David Gottlieb, Sports editor
Cold temperatures have caused a record number of postponements across Major League Baseball this year.
But the Pac-12 race is just starting to heat up.
All of the teams in the conference are at least halfway done with their conference schedules, with No. 2 Stanford (31-5, 12-3 Pac-12) and No. 9 UCLA (26-10, 14-4) taking hold of the top two spots in the standings. The Cardinal maintain a one-game advantage over the Bruins in the loss column, but that could be tested this weekend.
UCLA will get a week off from Pac-12 play and instead contend with the Big West’s Cal Poly (19-20). Stanford will face a conference foe in California (23-15, 9-9) this weekend, meaning the Cardinal need a sweep to hang onto sole possession of first place, regardless of how the Bruins play.
Meanwhile, No. 5 Oregon State (30-6, 10-5) sits in third place in the Pac-12. Other than the Bruins and Cardinal, the Beavers are the only other ranked team in the conference – in part due to the controversial return of starting pitcher Luke Heimlich.
Heimlich leads the Pac-12 with nine wins and 79 strikeouts in his 65 innings pitched this season. Oregon State will get a chance to make up some ground in the Pac-12 with a series against Arizona State (17-22, 9-9) this weekend.
Nicholas Yekikian, assistant Sports editor
While No. 1 UCLA softball (40-3, 15-3 Pac-12) gets time off from Pac-12 play this weekend, the rest of the conference will be duking it out as the end of the season draws ever closer.
No. 2 Oregon (38-7, 12-3) and No. 4 Washington (41-5, 12-5) take each other on this weekend. The Ducks stand to lose the most from this matchup. With just three conference losses, they are tied with the Bruins for the best Pac-12 record. However, just one loss to Washington puts UCLA securely in the lead for title of conference champion.
The Huskies, on the other hand, will be fresh off three straight losses to the Bruins. They need to win to salvage a opportunity to clinch the conference. They already have five losses in Pac-12 play on the season and cannot afford to drop another game to a conference opponent.
Utah (20-22, 2-13) and No. 9 Arizona State (35-9, 9-6) also have a conference matchup this weekend. The Utes are well out of contention for the Pac-12 title, with 13 conference losses. The Sun Devils, however, are hot on the Huskies’ tail with just six and could vie for a chance at the title if they win out.
California (30-13, 4-10) plays in a three-game series at Stanford (22-23, 2-13) this weekend, too. With double-digit numbers in the loss column, the Golden Bears and the Cardinal will not be playing for a shot at the Pac-12 title.
Angie Forburger, assistant Sports editor
The Pac-12 championships are underway for men’s and women’s tennis.
In Wednesday’s opening round, No. 9 seed Arizona men’s tennis (15-14, 0-8 Pac-12) defeated No. 8 seed Utah (19-8, 2-6) by 4-2. Arizona will advance to the quarterfinals and face No. 1 seed UCLA (23-2, 8-0) on Thursday.
Three other matchups are also slated for the men Thursday, with No. 5 seed California (11-8, 3-4) facing No. 4 seed Oregon (16-8, 4-4), No. 6 seed Arizona State (14-9, 3-4) taking on No. 3 seed USC (15-7, 6-2) and No. 7 seed Washington (12-12, 2-6) playing No. 2 seed Stanford (20-2, 7-1).
For the women, there were three first-round matches Wednesday.
No. 8 seed Washington (15-10, 5-5) defeated No. 9 seed Colorado (9-11, 2-7) by 4-1. Washington’s next opponent in the quarterfinals will be No. 1 seed Stanford (15-3, 9-0).
No. 6 seed USC (12-9, 5-5) opened the tournament against No. 11 seed Arizona (9-15, 0-10), and the Trojans defeated the Wildcats 4-1. USC will move on to face No. 3 seed Arizona State (15-6, 7-3) in the quarterfinals.
The final match of the first round was between No. 7 seed Oregon (14-8, 5-5) and No. 10 seed Utah (10-13, 1-9). Oregon prevailed 4-0 and will face No. 2 seed UCLA (18-4, 9-1) in the next round.
No. 4 seed California (11-8, 6-4) and No. 5 seed Washington State (20-6, 5-5) will also face off in the quarterfinals after both having a first-round bye.
The men’s and women’s tournaments continue in Ojai, California, through Saturday.