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Utes still lead wild Pac-12 as OSU slides

CORVALLIS — With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Oregon State baseball team has fallen out of contention for the Pac-12 Conference title.

The Beavers (30-18 overall), losers of six of their last seven, are stuck in a four-way tie for seventh with a conference record of 11-13, four games back of enigmatic Utah (20-25, 15-9). The Utes are just 5-16 in nonconference play but sit one game ahead of No. 23 Washington (28-18, 14-10) atop the conference, in control of their own destiny for the Pac-12’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Arizona (32-18, 15-12) is 1.5 games back while Arizona State (31-17, 13-11) is two back. Oregon (24-22, 12-12) and USC (23-25, 12-12) are tied for fifth, three games behind.

“I think the conference is, unfortunately, going to have some teams not get in that are good clubs because of the fact that we have so many losses in conference and the RPI is not good,” OSU coach Pat Casey said.

OSU, which is unranked for the first time all season, has a three-game series at USC this weekend and concludes the regular season at home against UCLA.

Utah is at California before finishing up with Washington at home in a series that could decide the Pac-12 title.

Washington, Arizona and ASU are in good position to receive at-large bids to the tournament. OSU, California (28-18, 11-13) and Stanford (25-21, 11-13) have work to do while Utah, USC and Oregon must win the conference to get in.

STRUGGLING BEAVERS: Two weeks ago, OSU won a home series with Stanford and was in good shape to host another NCAA regional.

But the Beavers have fallen on hard times since, and are now fighting for their postseason lives.

OSU’s weekend rotation of Travis Eckert, Luke Heimlich and Jake Thompson has largely struggled the last two weeks. The offense hasn’t been great either as the team is averaging just 3.6 runs in its last seven games.

Casey said the team won’t do anything different in preparation for this weekend’s series at USC.

“We practice the same way all the time. We practice the same way we practiced in (2006) when we won the championship and (2013) when we went to the World Series and (2014) when we won the Pac-12,” he said. “There’s no secret to practicing. But when you practice, you have to take it to the game. You have to do things in the game you do in practice and you have to do them efficiently.”

INJURIES MOUNT: Freshman second baseman Nick Madrigal has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury. Madrigal hurt the shoulder during last week’s loss to Portland.

“You have to be careful with a guy,” Casey said. “We’re not going to jeopardize Nick for that. We’d obviously love to have him in the game, we’d love to have (Drew) Rasmussen on the mound Friday night too, but we don’t have them. Who we have is who we have, and we need to understand that and we need to play with the people we have.”

Casey did not say if Madrigal will be ready for USC.

The Beavers have been without sophomore right-handed pitcher Sam Tweedt and sophomore outfielder Elliott Cary all year. Both are recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery.

OSU then lost Rasmussen, the team’s ace, to Tommy John midway through the season. Relievers Mitch Hickey (back) and Christian Martinek (finger) have missed parts of the year, creating chaos in the bullpen.

“We’re short-handed in the bullpen, and we’re bringing some people in the game that, frankly, we shouldn’t have to bring in the game,” Casey said. “But that’s the way it is.”