Oregon State Preview

Mid-April the last few years for Stanford Baseball has not been the most pleasant time of year. In both 2001 and 2002, the Cardinal managed to drop consecutive Pac-10 series' to end the month, destroying their hopes for a conference title. Last year, one of the teams that threw Stanford off course was the Oregon State Beavers. The Cardinal look to avoid a repeat of history as they take on OSU at Sunken this weekend.


Oregon State (16-17, 3-6 Pac-10) vs. #4 Stanford (24-10, 7-2 Pac-10) 


Thursday: 6:00 PM
Friday: 6:00 PM 
Saturday: 1:00 PM 

*All games will be played at Sunken Diamond and are Pacific Daylight Time. 


In 2002 the Cardinal traveled to Corvallis and were handed a series loss at the hands of the Beavers as part of their April slump. While Stanford would turn it around in May to eventually garner a national seed en route to another College World Series berth, the losses were certainly a wake-up call for Stanford and cost them a shot at the Pac-10 title. In 2003, the Stanford Cardinal have a hold on the Pac-10 lead with a 7-2 record and a four-game Pac-10 winning streak. One game in front of Arizona St., Stanford has two consecutive weekends at home before traveling to Berkeley and Los Angeles (USC). 

Stanford comes into the series with a six-game winning streak. While those wins have been compiled against perhaps the some of the weakest teams on the schedule (Washington St., Santa Clara, Sacramento St., and San Jose St.), Stanford has nonetheless taken care of business since being stunned at home two weeks ago against USF. The win streak has allowed the Cardinal to not only maintain their Pac-10 lead but to keep a hold on the #4 national ranking.  

Meanwhile, the Oregon St. Beavers are tied with UCLA and Washington St. for last place in the Pac-10 conference after a 3-6 start which includes a series loss to WSU at home last weekend. The Beavers have a number of talented players, including senior 1B Andy Jarvis who is hitting .383 and .436 in conference play, and right-handers Steven Copeland and Ben Rowe, both of whom pitched well against the Cardinal in the aforementioned 2002 series (Rowe through a complete game, 4 hit masterpiece).  

The games will be played Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this weekend, as the Pac-10 traditionally does not schedule games on Easter Sunday. The Cardinal will start John Hudgins and Ryan McCally against Rowe and Copeland, while the Saturday start remains TBA for Stanford against Jake Postlewait for the Beavers. 


STANFORD 

Stanford's schedule is always tough, but after a brutal February and March non-conference schedule (and two tough conference series), the Cardinal seem to catch a break with the schedule in April. Stanford does not play a team in the Baseball America Top 25 this month (Arizona was formerly in the rankings but has dropped out) and may not play a team with a Top 25 ranking for the rest of the season (USC has also fallen on hard times). So far, the Cardinal have taken advantage, winning 6 in a row.  

In some respects, Stanford's identity has become more clear. Over the last month, the Cardinal have truly depended on their upperclassmen. Carlos Quentin is making a bid to be the first Cardinal player since David McCarty in 1991 to hit over .400 for the year, coming into the OSU series with a .415 batting average. Quentin had the game of the year for the Cardinal a week ago Tuesday, going 4-5 with a 2B, 3B, and 2 HR against Santa Clara. He has hit safely now in 22 consecutive games, longer than the monster hit streaks of John Gall in 2000 and Ryan Garko in 2001. Speaking of Garko, his own 10 game hit streak came to an end on Tuesday against San Jose St., but he still leads the team with 9 homers and is hitting .377. With Garko and Quentin's power in the middle of the order, set up by Sam Fuld and the hot-hitting Brian Hall at the top, Stanford's offense, which struggled early in the year, is clearly a team strength. The team is hitting .323 overall. 

Meanwhile, the pitching at the top of the rotation has been very good. John Hudgins has been an incredible ace for Stanford, pitching into the 6th inning in each of his 11 starts this season, posting a 6-2 record and a 3.00 ERA. Ryan McCally has been a good #2 starter, and Mark Romanczuk has continued his winning ways, pacing the Cardinal with a 7-0 record. Defense has also improved for the Card as of late.

The trick for Stanford this weekend is to not fall into the April slump that befell the 2001 and 2002 squads. The 2001 slide was understandable, as a team that overachieved all season fell on tough times against 2 good teams, Cal and USC on the road. Last year, Stanford just tripped up against Washington and Oregon St. on the road, losing 2 of 3 to each. Oregon St. certainly is not expected to make much noise in the Pac-10 this season, but like Washington St., could present the Cardinal with some matchup problems, as they are capable of pitching well at the top of their rotation with Rowe and Copeland and Jarvis and Seth Pietsch can drive the ball in the middle of their lineup. 

