CORVALLIS — The Pac-12 baseball race might be decided by another Civil War.

CORVALLIS — The Pac-12 baseball race might be decided by another Civil War.

As the conference grind begins today, No. 4 Oregon State remains the favorite with No. 12 Oregon expected to contend again after finishing second in 2013.

The Beavers (15-3), coming off a 9-1 homestand, will travel to Salt Lake City for a three-game series against Utah as the hunted.

"I love it," senior infielder Andy Peterson said of Oregon State's status as the Pac-12 front-runner. "It makes every game that much more special. You see another team get a hit and they get pumped and get excited. Then we turn a double play and see them go back down."

The Beavers received nine of the 11 first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll. Oregon and UCLA each received one first-place vote and finished second and third, respectively, in the voting.

The Ducks (12-4) have the conference's second-best record entering today's three-game series against USC at PK Park.

"The team that has been the most dominating in our conference has been Oregon State," Oregon coach George Horton said. "I don't think they've played a Cal State Fullerton yet, but they've handled what they're supposed to handle. Now it's a different level of competition for them."

No. 25 UCLA, the defending College World Series champion, is off to a disappointing 9-7 start. Arizona (9-9) and Arizona State (7-6) have also been inconsistent early in the season. Washington (10-4-1), which was picked 10th by the coaches, is on a seven-game winning streak.

Overall, the Pac-12 was 99-65-1 entering Wednesday.

"In my opinion, it's the best conference every single year. Every single team can beat you on a given day," Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler said. "Washington finished at the bottom last year and took two of three from us. Everybody's tough, everybody's got guys who can come out and play lights out. It's a World Series every weekend."

Stanford (7-8) and Washington State (4-8) are the only teams entering Pac-12 play with losing records.

"All 11 teams have a chance to be swept, and all 11 teams have a chance to sweep you," Horton said. "That's what makes the league so intriguing. You better be ready to compete each weekend."

Oregon State hosts the Ducks for the critical Pac-12 series between the rivals April 25-27 at Goss Stadium. Oregon will face the Beavers at PK Park on May 6 and 20 for games that do not count in the conference standings.

The Beavers won the program's third Pac-12 title under Pat Casey last season en route to the College World Series. After dropping the first game of last year's Civil War series at PK Park, Oregon State beat Oregon 9-0 and 12-2.

"Last year we played them at the end of the season basically for the Pac-12 championship," Peterson said. "We lost the first game, (we) won the second game and the third game was our World Series, for both of us.

"I think the environment, getting to play here against Oregon this year, it's going to be a lot of fun."

The Ducks started the season 8-0 before getting swept by Cal State Fullerton at home. Horton's team responded with a 4-1 week highlighted by a 20-4 victory over Ohio State last Sunday.

"It was a spectacular thing to watch," Horton said of the quality at-bats Oregon put together during the two victories over the Buckeyes. "It's going to be harder against Pac-12 pitching, but I think our mentality is in a good place as far as our offensive approach."

The Beavers, who beat Ohio State on Tuesday night for their seventh consecutive victory, currently lead the Pac-12 in earned-run average (2.03), runs scored (127) and RBIs (115). Oregon State's Fry was named the conference pitcher of the week after tossing the fifth no-hitter in program history last Saturday against Northern Illinois.

"I think we're very fortunate to be 15-3 "¦ we haven't played the way we need to play coming into Pac-12 play," Wetzler said. "But we're still 15-3, so we're finding ways to win. That's really exciting for what's possible for this team, and that's very motivating for us. "¦

"It's going to be scary when we put it all together."