Sacramento State Preview

Last weekend the Cardinal took care of business against Washington State in Pullman sweeping the Cougars to maintain their hold on first place in the conference. While Stanford has the week off from Pac-10 play this weekend, they play two non-conference games against Sacramento State in a home-and-home series (Friday at Sunken, Saturday in Sacramento). Read on for details of this non-conference series.


Sacramento State (20-15) vs. #4 Stanford (22-10, 7-2 Pac-10)

Friday: 6:00 PM at Sunken Diamond, Stanford, CA.
Saturday: 2:00 PM at Hornet Field, Sacramento, CA.
*All games are Pacific Daylight Time.

Sometimes it doesn't matter if you win ugly.  All that matters is taking care of business. While Washington St. made Monday's game interesting, coming within one out of upsetting the Cardinal, Stanford got the clutch hits when they needed to from several players, won Monday, and got the sweep.  On Tuesday, Stanford didn't get an out from its starter Tim Cunningham, but still cruised to victory. With a week off of Pac-10 play, Stanford leads the conference with a 7-2 record, 1 game in front of second place Cal.

After crushing Santa Clara at Buck Shaw Tuesday evening 17-8, the Cardinal have a rare home-and-home against the Sacramento St. Hornets.  Each team in Pac-10 play has two byes during the season, so the Cardinal take advantage of the first bye, taking on the Hornets at home Friday before hopping on the bus Saturday, and heading to the remodeled Hornet Field for the first time since the 2000 season.

Sacramento St is playing the 2003 season as an independent, leaving the Big West Conference for independent status. Sac. St. played in the conference for 5 years, but had difficulty competing with Long Beach St. and Cal St. Fullerton and feels that the program may benefit from playing teams of its choosing. The Hornets split two games with Cal earlier in the year, and are currently playing their best baseball, coming off victories against Nevada on Tuesday and three wins against Cal St. Hayward last weekend.

STANFORD

32 games into the season, the 2003 Stanford Cardinal is just as apt to play a close game as a blowout, a high scoring game or a pitchers duel, a 2:01 game or a 4:30 game.  The Cardinal are still difficult to label.  While they have an incredible lineup from top to bottom, Stanford's power numbers (with the exception of Ryan Garko's) are actually down from 2002.  Stanford clearly has some key veterans (Fuld, Hall, Quentin, Garko, Hudgins, McCally) in the lineup but just as important has been the contribution of the freshman (Mayberry, Romanczuk, Manship, and Lowrie).  The pitching has been downright unhittable at times and very hittable at others.  One day Stanford takes 2 of 3 from a team that previously had just 3 losses (Arizona St.) and the next day the Cardnal may lose to a team well under .500 (USF).

However, the Cardinal overall have lived up to the high expectation of a #3 preseason ranking.  The difficult start of the season has given way to a solid middle of the season.  The players who Mark Marquess expected to lead have come on in the last month to be the main contributors.  Sam Fuld has raised his average 130 points and just
ended a 15 game hit streak.  The table setter Fuld has been on base for Carlos Quentin and Ryan Garko, who over the last 4 weeks have been simply incredible.  Quentin's game on Tuesday against Santa Clara was perhaps the top performance of the year: 4-6, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI.  His average stands at .423, the highest average for a player at
Stanford this late in the season since Joe Borchard hit over .400 50 games into the 1999 season (he finished with a .372 average).  Quentin now has 4 homers this season after playing 17 games without a dinger to start the season. In addition, Ryan Garko has 9 homers and is hitting .377, with 5 of the homers coming in Pac-10 play.

Pitching and defense has improved from the beginning of the season as well.  Marquess knows what he is getting from Hudgins and McCally on the hill.  Mark Romanczuk's freshman season has exceeded even the highest expectations.  And several candidates out of the bullpen have been solid in relief, including Matt Manship, Kodiak Quick, and David O'Hagan.

This weekend should be a good opportunity to work players into the lineup and on the hill that have played sparingly in the last few weeks.  Chris Carter did not play in Pullman but did get his first hit of the year against Santa Clara, and should have the opportunity to play this weekend.  Billy Paganetti and Drew Ehrlich may also get
additional opportunities, this time on the weekend, after good showings against SCU.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C Ryan Garko (.377, 9 HR, 44 RBI)
Garko is currently putting together the power numbers he assembled in 2002 (14 homers, led Stanford and combining it with a great average (.377- he hit .368 in 2001).  A force in the number 4 spot in the order, Garko hit 3 homers against WSU and his refined batting eye helps to select good pitches to hit.

1B John Mayberry, Jr. (.311, 3 HR, 23 RBI)
Junior is struggling. He is 2 for his last 21. Beginning in the ASU series, he has started to slide.  Mark Marquess pulled him out of the starting lineup against SCU but Mayberry responded later in the game with a hit.

2B Jed Lowrie (.326, 0 HR, 10 RBI).
Lowrie is playing very well, and his offense is keeping him in the lineup.  4 for 10 vs. WSU and he is riding a 7 game hit streak.  His defense has improved as well since the USF game, when he committed 2 errors.

SS Tobin Swope (.333, 0 HR, 16 RBI)
Swope continues his consistent performance in the field and at the plate.  Hitting .333 and coming through with his first triple of the year on Tuesday against SCU.  Fielding around .940 as well has been just about as good as shortstops in years past.

