Washington State Preview

Only halfway through the regular season, the Cardinal Baseball roller coaster continues. At 18-10, Stanford begins April with the Washington State Cougars, a team with an abysmal 9-19 record, playing their first home games of the year. However, nothing can be taken for granted for Stanford, coming off a loss to the 12-19 University of San Francisco Dons. Read on for the third Pac-10 series preview.

#4 Stanford (18-10, 4-2 Pac-10) vs. Washington State (9-19, 1-2 Pac-10)

Friday: 3:00 PM
Saturday: 12:00/1:00 PM (Currently in question)
Sunday: 11:00 AM
*All games are Pacific Time and will be played at Bailey-Brayton Field
in Pullman.

Three hours and thirty one minutes into the final game of the Washington Series, Stanford had to be thinking just one thing: all the hard work getting 2 of 3 against Arizona St. could be washed away against the Huskies. Splitting the first two games of the series, Washington took an 11-10 lead on a grand slam by Brent Lillibridge in the 7th inning. Down one in the ninth, Brian Hall promptly got on base with a leadoff walk and Carlos Quentin hit a dramatic two run homer to left to win it for Stanford. Defeating the Huskies, ranked #24 in the country coming into the series, was a quality series win for Stanford, as they upped their Pac-10 record to 4-2.

Yet, the Cardinal travel to Pullman on a down note. In only their second midweek game all season, Stanford lost to the USF Dons 9-5 Tuesday night. On a very cool night at Sunken, the Dons quieted the Cardinal bats, allowing only 5 runs while making the most of their opportunities, as Stanford walked 7 and committed 3 errors. The Dons
entered the game with a 12-19 record and their upset of the Card is their second of Stanford in the last three years. Obviously, Tuesday was not a good loss for Stanford and they will be looking to start a new winning streak in Pullman.

The Washington St. Cougars start their home season this weekend against Stanford, and it doesn't come a game too soon. 9-19 to start the season, the Cougars have played better lately, taking a game from Cal at Evans Diamond and taking two of three from UC-Irvine last weekend.  However, Stanford needs a sweep of the Cougars to maintain a lead and the pace for the Pac-10 crown.


STANFORD

After two good series wins against ASU and Washington, Stanford in some respects is searching for an identity. While the team posts a .320 batting average, leaving runners in scoring position and scoring runners from 3rd with less than two outs has been a problem at times for Stanford. Despite a respectable 4.42 team ERA, Stanford still looks for better consistency from both starters and the bullpen. However, all in all, the talent for the Cardinal still is in place and primed for a solid regular season and hopefully another post season run.

On Tuesday, Chris Carter returned to the lineup for Stanford. While Carter clearly needs more playing time to return to the high level he reached at the CWS in 2002, his bat gives Stanford some additional punch in the lineup when he is fully healthy. It allows Brian Hall to return to the infield and Danny Putnam to left, while increasing competition for the 2B spot. Carter's return makes a very good offensive team even better.

Pitching is still the main question mark for this team, but some performers stand out. John Hudgins has been very good and consistent. The Cardinal gave Hudgins little run support against Washington, but despite the loss he is clearly the best pitcher Stanford has. Ryan McCally has been consistently good for 5-6 innings/start, and Mark
Romanczuk has been incredible (start vs. UW outstanding). However, the bullpen has shown some of its youth. David O'Hagan has shown flashes of brilliance but has been hit in some outings. Kodiak Quick has been good lately but struggled with control at times. Matt Manship may be the best option out of the bullpen but he was hit last weekend. However, each should get a chance to respond this weekend against the Cougars.

Stanford has not lost a game to Washington St. since they began Pac-10 series in 1999. This weekend, the weather is expected to be cold and potentially snowy in Pullman, which should add additional intrigue to the series.


Probable Starting Lineup:

C Ryan Garko (.357, 6 HR, 36 RBI)
Garko's senior presence in the lineup has been extremely valuable, as the catcher has hit cleanup and done the job with power, hitting two of the three homers for Stanford since the break. He has also been an RBI machine lately, now leading the team with 36 RBI and with 6 HR. Garko had 3 RBI against USF and is 13 for his last 22 with 2 2B, 2 HR, and 11 RBI.

