(Editor's note: The following was first published on d1baseball.com. The original includes capsule previews of every Pac-12 team, top prospects and team by team breakdowns. Use code Save23 for a discounted subscription.)
2022 was a very solid year for Pac-12 baseball. The inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament was played in Scottsdale, Ariz., and UCLA’s 25-22 extra-inning win over Oregon State generated national buzz. The 2023 conference tourney will expand to nine teams and move to a pool-play format.
Stanford and Oregon State earned the No. 2 and No. 3 overall national seeds respectively heading into regionals a year ago. Those two clubs put together outstanding regular seasons and it was great to see the Selection Committee reward them as such. Three other teams (Oregon, Arizona, UCLA) advanced to the regional round, with just the Cardinal and Beavers moving on to super regionals. While Oregon State was upset by Auburn in that round, Stanford won a thrilling series over Connecticut to make it back to Omaha for a second consecutive season. The Cardinal did not play their best baseball in Omaha, but this is a program on a roll.
In fact, Stanford may be the only sure thing in the conference headed into 2023. That bodes well for teams looking to be upwardly mobile. There appears to be room for an upstart at the top of the standings. While there may be a dearth of highly ranked Pac-12 squads in the preseason, the depth of the league continues to grow. The addition of new skippers Andy Stankiewicz (USC) and Jason Kelly (Washington) adds to the optimism.
RANKINGS: Check out the full preseason top 25 poll
Projected order of finish/projected regional teams
*Teams are listed in order of projected finish. 2022 regional teams in bold.
Player of the Year: Braden Montgomery, OF/RHP, Stanford
Freshman wunderkind Braden Montgomery returns for his sophomore campaign as a legit, hyper-talented two-way All American and will get plenty of opportunities at the back end of games once again. He joined Bruno at the tryouts for Team USA this past summer and has improved on his mid-to-high-90s fastball and his offspeed pitches. And of course he uses that absolute righthanded cannon for gunning down runners from his right field position when he’s not on the mound.
After hitting .295 with 18 home runs and 16 doubles as a freshman last season, Montgomery seems pretty set in stone for right field when he is not pitching. After the Team USA tryouts, Montgomery played 18 games with Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League and hit four home runs. And if you know about the wood-based Cape, you KNOW that’s an accomplishment. We’re not going to say he is a Brock Jones-type quite yet but he does have the potential to be a transformational baseball player for this program. Nuff said. -- Excerpt written by D1Baseball.com's Eric Sorenson
Pitcher of the Year: Quinn Matthews, LHP, Stanford
Just know that the highly versatile, indelibly valuable and Swiss Army Knife known as Quinn Mathews returns for his senior season after posting numbers like this…
99.1 innings pitched
On top of all of that, (Stanford head coach David) Esquer still scratches his head that Mathews wasn’t named an All Pac-12 performer (last season). Either way, Esky says that Mathews is going to be the Friday table setter for the Cardinal this year. So he has spent the fall knowing that his role will be more defined this year and will be that Friday guy in the Pac 12, a noteworthy post for sure. -- Excerpt written by D1Baseball.com's Eric Sorenson
Freshman of the Year: Gavin Turley, OF, Oregon State
An explosive 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete with premium bat speed from the right side, Turley could not have made a louder first impression upon me in Bend, where he turned on a 90 mph fastball for a rocket solo homer to left-center in his first at-bat. In his next trip, he hit a towering fly ball to the oppo gap in right-center that just kept carrying and carrying until it reached the wall for a double. Then he laced a screaming liner to left-center and showed off his plus speed by stretching it into a hustle double. He finished his day by showing off that opposite-field strength again, hitting a deep sacrifice fly to right. Equipped with lightning-fast hands and a rocket arm that plays in right field or center, Turley is a legitimate five-tool talent.
“He has a lot of tools, no doubt,” (Oregon State head coach Mitch) Canham said. “I think it’s just cleaning up those small things, learning where to throw on fly balls, make sure we’re throwing to the right base. Simple stuff. How many times you think Gavin Turley bunted in high school? Never. Never. But he wants to learn. He’s down on one knee, putting it out, trying to get soft hands. The other day in a scrimmage, he lays one down, tries to get a base hit out of it.” -- Excerpt written by D1Baseball.com's Aaron Fitt