Probable Starting Lineup: 

C Ryan Garko (.377, 9 HR, 46 RBI)
Garko had his 10 game hit streak snapped after an 0-4 against San Jose St. but has been a force in the cleanup spot, leading the Cardinal in HR in RBI. He hit .585 with 5 HR during his 10 game hit streak. Garko has thrown out a very respectable 13 of 34 runners attempting to steal this year. Needless to say his defense has been improved and a plus for Stanford. 

1B John Mayberry, Jr. (.311, 3 HR, 24 RBI)
The torrid pace with which Mayberry started 2003 has calmed, as the freshman did not start against Santa Clara and Sacramento St. However, he was back in the lineup against San Jose St. and produced an RBI single. Likely back in against OSU this weekend. 

2B Jed Lowrie (.316, 0 HR, 10 RBI) or Jonny Ash (.256, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
Lowrie played well against WSU and Santa Clara, hitting the ball consistently and looking much more comfortable at 2B defensively. After an 0-3 vs. Sac. St., Lowrie got a day off on Tuesday in favor of Jonny Ash, who has been playing primarily 3B but with a healthy Danny Putnam back in the lineup and Donny Lucy and Chris Carter battling for playing time, Ash may be shuffled around in the lineup or moved to the bench. 

SS Tobin Swope (.341, 0 HR, 19 RBI)
Swope seems to be on base at least once or twice in every game, quietly posting solid numbers offensively for Stanford and playing good defense. Solid and steady for the senior who has started every game for Stanford in 2003. 

3B Brian Hall (.306, 4 HR, 29 RBI)
Hall's 2 2B on Tuesday were the key hits for the Cardinal, driving home 3 of the 4 runs scored. He has been very hot since Game 2 of the WSU series. It may be safe to call Hall the streakiest hitter on the Cardinal. He was mired in a 1-33 slump into the WSU series, but since a bunt base hit on Saturday at Pullman he is 11-21 with 4 2B, 3B, HR. 

LF Danny Putnam (.354, 6 HR, 25 RBI)
Putnam's 6 HR are second on the team and has been a good power source for the Cardinal when he has been healthy. Now recovered from leg problems which bothered him in March, Putnam is now capable of playing the field, which gives Mark Marquess many options. Look for him in LF with Hall at 3B, and the DH being the spot for competition. 

CF Sam Fuld (.340, 1 HR, 16 RBI)
Fuld has been the consummate table setter for the Cardinal in the leadoff spot against RHP. While he has cooled off after ending a 15 game hit streak last week, Fuld probably is the guy you want at the plate with the game on the line. 

RF Carlos Quentin (.415, 4 HR, 29 RBI).
Let the numbers do the talking. A .415 batting average. A .522 on-base percentage. 24 BB with only 15 K. Slugging .654. 8-10 Stolen bases. 17 2B. Quentin's numbers over the last few weeks have made him a legitimate Player of the Year candidate if he can increase his homers into double digits by the end of the year and maintain the consistently high level of play he has had in the last few weeks. 

DH Chris Carter (1-11 in 2003) or Donny Lucy (.245, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
Carter has struggled in limited appearances since his return after offseason shoulder surgery. Lucy has been very good lately, but maybe more valuable as a pinch hitter, a role he has thrived at, going 5-7 in his last seven PH appearances. 

Probable Starting Rotation: 

Thursday: RHP John Hudgins (6-2, 3.00 ERA, 11 GS, 2 CG, 16 BB, 78 K, 81 IP)
A career best 11 K for Hudgins against Sac. St. in 8 innings last Friday. One less day for Hudgins for this start, which hasn't been ideal for him the year, posting below-average marks (for him, at least) on 5 days rest this season (Fullerton, Washington). Below average however is something like 6 innings, 4 runs. Hudgins is clearly one of the best in the conference. 

Friday: RHP Ryan McCally (3-1, 4.58, 10 G/9GS, 1 CG, 14 BB, 31 K, 57 IP)
McCally's scheduled start against Sac. St. was rained out on Saturday, so his start on Friday will be his first in 13 days. Roughed up a bit against WSU in the first inning pitched 2 Saturdays ago, McCally responded with 3 scoreless innings after a 4 run first.  

Saturday: LHP Mark Romanczuk (7-0, 4.17 ERA, 12 G/6 GS, 15 BB, 31 K)
Officially listed as TBA for Saturday, Romanczuk will likely get the nod despite starting Tuesday (he threw only 29 pitches). Tim Cunningham has been ineffective in two starts since his comeback from a broken finger and Marquess does not really have anyone else with proven starting capability.


