The Ducks have a non-conference tilt against Seattle this weekend, but they can smell the Pac-12 title around the corner. They'll have to perform next weekend at rival Oregon State to get it done.
2) Arizona (16-8; previous rank: 2)
If the Wildcats were able to sweep Cal on the road, they should be able to handle USC in Los Angeles as well. Things will get more challenging when Arizona State comes calling a week later. But considering how bad the Sun Devils have been on the road (9-11), Andy Lopez's squad still has a legitimate shot at the crown.
3) Stanford (14-10; previous rank: 4)
Stephen Piscotty's first career start Saturday represented only half of the junior's stellar all-around performance (three hits offensively; 6.1 IP, 1 ER on the mound). More importantly, Brett Mooneyham returned to form Sunday, throwing seven shutout innings. Combine those two arms with Mark Appel, and Stanford looks poised to make a deep postseason run, even if winning the Pac-12 is now an uphill battle.
4) UCLA (15-9; previous rank: 5)
The Bruins aren't out of title chase either after their sweep of Washington. UCLA has two soft conference series against struggling Cal and offensively-limited USC remaining. That's just what the doctor ordered for a team fighting to host in the postseason.
5) Oregon State (13-11; previous rank: 3)
The Beavers disappointingly dropped a game to cellar-dweller Utah. If Oregon State can sweep Washington State, they'll still be mathematically alive when the Ducks fly into Eugene for the conference finale, which could potentially make for an intriguing Civil War.
6) Arizona State (14-10; previous rank: 6)
Arizona State passed Stanford for the Pac-12 lead in home runs during their sweep of Gonzaga, with 38 to the Cardinal's 37. Abe Ruiz has 11 for Tim Esmay's squad. He's locked in a first-place tie with Washington State's Taylor Ard and Oregon State freshman Michael Conforto.
7) Washington (11-13; previous rank: 7)
A winning conference record would be a good goal for the Huskies this season, but those chances took a major hit against UCLA. The road doesn't get any easier, as Washington finishes with Arizona State and baseball's version of the Apple Cup.
8) California (9-15 previous rank: 8)
Last week, I said that the Bears had the chance to make some noise against quality competition throughout the season's final nine league games. Cal's first crack at it was a miserable failure, as Arizona pounded them into submission in Berkeley. Next up: UCLA.
9) Washington State (9-14; previous rank: 9)
Taylor Ard (11 home runs) and Derek Jones (nine) bring excitement to the Cougars, but the pitching in Pullman is just atrocious. Only one arm on the Washington staff has an ERA under 3, and this same pitcher is the only member of the bullpen with an ERA under 4.
10) USC (7-16; previous rank: 10)
The Trojans didn't do the rest of the Pac-12 any favors when they were swept by league-leading Oregon in Eugene.
11) Utah (7-20; previous rank: 11)
One more Pac-12 series for the Utes means one more chance to play spoiler. Oregon State was the latest solid club to go into Salt Lake City and suffer a loss. Now Stanford is in a must-sweep situation against the conference's newcomer. Utah, by the way, has a serious chance to move out of the cellar by the final Pac-12 rankings. Remember that they took two of three from USC on the road early in the year.
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Q&A: Dominic Jose
Dominic Jose, last Sunday's star, caught up with The Bootleg this past week. Here's his conversation with David Lombardi:
Dominic, you were the hero last Sunday with your grand slam against Washington State. What was the pitch that you hit out?
It was a 2-1 count and I saw a fastball low and in. I saw it really well, so I was able to turn on it. I put a good swing on it and hit it out of the park.
That came in only your second career start and 14th at-bat. How difficult is it to perform when seeing such limited action?
It is difficult. The coaches did a great job. They tell us to always be ready. You never know when you're going to get your chance. I got mine, and I delivered.
You're not the first relative newcomer to make a splash here in 2012. Alex Blandino, Danny Diekroeger, and Brett Michael Doran have all surprised Stanford fans to some extent this season. So you're the fourth guy who has emerged. Have the three players preceding you boosted your confidence?
Definitely. We all play for each other and work hard for each other. So when I saw those three guys come in, it really meant a lot to me. I said, "Okay, everyone else is ready to get their chance, so I'm ready to get mine so I can help the team win." When coach put me in the lineup, I felt really confident and ready to succeed.
Coach Marquess told me that you work very hard, and I almost always see you at the hotel gym whenever we're on the road. Would you consider yourself a gym rat?
Definitely. I want to do anything I can to get better. I can't stop and rest; I've got to keep going and keep moving to improve my game. The more I do that, the more I give the team a shot to win, and that's my ultimate goal.
Your father is Felix Jose, a former MLB All-Star who was known as a very adept hitter. How much have you learned from him?
Oh man, I can't even begin to tell you how much. He's helped me out with everything. Not just the physical aspect of hitting, but more with the mental aspect of hitting. Making sure I get my pitch to hit. Making sure I'm mentally prepared every time I have an at-bat. I definitely remember everything he tells me every time I step up to the plate. He's been a big help to me.
When did you first begin switch-hitting?
I picked up switch-hitting when I was eight, because my dad was a switch-hitter too. I thought it was really cool. To be honest, switch-hitters are really weird. One day we feel better from the left side, one day we feel better from the right. Lately, I've been feeling very good on both sides, and I think that showed with my grand slam Sunday [from the right side].
You mentioned switch-hitters are dominant. How did you ever develop the ability to hit with your non-dominant hand? To us normal people, that seems a bit difficult.
I grew up right-hand dominant. When I worked with some of the coaches when I was little, they helped me out with little stuff, like trying to eat left-handed and write left-handed, just to become more comfortable. Those are little tools that I used, and growing up I just became more comfortable batting left-handed.
You're a Florida native. How's the West Coast treating you?
The West Coast is awesome. Can't beat the weather. Every day is just so beautiful and perfect. All the people here are so friendly and so laid back. All the Stanford fans have welcomed me with open arms since Day One. I just want to keep performing for them.
What's your favorite class at Stanford?
Sports psychology. It pertains to me. Athletics involve a lot of physical ability, but people don't realize how much mental ability goes into the game. Sports psych has definitely taught me a lot about controlling my emotions in a game.
Thank you, Dominic.
Thank you so much for having me. We are doing our best to make it to Omaha and hopefully win it all.
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.
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