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Pac-12 Baseball: Are Teams Putting Too Much Emphasis on Rivalry Games?

Pac-12 baseball

Photo Washington Athletics

Pac-12 rivalry games takes center stage across the conference this weekend and fan bases from Arizona to Washington couldn’t be happier. For many teams, it is the height of the regular season and fodder for state supremacy throughout the summer and into football season.

Unfortunately, the midweek games prior to the big weekend get lost in the shuffle. Are teams putting too much focus on the rivalry games or are they merely complacent against non-conference opponents?

Conference-leading Washington (27-8-1, 14-4 Pac-12) suffered a loss to neighboring Seattle University (18-18, 7-5 WAC) on Tuesday night and has now lost two straight. This is the Huskies’ first losing streak since week two in late February. Washington returns home on Friday where it is 9-2 to take on Washington State in the Apple Cup.

The Huskies are ranked as high as No. 5 by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and are ranked in the top 11 in four other national polls. Washington sent sophomore Will Ballowe (3-1) to the mound to face the Redhawks and pitched relatively well, giving up only two hits, but it was his passed ball that allowed Seattle to score in the fifth, unearned. The Huskies’ bats were silent as Skyler Genger pitched an artful 7.1 innings of three-hit baseball.

Oregon State (27-7, 11-4 Pac-12) is ranked No. 4 in three of five national polls and No. 5 in the other two, including the latest College Baseball Central poll, yet the Beavers lost Monday night’s game to Sacramento State (25-16, 12-3 WAC) out of the Western Athletic Conference.

Granted, the Hornets are not a bad team, as they are leading the conference; but in all fairness, the WAC has seen a lot of changes with six new members added in 2013 and the departure of powerhouses Rice in 2006 and Fresno State in 2012.

Photo by OSU Athletics

Oregon State sent junior left-handed pitcher Jace Fry (7-1, 1.95 ERA) to the mound on Monday to take care of business. Fry has started 10 games and completed two of them, including the team’s fifth no-hitter in school history in March against Northern Illinois. Fry was shelled for nine hits and three runs and was pulled, his shortest outing of the year, after only four innings. Three Beaver pitchers took the mound over the next 3.1 innings but didn’t fare any better giving up seven hits and four more runs. The Hornets would win 7-6, after pitching six scoreless innings to end the game.

Washington State lost to a struggling Gonzaga (16-23, 11-7 WCC) team, 7-2— in Pullman, and it wasn’t even close. The Cougars surrendered seven runs in the first two innings and star outfielder Yale Rosen was a shocking 0-for-3 with a strikeout. The Bulldogs, from neighboring Spokane lit up Cougars’ starter Scott Simon and went through and additional five pitchers while only running out two pitchers of their own.

California (16-19, 5-10 Pac-12) and Utah (12-23, 3-15) also lost their midweek games to Fresno State and Utah Valley, respectively. Although not surprising as the teams are at the bottom of the conference, it goes to prove the point when five teams lose midweek, non-conference games, something is amiss.

Rivalry games are important, they are big business but coaches and teams need to remember to focus on one game, one day at a time.

David is a featured columnist for Arizona State athletics as well as PAC-12. He is an accomplished writer with numerous articles published by local and national publications and websites. He has worked in college athletics for many years from Arizona to Delaware. He is a founding member of the Arizona State Young Alumni – Tucson Chapter and a lifetime member of ASU Alumni Association. He resides in Tucson with his beautiful wife who shares his love of beer and their two gorgeous golden retrievers.