ASU, UA on different paths to NCAA baseball tourney

Pac-10 baseball wraps up its regular season this weekend.  That gives University of Arizona just three games to prove it belongs in the NCAA Tournament this year.

The Wildcats (11-13) are, by most accounts, one of the ‘bubble’ teams that are still on the outside looking in.  However, when you factor in their strong schedule and No. 21 position in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), they appear to have a better chance of making the cut.

They also have won 13 games they’ve played against opponents in the RPI top 50, which is just behind ASU and Stanford.  That speaks well when the polling starts.

But taking this weekend’s series against Oregon State would go a long way toward solidifying their position.  Sweeping all three games would be even better.

UofA is tied with California for sixth place in the conference, sporting a 11-13 record. The Beavers (10-14) are tied with Washington for eighth place and lost their series with Arizona State last weekend.

Arizona, likewise, lost its series to Stanford. The Cats lost the opener, 3-1, when they stranded nine runners on base in the last five innings as they tried to overcome a lead the Cardinal built by the fifth inning.  Game two was a come-from-behind win, 9-8, in which the Cats scored two runs in the eighth off a double by Steve Selesky.

But even Selesky’s solo homer in the finale wasn’t enough to salvage the 8-4 loss.  Again, the Cats left 11 runners on base as they scattered hits throughout the game, but just aren’t a power team at the plate.

But the real worry isn’t that Arizona dropped its last series.  The Cats have lost the last five series, and 11 out of the past 16 games.

And OSU, despite being the No. 8 team, can score runs.  In their series with Arizona State, two games were decided by just one run and, overall, they racked up 18 runs.

ASU does the flip-flop with the Cats starting tomorrow, as they travel to Stanford for a three game match-up.

The No. 2 Sun Devils aren’t worried about getting into the tournament.  They are just one win away from securing a share of the conference title, and two victories from owning it by themselves.  The Devils and UCLA have locked up their berths.

But they are going to have their hands full with No. 25 Stanford.  The Cardinal are just one win away from assuring themselves a winning record – and making the case for their entry to the tournament.

And, while ASU swept the series with Stanford last year at home, this time they’re at Stanford – where they haven’t won a series since 1997.

Arizona, meanwhile, will be playing a team that also has a high RPI and a good chance for an at-large bid.  But the Beavers have their backs up against the wall and they need to show well against the Cats.  And they know it.

So Stanford and Arizona are two teams that simply can’t afford to get swept this weekend.

Not if they want to keep on playing.