1B John Mayberry, Jr. (.328, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
Junior is going through his first collegiate slump. His 16 game hit streak was snapped during the final game of the ASU series and is now 3 for his last 20 (all three hits coming against UW on Saturday). Had a very poor game against USF, coming up three times with runners in scoring position and failing to advance each one. A good chance this weekend to get back to the form of just before the break.

2B Jonny Ash (.271, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
With Carter's return to the lineup, defensive shuffling likely sends Ash back to 2B, where he started the first 8 games of the season. Ash didn't start against USF, but right now has the best combination of hitting and defense, with Jed Lowrie struggling defensively and Chris Lewis slumping with the bat. 6 for 14 against UW with some key RBI. May also play 3B.

SS Tobin Swope (.330, 0 HR, 14 RBI)
Swope has been consistent all season for Stanford at SS, hitting the ball and playing good defense. Made an error on Sunday for the first time since well before the break, and has driven in some runs lately - 5 in his last 3 games. Swope also seems to have made some adjustments, hitting the ball harder and for extra bases. Second in steals on the team: a perfect 7 for 7.

3B Brian Hall (.286, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
Hall is in a terrible slump: he has just one hit in his last 23 AB. However, Hall still has managed to reach base six times with BB or HBP. Talk about streaky: before his current 1 for 23 he was 6-8 with 6 RBI. Probably back at 3B if Carter continues to play but could move back to LF.

LF Danny Putnam (.362, 4 HR, 20 RBI)
Putnam did not go to ASU but has played in the four games since, starting Tuesday at LF. His leg seems to have healed, at least to the point where he can play the field and hit for the majority of the games. Putnam has not shown a lot of power since he was named Pac-10 Player of the Week against USC in early March, holding at 4 HR.

CF Sam Fuld (.352, 1 HR, 15 RBI)
About that time of the year where it has become very difficult to retire Sammy. Riding a 12 game hit streak, his average has increased 140 points. Multi hit games in his last 3, Fuld has been at his peak when he hits the ball in the gaps, particularly to right center. If you take away the 0-14 start, Fuld is essentially a .400 hitter since.

RF Carlos Quentin (.400, 2 HR, 19 RBI)
Quentin is now a .400 hitter and has an incredible .522 OBP. The power is still coming but Quentin's two-run game winner on Sunday gave us a glimpse of perhaps something to come. Tough to argue though with his other numbers including a 16 game hitting streak. A milestone for Quentin- he got his 200th Stanford hit on Tuesday night.

DH Chris Carter (0-4 in 2003) or Donny Lucy (.243, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
Carter started the season 0-4 against USF with 2 K, but that was his first action of the year, missing the first 27 after offseason shoulder surgery. Carter hit 8 HR last year, virtually all down the stretch and into the playoffs, and is a threat when he gets it going. His good eye makes him a great candidate to hit leadoff, which he did Tuesday. If
Carter is not ready to go, Donny Lucy may return to the DH spot, as he has come around lately. He has pinch hit singles in 3 of his last 4 games and looks 100% better at the plate from earlier in the season.


Probable Rotation:

Friday RHP John Hudgins (4-2, 3.66 ERA, 9 GS)
Hudgins did not have his best stuff against UW, walking a season high 4 batters over 7+ innings, but still kept Stanford in the game, allowing just 3 runs. He has walked just 13 and struck out 61 over 64 innings and has gone at least six innings in each start. Stanford still is at its best when Hudgins is out there. Looking for his first win since a CG vs Cal before the break.

Saturday RHP Ryan McCally (3-1, 4.27 ERA, 8 GS)
McCally is smooth and steady: good for six innings and about 3-4 runs, just as he did last week.
He got in trouble in the sixth against UW, surrendering three runs on two homers. McCally has given up 8 HR, and he must be careful not to get the ball up in the zone.

Sunday LHP Mark Romanczuk (6-1, 4.42 ERA, 10 G, 4 GS)
Romanczuk was roughed up on Sunday as he got the ball up in the zone and lasted just three innings, allowing six runs. However, the young lefty still was awarded Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors, courtesy of his Monday 3/24 start against ASU: a complete game five hitter. He needs to lower the ball in the zone and get ahead early: UW was very aggressive against Romanczuk.



WASHINGTON ST.

