Feb. 22, 2008


Pac-10 Packs Powerful Punch

By Abbey Mastracco



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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 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 in that.”


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.


Arizona 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 Wallace.