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Sun Devils top Pac-10 rankings

Schedule Strength: ASU junior infielder Riccio Torrez stands on second base during the Sun Devils’ game against Delaware on Feb. 26. ASU sits atop the Pac-10 rankings after winning two out of three games against UA this past weekend. (Photo by Scott Stuk)
Schedule Strength: ASU junior infielder Riccio Torrez stands on second base during the Sun Devils’ game against Delaware on Feb. 26. ASU sits atop the Pac-10 rankings after winning two out of three games against UA this past weekend. (Photo by Scott Stuk)

The non-conference schedule is over for most Pac-10 teams.

Now starts the 10-week round robin schedule to determine the final Pac-10 champion before Utah joins the conference and California ends its program.

Will ASU top the standings for the fifth consecutive year? Or will a new team step up to dethrone the Sun Devils?

Here’s how the conference shakes out entering the first full weekend of Pac-10 play.

1. ASU - 18-6, 2-1 Pac-10 (No. 9 USA Today/ESPN, No. 5 Baseball America)

The top spot on the list really isn’t close. With two wins over Auburn, one over No. 15 Cal State Fullerton and a two-game sweep of No. 11 Oklahoma, the Sun Devils have the best out-of-conference resume by far.

ASU began its conference schedule by defeating rival UA two of three times over the weekend.

Coming into the season, starting pitching was the biggest question for the team. Now the Sun Devils boast five pitchers capable of throwing in any given series.

Offensively, it’s been the bottom of the ASU lineup setting the table.

Junior catcher Austin Barnes leads the team with a .426 average while sophomore designated hitter Joey DeMichele is batting .383 and now finds himself hitting cleanup.

Junior third baseman Riccio Torrez and sophomore shortstop Deven Marrero lead the team with 24 and 26 RBIs, respectively.

2. Stanford - 10-6 (No. 21 USA Today/ESPN, No. 11 Baseball America)

The Cardinal’s record isn’t too impressive, but all things considered, the team should be happy with where it’s at now.

Stanford lost one of its key starting pitchers, junior Brett Mooneyham, for the rest of the season but still managed to secure non-conference wins against No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 7 Texas.

Preseason All-American sophomore infielder Kenny Diekroeger leads the team, batting .419.

The Cardinal get the nod over California thanks to an early non-conference 3-2 win over the Golden Bears on Feb. 22.

3. California - 16-5, 3-0 Pac-10 (No. 18 USA Today/ESPN, No. 13 Baseball America)

The Golden Bears swept Washington State over the weekend, winning the finale walk-off style in 11 innings.

Cal hasn’t played the most difficult schedule, with the team’s best win coming against Rice.

Junior ace Erik Johnson is 4-1 with a 1.06 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting just .168 against him.

The Golden Bears put their six-game winning streak on the line this week against San Francisco.

4. UCLA - 11-8, 2-1 Pac-10 (No. 24 USA Today/ESPN, No. 24 Baseball America)

Everyone around college baseball knew the Bruins would be dominant on the mound in 2011. They just didn’t know how much the team’s offense would struggle.

Through 19 games, the UCLA staff boasts a combined 1.97 ERA, but the offense is ranked nationally in the 200s in scoring.

In each of the team’s eight losses, UCLA has scored four runs or less.

With All-American juniors Trevor Bauer (4-1, 1.13 ERA) and Gerrit Cole (2-2, 2.31 ERA) leading the way, the Bruins are a sleeping giant, waiting for their bats to wake up.

5. UA - 17-7, 1-2 Pac-10 (No. 17 USA Today/ESPN, No. 18 Baseball America)

The Wildcats are back. They could be ranked above any of the three previous teams but their schedule to date hasn’t tested them enough.

UA’s toughest opponent outside of last weekend’s series with ASU was Wichita State, and the Wildcats dropped both games of the midweek set to the Shockers (17-8).

UA has a scrappy offense led by outfielder Joey Rickard. The sophomore is batting .475 through 24 starts while scoring 23 runs.

The Wildcat starting rotation is led by sophomore Kurt Heyer (4-1, 1.33 ERA). The sophomore shut down the Sun Devils Friday in the team’s 5-2 win.

6. Oregon State - 18-6

There’s a distinguishable drop-off between the top five Pac-10 teams and bottom five.

The Beavers, like UA, lost their biggest tests of the non-conference season. No. 12 Fresno State swept two games from OSU, both by a single run.

Still, the Beavers are out-performing their preseason expectations, and are already more than halfway toward their win total from a year ago.

Junior pitcher Sam Gaviglio has a 5-0 record with a stunning 0.39 ERA and 51 strikeouts.

7. Oregon - 14-9

The Ducks come in behind their instate rival thanks to a March 8 non-conference 4-1 loss to OSU.

Oregon also played Wichita State, splitting a four-game set with the Shockers.

Juniors Tyler Anderson and Madison Boer are a combined 6-0, both with ERAs under 2.00.

8. Washington State - 9-10, 0-3 Pac-10

The Cougars opened the season taking two of three from Cal State Bakersfield, a team that has since beat ASU, No. 4 South Carolina and swept Washington.

WSU is currently on a six-game losing streak after getting swept by both Fresno State and Cal.

Redshirt sophomore first baseman Taylor Ard leads the team with 15 RBIs and 14 runs scored.

9. Southern California - 9-15, 1-2 Pac-10

In the non-conference, Rice and Cal State Fullerton both swept the Trojans.

Their best wins have come against rival UCLA. USC is 2-2 against the Bruins this season with one of the victories coming in the Dodgertown Classic.

Preseason All-American junior infielder Ricky Oropesa is batting .372 with 17 runs scored and 20 batted in.

10. Washington - 6-15

The Huskies lost all six games against Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Fullerton, and then dropped two of three to Dallas Baptist.

UW enters Pac-10 play after beating Nevada (5-15) two of three times last weekend in Seattle.

The Huskies’ Friday and Saturday starters, Jacob Clem and Aaron West, are a combined 2-8 with ERAs of 4.14 and 5.08, respectively.

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