Washington St. has a huge disadvantage in that they play in Pullman. The weather does not allow them to start playing at home until this weekend, where they open up their schedule against the Cardinal. WSU's home season is just 17 games long, with 12 Pac-10 games and five non-conference games. Tim Mooney's squad has opened with an 9-19 record. However, WSU has won four of five: taking a game from Cal in Berkeley, winning two of three against the Anteaters of UC-Irvine, and beating Gonzaga on Tuesday.

A decently experienced team, WSU is led by sophomore shortstop Derek Bruce and junior left fielder Justin Hart, both of whom have averages over .300, the only players (along with freshman Grant Richardson) in WSU's lineup with an average over that mark. Washington St. is at the bottom of the Pac-10 in terms of most offensive categories, including batting average, homers, RBI, and walks. Pitching is not much better. The Cougars team ERA is a whopping 6.16, opponents are hitting .290 against, and they have hit 52 batters in 28 games! Bryce Chamberlin
anchors the rotation with lefty Tony Banaszak. The sophomore righty Chamberlin is 3-2 with a 5.72 ERA and senior lefty Banaszak has a 1-6 record but a good 3.99 ERA.

The Cougars schedule has not been bad but they really don't have many quality wins. They were swept early by #5 Long Beach, lost 2 of 3 to San Jose St., and were swept by Washington. The Cougars are coached by Tim Mooney, in his third year at WSU, with a career record for the Cougars of 45-91.


Probable Starting Lineup:

C Jon Baeder (.263, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
The senior catcher has been the starter for three years behind home plate. Doesn't provide much offensively. Hits right throws right. Has thrown out 12 of 38 runners attempting to steal. Brandon Reddinger has also seen time behind the plate.

1B Grant Richardson (.303, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
Sophomore first baseball has provided some offense with 3 HR, and is one of only three hitters in the lineup with a .300 average. Leads the team in RBI. Starts in 24 of 28. Much better against lefties: Richardson is hitting .348 against lefties and .288 against righties. Hitting well with RISP- .432.

2B Jeff LaRue (.174, 1 HR, 7 RBI)
While his .174 batting average is poor, maybe worse is his .193 on-base percentage. He has walked just twice all year. LaRue has made six errors at second and is fielding only .941.

SS Derek Bruce (.308, 3 HR, 11 RBI)
Offensively, Bruce has had a solid start but has been miserable with the glove: 14 errors and a .890 fielding percentage. He also is better vs. lefties: .397 vs. .284. Another guy who won't walk much: 3 in 104 AB.

3B Bruce Jacobson (.266, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
Not much pop for this third baseman, who also fields at just a .905 clip. Jacobson is a senior who has played in 22 and started 18 games for WSU.

LF Justin Hart (.327, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
Hart leads WSU in batting but only has 55 AB, 18 hits. Good .422 OBP but has struck out 13 times. Hart has played better lately for WSU.

CF Zapper McGrath (.185, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
Just 10 hits in 55 AB for McGrath, who has played in 22 and started 16.

RF Jay Miller (.272, 1 HR, 14 RBI)
Miller is off to a decent start for the Cougars as the freshman is second to Richardson in RBI. Interestingly he is 7-7 with runners on third and less than 2 outs, something Stanford has struggled with lately. Jeremy Farrar may play an OF spot, as he went 4-5 with a HR against Gonzaga on Tuesday.

DH Wes Falkenborg (.216, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Not a good sign when your DH is hitting .216 with 2 RBI.


Probable Starting Pitchers:

Friday LHP Tony Banaszak (1-6, 3.99 ERA, 8 GS, 2 CG)
The record is a bit deceptive as Banaszak's ERA is good and he has thrown a lot of innings coming back from a Tommy John surgery. In his eight games, the Cougars have been shut out 3 times and have scored just 18 runs.

Saturday RHP Bryce Chamberlin (5-3, 5.72 ERA, 8 GS, 6 G)
7.1 innings against UC-Irvine for Chamberlin last week, who has experience as a starter. He started last year against Stanford, going 7 innings in the Sunday game, taking the loss, giving up 6 runs.

Sunday RHP Aaron MacKenzie (2-3, 4.50 ERA, 10 G, 5 GS)
Opponents are hitting just .238 against MacKenzie, who picked up the win against Cal in relief, throwing four innings of shutout baseball, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 5.



THE LAST TIME

5/24/02: Stanford 10, Washington St. 0
5/25/02: Stanford 11, Washington St. 3
5/26/02: Stanford 8, Washington St. 2


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