Oregon State needs 1 win this weekend to win conference title for 2nd-straight year
Oregon State needs just one win in three tries this weekend to clinch its second Pac-12 Championship in as many years.
Ranked No. 1 in the nation and facing a USC team that has lost six of its last nine, it seems as if the Beavers (41-10, 22-5 Pac-12) will have no problem escaping Los Angeles with at least a series win this weekend.
Having lost to a Pac-12 opponent Tuesday -- a 6-2 defeat to Oregon in a nonconference game -- Oregon State knows it can take nothing for granted, especially this late in the season against a team fighting for its postseason life.
While the Trojans (27-23, 14-13) are currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, a series sweep against the top team in the country could be enough to get them in.
USC sits alone in fifth place in the conference standings and is playing with house money at this point. Almost nobody thought the Trojans would make the postseason this year; they've already exceeded expectations.
In a league as good as the Pac-12, the Beavers know they can't take anything for granted.
"The Pac-12 is as good as any conference in the country," said junior right fielder Dylan Davis after Tuesday's loss to Oregon. "If you don't play as hard as you can and play your best, then anybody can beat you. That won't change this weekend; we know we have to play better."
Davis said that Tuesday's loss was a wake-up call coming off a series victory over No. 8 Washington that all but clinched the conference title. He said the Beavers realize the Trojans aren't going to just hand them a victory this weekend.
"Everyone is fighting at this point in the season," Davis said. "If we don't come out with the type of intensity we're capable of, we're going to get beat. This can definitely be used as a wake-up call for this weekend."
Though winning one game, which would guarantee a conference title is the first goal this weekend, Oregon State hopes to finish the game on a three-game winning streak entering the playoffs.
More important than that is the impact this weekend could have on seeding for regionals. As of now, Baseball America projects Oregon State as the No. 1 seed in the nation. While the Beavers are considered a lock for a top-eight national seed at this point, a loss or two could drop OSU a few spots.
"This weekend is obviously important for a lot of reasons," said head coach Pat Casey. "Nothing is guaranteed and we can't play the way we played (Tuesday night) if we want to advance past regionals. We're going to have to play our best baseball."
The biggest thing OSU hopes to get going this weekend is its offense, which scored just eight combined runs over the past four games (Oregon State went 2-2 during that span).
Casey said he's looking for his team to consistently compete at the plate against the Trojans.
"We didn't compete (Tuesday night)," Casey said. "We couldn't sustain anything or compete for entire at-bats. We need to be better there."
Senior second baseman Andy Peterson is questionable this weekend with an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's win against Washington. Senior first baseman Kavin Keyes played for the first time since April 13 on Tuesday -- pinch-hitting in the ninth inning -- but it's uncertain how much he'll be used this weekend.
First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Dedeaux Field.
Andrew Kilstrom, sports editor
On Twitter @AndrewKilstrom