3B Jonny Ash (.263, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
Ash was robbed of several hits during the WSU series but had perhaps the biggest hit: a single through the right side with 2 outs in the ninth, trailing by one.  Ash has been up and down at third base- normally very good, but has misplayed a few pop ups lately.  But Ash has good hands and generally is quite reliable.

LF Brian Hall (.295, 4 HR, 25 RBI).
Talk about streaky: Hall goes from Game 2 of the ASU series to the middle of Game 2 of the WSU series with just one hit, but then comes through with 6 hits in the final two games and a homer on Tuesday against SCU.  Hall has been either very hot or very cold lately: going through a 1 for 31 slide before responding over the last three games.

CF Sam Fuld (.333, 1 HR, 16 RBI)
Fuld's 15 game hit streak came to an end against SCU, but still is playing well.  While he's just 1 for his last 10, the hit was the game winner against WSU with 2 outs in the 11th inning on Monday.  Fuld has been a great table setter for Quentin and Garko and has been the guy you want at the plate in a pressure situation so far in 2003.

RF Carlos Quentin (.423, 4 HR, 29 RBI)
Wow.  Quentin is locked in.  What a performance on Tuesday: 4-6, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI.  Quentin could have had the cycle with a single in his last AB but went deep instead, blasting his second homer of the game and fourth of the year.  Everything that Quentin sees must look like a beach ball right now.  Has certainly become the player that many expected with a first team All-American selection prior to the 2003 season.

DH Danny Putnam (.356, 5 HR, 23 RBI) or Donny Lucy (.244, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
Putnam has played against righties lately while Lucy may enter the lineup with a lefty on the hill.  Putnam has 5 HR, second on the team after blasting a big solo shot to lead off the 9th on Monday against WSU.  Lucy has been a pinch hitter extrodinaire: 4 hits in the last 5 AB including a huge 1-out 2B against WSU on Monday in the 9th.

Probable Rotation:

Friday RHP John Hudgins (5-2, 3.33 ERA, 10 GS)
Hudgins threw his second CG of the year on Friday, completing a 7 hitter (1 run) against the Cougars in just 2:01. Hudgins was basically dominant from the get go, allowing just one run on a solo HR.  6 K for the leader in strikeouts and innings in the Pac-10 on Friday.

Saturday RHP Ryan McCally (3-1, 4.58 ERA, 9 GS)
McCally had perhaps his worst outing of the year against WSU: allowing 4 runs on 9 hits over 5 innings.  However, all of the runs were allowed in the first and McCally battled through the next 3.1 innings without
allowing a run.  Note - Saturday's starter is officially listed as TBA.

Bullpen: LHP Mark Romanczuk, RHP Matt Manship, RHP David O'Hagan, RHP Kodiak Quick, RHP Drew Ehrlich, RHP Billy Paganetti.


SACRAMENTO STATE

The Hornets enter play this weekend with a 20-15 overall record and are riding a season-high four-game winning streak.  They swept visiting Cal State Hayward last weekend (5-3, 9-6, 9-8), before going into Reno and easily defeating the Wolf Pack 14-4 this past Tuesday.  Their record is a little deceptive however, as nine of their 35 games this season have been against Division 2 teams.  The Hornets won all nine of those contests, so their record versus D-1 schools is just 11-15 which translates to their poor #189 RPI ranking (the lowest right now of any of Stanford's non-conference opponents).

The Hornets struggled to a 22-34 overall record last season including a dismal 4-20 mark in Big West play.  They are now an independent.  Sac State does play very well at home as they've won eight in a row at Hornet field and sport an overall 15-4 home record.  On the flip side, they're only 3-11 on the road.

As a team, Sacramento State is hitting .298 with 34 homers in 35 games.  Three players account for 23 of their 35 home runs this season.  Pitching is the strength of this team with a team ERA of 4.49 while the two starting pitchers Stanford will see this weekend have put up very solid numbers.  Defensively, Sac State has struggled with a team fielding percentage of .959.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C - Matt Wilson (.300, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB)
1B - Chris Kinsey (.333, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB)
2B - John Acha (.291, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB)
3B - Bret LeVier (.264, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB)
SS - Everet Rincon (.286, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 6 SB)
LF - Mikela Olsen (.433, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB)
CF - Tim Reimer (.216, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 16 SB)
RF - Jesse Schmidt (.358, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 13 SB)
DH - Brian Blauser (.246, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB)

Player Notes : Kinsey-Olsen-Schmidt are the 3-4-5 hitters in the Hornets lineup ... each has put up some impressive numbers this year and are the names to watch this weekend ... Schmidt has an 18-game hitting streak and hit two homers in their game on Tuesday at Nevada ... Olsen leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBI, doubles, and slugging percentage ... nothing too spectacular after the "Big 3" in their lineup ... take away those three players and Sac State's team average is just .262.

Probable Rotation:

Friday - Steve Cuckovich (5-1, 4.33)
Saturday - Marshall Plouffe (5-2, 2.92)

Player Notes : Top two starters on this team ... Cuckovich has 25 walks and 36 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched ... Plouffe has walked 14 and struck out 44 in 61 2/3 innings ... Cuckovich is a senior, Plouffe a junior ... both are right handed ... star hitter Chris Kinsey also pitches and has three saves and a 2.70 ERA.

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