and development to their bullpen. The incoming class is
highlighted by RHP Erik Goeddel, the No. 2 high school player in
the country in 2007, righty Dan Klein and lefty Rob Rasmussen.
While the UCLA arms may be young this season, the
Bruins return seven starting position players and a handful of
all-conference players. The Bruins’ entire infield returns and
is led by senior second baseman Alden Carrithers. In the
outfield, 2007 Pac-10 co-player of the year and freshman
All-American Gabe Cohen will continue to get the start.
returns almost an entire roster of veterans, including two
All-Americans, Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Preston Guilmet
(pictured left) and a handful of all-conference players. Seven
pitchers also return, giving Lopez an advantage over some of the
younger teams in the conference.
“You can’t really put a real measurement on
experience,” Lopez said. “There’s obviously an experience
advantage, but they still have to perform.”
Last season, Lopez’s pitchers had Arizona’s
lowest team ERA in 30 years, but the offense came up short at
times. Lopez believes the experience will give the Wildcats an
offensive boost in 2008.
No. 9 Arizona State also boasts a roster littered
with All-American and all-conference vets. Head coach Pat Murphy
has arguably one of the most powerful and decorated rosters that
includes four All-Americans, two members of Team USA and 2007
Pac-10 Triple Crown winner and Player of the Year, Brett