The Trojans (27-23) finish off the regular season as host to the No. 1 team in the nation Oregon State for a three-game series at Dedeaux Field. USC leads the Beavers in the series 48-25 and have won 25 of the 34 meetings at home, which means history favors USC to win some important games this weekend.
USC secured its 34th winning season at home over the past 40 years from Dedeaux Field and now the Trojans welcome the nation's best squad to these friendly confines. The last time these two teams met, the Beavers swept USC up in Corvallis but the Trojans have actually won the season series in two of the last three meetings dating back to 2011.
Oregon State is one win away from the Pac-12 Title and USC needs to sweep the Beavers to keep their slim postseason hopes alive, so we welcome Connor Pelton of Building The Dam to preview the all-important final series of the regular season.
1. Once again Oregon State has one final series to clinch the Pac-12 Regular Season crown, so how does OSU approach this series? Is it a must-win series?
CP: Depends on your definition of must-win. I would say no since it is not like the season is over if we don't win the Pac-12. There will be more important games to play in the very near future no matter what happens this weekend. But I wouldn't disagree if someone thought it was. Losing the league crown after being two up with three to play might mentally damage this team so much that it affects them in Regional play next week.
2. The Beavers are now No. 1 in the nation, after sticking inside the top five for most of the season. What has been the biggest key for OSU's success this season?
CP: Tremendous pitching. Specifically from the three starters. Parts of the batting order have slumped at times, and the bullpen has been inconsistent. But every time Ben Wetzler, Andrew Moore, or Jace Fry takes the mound, I'm confident we'll come out on top.
3. Michael Conforto is an absolute beast, just plain and simple, but who are some outstanding players on this team USC should look out over the course of this series?
CP: Leadoff hitter Jeff Hendrix has been on a tear lately. He's batting at a .371 average and has 27 RBI's on the season. He provides a great spark at the start of the order. I would also watch out for senior Kavin Keyes. He returned to action Tuesday after missing more than a month with a fractured thumb, and he enters the weekend with seven doubles and 19 RBI's.
4. What USC player or match up gives you the most concern heading into the series?
CP: Closer Kyle Davis definitely intrigues me. He has been dominant in save situations and if he is in, I'd say the Trojans have a good shot at getting the win since the Beavers are not a good come-from-behind club in the later innings. I think catcher Jake Hernandez and infielder Blake Lacey could cause some problems at the plate.
5. USC has faced some outstanding pitching this season and it seems that once again the Beavers are led by some strong aces, tell us more about Ben Wetzler and his stuff.
CP: The only thing that can stop Wetzler is a butthurt Phillies organization and a few too many drinks. On the mound, he'll dominate opponents with his command and good movement on his low 90's fastball. He'll attack hitters, even when he gets behind in counts. His ability to get outs after going down 2-0 or 3-1 is crucial to his success.
6. Prediction for the series, and how far do you think OSU can go in this postseason?
CP: The Beavers will likely take two games, but I can't tell you which ones since the starting rotation is up in the air. They will at least leave Los Angeles with a share of the Pac-12 championship, and have a great chance at winning it outright. As far as the postseason goes, the sky is the limit. I don't want to be overly confident, but I could definitely see the Beavers playing deep into the College World Series.
7. How valuable is head coach Pat Casey?
CP: Casey is extremely valuable, and because of his effort and excellent work, the program would still be in great shape if he left it tomorrow. To be honest, I didn't start following Beaver baseball until 2004, so I've never truly known anything less than great success. And that's because of him.
Games Televised on Pac-12 Networks- GAME ONE: Friday night, 4 p.m. PST, GAME TWO: Saturday night, 4 p.m. PST and GAME THREE: Sunday afternoon, 12 p.m. PST.