OREGON STATE

There's no denying that there are some talented players on this Oregon State club, mainly hitters.  The problem for the Beavers this season has been their inability to put it all together.  Oregon State enters this weekend with a 16-17 overall record and a 3-6 mark in Pac-10 play.  Picked to finish 8th in the conference this year, the Beavers are coming off a 2-of-3 series loss at home to Washington State last weekend.  The Cougars won the opening game of the series 10-6, Oregon State took game two by an 11-3 score, before WSU won the rubber game 11-7.  Previously in Pac-10 play, the Beavers lost 2-of-3 at home to California and lost 2-of-3 up at Washington.

The strength of this team is definitely their hitting.  Oregon State checks in with a .307 team batting average which is good for fourth in the conference.  They don't hit a lot of homers or steal a lot of bases, but this is a very patient team at the plate that also isn't afraid to play small ball.  Pitching has been a big problem for OSU in 2003 as they come into this weekend's series with a  6.07 team ERA.  Beavers pitchers have also combined to give up the most homers in the Pac-10 this season.  And although their pitching has been pretty bad this year, their defense has been even worse.  By far, the worst defensive team in the Pac-10 as Oregon State has committed a whopping 64 errors in 33 games for a dismal .950 fielding percentage.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C- Paul Richie (.250, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB)
1B - Andy Jarvis (.383, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 2 SB)
2B - Chris Kunda (.270, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB)
3B - Brad Millinger (.121, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 SB)
SS - Tony Calderon (.414, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB)
LF - Seth Pietsch (.349, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB)
CF - Jacoby Ellsbury (.287, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 8 SB)
RF - Aaron Mathews (.371, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB)
DH - Chris Biles (.354, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 3 SB)

Player Notes : Coming into the year, Pietsch and Jarvis were expected to be the big hitters in the lineup and they haven't disappointed ... Pietsch leads the team in homers and is hitting .349 while Jarvis paces the club with 34 RBI along with a spectacular .383 average ... The senior Jarvis is second all-time at Oregon State in hits, home runs, and RBI ... these two players hit third and fourth in the batting order ... Calderon has really come out of nowhere this season as he leads the team and is fourth in the conference with a .414 batting average ... He's been absolutely on fire in Pac-10 play with a .607 batting average ... Mathews is the other big name to watch ... The OSU rightfielder has played in just nine games this year because of an injury but hit .338 last season and is coming off a week in which he was named Pac-10 Player of the Week ... In the Beavers' four games last week, Mathews hit .550 (11-for-20) with two homers and eight RBI.

Probable Starting Rotation:

Thursday - Ben Rowe (3-3, 6.07 ERA)
Friday - Stephen Copeland (3-3, 6.56 ERA)
Saturday - Jake Postlewait (2-0, 3.27 ERA)

Pitching Notes : Rowe is the ace of the staff although he's been very inconsistent this season ... Last season against Stanford, Rowe threw a complete game four-hitter while allowing just one run to beat Jeremy Guthrie ... Control pitcher as he's walked only 11 (with 25 K's) in 46 innings pitched ... Copeland is an experienced hurler with over 250 inning pitched in his 3 1/2 year career at OSU ... Like Rowe, big things were expected of him and he has yet to really produce with an ERA well above six ... Another control pitcher with just 12 BB (and 22 K's) in 48 innings pitched ... Copeland gave up three runs in 7 2/3 innings against Stanford last year ... Both Rowe and Copeland have given up a lot of long balls this year - each which nine ... Postlewait has made just six starts this season and has not been asked to go very long in his starts ... Deep bullpen for the Beavers led by Andy Baldwin (3-0, 5.47 ERA, 2 SV). Kenny Anderson (1-3, 5.53), and Jared Sanders (0-1, 8.46 ERA, 3 SV) ... Sanders is OSU's career leader in saves, but has under-performed this season.


Bottom Line

This is not a series you would expect Stanford to lose considering they've lost only one series at home in the last 3 1/2 years and Oregon State is not one of the better teams in the conference.  Yet, with OSU's quality hitting and the ability of Rowe and Copeland to pitch well, don't be surprised if the Beavers squeak out a win here this weekend.  The matchup of the Stanford pitchers versus the Oregon State hitters should be an interesting one to watch.  A lot of OSU's offense is drawing walks, but the starting trio of Hudgins-McCally-Romanczuk don't issue many walks.  I would expect the Stanford hitters to have a pretty good weekend as they're facing one of the worst pitching staffs in the Pac-10.  Nevertheless, the Cardinal hitters had all kinds of problems with Rowe and Copeland last year in Corvallis.  Finally, Oregon State will likely have to play near perfect defense to beat Stanford this weekend which is something they haven't done this year.  The Cardinal will make you pay if you give them extra outs and we'll likely see the Beavers commit a handful of errors this weekend.

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