Image credit: Stanford's Brock Jones (Photo courtesy of Stanford)
At various points throughout the 2022 season, you could have made a case for each of Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona being the favorite to win the regular-season title.
As it turned out, Stanford got scorching hot down the stretch and won its last nine conference games, admittedly against a light schedule, to edge OSU by one game and win the title.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much drama in the league during the season. Those aforementioned five teams all established themselves as postseason teams quickly and never really wavered, and conversely, there were no late movers from the bottom of the standings making a serious push to get into regionals.
As a result, for the entire second half of the season, barring an upset winner of the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament—spoiler alert: that didn’t happen, as Stanford won it—postseason fates in the Pac-12 were sealed.
Stanford carried the Pac-12 flag into the College World Series, and though it was disappointed to go 0-2 in Omaha, it was another building block for the Cardinal regaining its footing as the juggernaut of the conference.
- Jacob Melton, OF, Oregon State – After hitting .404 in 99 at-bats during an injury-shortened 2021 season, Melton proved himself over a full season in 2022 by hitting .360/.424/.671 with 17 home runs, 83 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
- Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State – Hjerpe was a solid starter for the Beavers in 2021, but in 2022, he went 11-2 with a 2.53 ERA, 161 strikeouts compared to 23 walks and a .180 opponent batting average to arguably become college baseball’s best pitcher.
- Carter Graham, 1B, Stanford – Graham helped carry the Stanford lineup early in the season when Brock Jones, Tommy Troy and Drew Bowser were off to slow starts, and he finished just as strong on the way to putting up a .331/.399/.642 slash line with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs.
Most Surprising Team: Oregon
After a 2021 season that ended with Oregon hosting a regional, the Ducks lost all three members of the weekend rotation in Robert Ahlstrom, Cullen Kafka and Brett Walker, plus their three best power bats in Aaron Zavala, Kenyon Yovan and Gabe Matthews. But despite that roster turnover and some bad injury luck, most notably with the loss of incoming transfer starting pitcher Adam Maier early in the season, Oregon not only found its way back to the postseason but for much of the season also toyed with hosting a regional for the second straight year. That kind of season helps establish the standard at Oregon that getting to regionals is a reasonable expectation from year to year.
Most Disappointing Team: Arizona State
Arizona State wasn’t looked at as a potential Pac-12 title contender in the preseason by any stretch, but with a talented roster highlighted by two Collegiate National Team alums in infielders Sean McLain and Ethan Long, the floor felt fairly high for the Sun Devils. Instead, ASU got off to a slow start and any chances of a late-season push to be a postseason team were undermined by injuries, including a wrist injury for Long, that continued to pile up as the season went on. In the end, as they lost five of their last six conference games, the Sun Devils just barely hung on to the eighth and final spot in the Pac-12 Tournament. With a very active offseason in the transfer portal and hope for better health moving forward, there would seem to be brighter days ahead for this program, but there’s no getting around that 2022 was a tough season.
Team-by-team stock watch
Arizona (39-25, 16-14), reached regionals ???? – A preseason Pac-12 title contender alongside Stanford, Arizona got off to a strong start and was at one time 8-3 in conference play before fading a bit down the stretch and finishing fifth in the league.
Arizona State (26-32, 13-17), no postseason ?? – Arizona State stumbled out of the gate and, thanks to compiling injuries as the season wore on, never quite got on track on the way to finishing in eighth place, just one game clear of the Pac-12 Tournament cut line.
California (29-27, 14-16), no postseason ???? – California maintained a spot in the middle of the Pac-12 standings all season, never really challenging to be a title contender or an at-large team to regionals but also never falling into much danger of missing the Pac-12 Tournament.
Oregon (36-25, 18-12), reached regionals ???? – Despite going into the season replacing its entire weekend rotation and its three most productive power hitters, Oregon once again spent the season near the top of the Pac-12 standings, showing its ability to reload year over year.
Oregon State (48-18, 20-10), reached super regionals ?? – Although it was disappointing to have the season end short of Omaha, Oregon State took a big step forward by putting together a regular season that firmly placed it among the nation’s best teams from wire to wire.
Southern California (25-28, 8-22), no postseason ?? – After an early-season series win over rival UCLA, not much went right for USC on the way to finishing last in the Pac-12 and making a coaching change from Jason Gill to former Grand Canyon coach Andy Stankiewicz.
Stanford (47-18, 21-9), reached College World Series ?? – It took some time for Stanford to get rolling in 2022, but once it did, it steamrolled through the last two months of the season to win the Pac-12 regular-season title, the Pac-12 Tournament title and advance to Omaha for the second year in a row.
UCLA (40-24, 19-11), reached regionals ???? – A very talented but very young UCLA team had all of the ups and downs you would expect given that combination, with a regional appearance in the end setting the stage for bigger things in 2023 and beyond.
Utah (26-27-1, 10-20), no postseason ???? – Utah played well in the middle of the season, peaking at 10-9 in Pac-12 play in late April, but faded down the stretch, losing its last 11 conference games and finishing in eighth place.
Washington (30-26, 14-16), no postseason ?? – Washington finished the season strong by winning its last three Pac-12 series to quality for the Pac-12 Tournament, but after the season, coach Lindsay Meggs retired, setting the stage for former UW, Arizona State and Louisiana State assistant Jason Kelly to take over.
Washington State (27-26, 12-18), no postseason ???? – Washington State began the Pac-12 conference slate 2-10, but went 10-8 from there to avoid the cellar in the standings, even if the Cougars did end up falling short of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Offseason questions to answer:
- After Alex Williams stepped into the Friday night role so well after the departure of Brendan Beck, can Stanford pull off that trick again now that Williams is off to pro baseball?
- Can Arizona State’s aggressive use of the transfer portal rejuvenate the roster and get the Sun Devils back to Pac-12 title contention and the postseason?
- How big a jump is UCLA poised to make as its top-ranked recruiting class moves from freshmen to sophomores?