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Pac-12 Baseball: Pitching Dominant on Opening Weekend

Opening weekend is wrapping up as the elite Pac-12 conference looks to capture a second consecutive national title. The conference boasts several of the country's best teams, and they were all in action this weekend.

Konner Wade dominated in his first start of the 2013 season.
Konner Wade dominated in his first start of the 2013 season.

Spring is in the air as the ping of the aluminum bats started ringing across the country this weekend, marking the opening weekend of college baseball. With all eleven baseball programs in action this weekend, baseball fans up and down the west coast got their first look at the 2013 season.

Last year, the Arizona Wildcats emerged victorious in the College World Series, bringing the national title back to the Pac-12. UCLA joined the Wildcats in Omaha, while Oregon, and Stanford represented the conference well by reaching the Super Regional round. This year, plenty of major prospects have decided to stay in school, making the Pac-12 a one of the nation's premier conferences.

This weekend, #18 (Collegiate Baseball) Arizona (3-0) started its quest to defend its conference and national title, using its deadly offense to easily sweep Coppin State in three games. The Wildcats scored 16 runs on opening night, 14 runs in game two, and 13 runs to close out the series, proving that their offense is already off and firing to start the 2013 season. Johnny Field and Trent Gilbert led the way offensively for Arizona, bringing in six RBIs apiece over the course of opening weekend. Wildcat ace and postseason work horse Konner Wade struck eight batters on opening night in 6.1 scoreless innings, earning the junior his first win of the young season. Arizona is next in action this Tuesday as they head to southern California for a quick two game series with the Long Beach State Dirtbags.

#5 UCLA (2-1) saw plenty of offense in their opening series against Minnesota as well. The Golden Gophers took game one of the series after scoring four runs in the 10th inning to win 6-2, but then proceeded to allow 33 hits and 28 in the final two games of the series, winning game two 14-0, and game three 14-1. The Bruins' pitching staff looked as good as ever, shutting Minnesota down in the final two games of the series. Grant Watson and Nick Vander Tuig both pitched six shutout innings as the two starters were dominant in their first appearances of the season. UCLA will travel up the 101 freeway to Santa Barbara for a single game against UCSB on Tuesday afternoon.

#6 Oregon (3-0) started its season off in Hawai'i, winning the first three games of the four game series 3-0, 5-4, and 9-5. More important than the wins, however, were the performances that answered a bunch of questions Duck fans had about the 2013 team. First of all, sophomore ace Jake Reed was dominant in his first start of the season, pitching six shutout innings, and striking out seven batters. Star recruit Cole Irvin was spectacular in his debut, settling in early in the game to retire ten consecutive Hawai'i batters. The Oregon bullpen had some shaky moments, but was ultimately impressive over the weekend, as Christian Jones, Garrett Cleavinger, and All-American closer Jimmie Sherfy each had solid outings to start the season. Oregon's offense hasn't changed much from last season, relying on small ball tactics to push across runs in games one and two. Game three was a bit different as Oregon amassed nine runs off of 16 hits.

#9 Stanford (1-2) had one of the conference's toughest match ups to start the season, as the Cardinal traveled to Houston to take on #20 Rice. The Owls took two of three against Stanford, and dominated the Cardinal offense in both of the Rice victories. In game one, Rice held Stanford to one run on seven hits. Stanford turned things around in game two, as first baseman Justin Ringo hit a game winning two run home run in the tenth inning to top the Owls 3-2. In game three the Owl pitching staff shut out the Cardinal to win 3-0, and take the series victory. Stanford will open conference play against Cal on Tuesday in the first of five regular season matchups with the Golden Bears.

#10 Oregon State (3-0) was dominant in the Palm Springs tournament this weekend, winning all three of their early round games. OSU beat Utah Valley 5-2, Gonzaga 9-2, and UC Riverside 14-3 over the weekend, seeing notable improvement from their offense in each game. The Beavers will finish out the tournament with a rematch with UC Riverside monday morning before heading to San Diego for a four game series with SDSU.

USC took on three different teams this weekend as well. The Trojans started the season off against #23 Cal State Fullerton losing a close game 3-2 against the Titans. On Saturday, USC took on Cal State Bakersfield, and dropped another game, this time by a score of 9-4. RS Jr. Greg Zebrack had three RBIs in the loss, including a two-run homer. The Trojans returned home to face Nebraska for the home opener at Dedeaux Field, and found themselves trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. USC plated a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie it before Adam Lendecker delivered with two away, plating a fourth run to win their first game of the season 4-3. Up next, USC will face LMU on Tuesday at Dedeaux Field.

#16 Arizona State (2-1) took two of three games in their series with Bethune-Cookman, Cal (3-0) swept Michigan at home, Washington (1-3) lost its opening series at UC Davis, Washington State (1-2) lost two of three at Western Carolina, and Utah (1-2) won its season opener, but not the series at LMU this weekend.