Arizona Preview

Through half of the Pac-10 schedule, the fact that Stanford has settled into first place is not that big of a surprise. The big surprise has been the Arizona Wildcats, who under the tutelage of second year Head Coach Andy Lopez, have overtaken the USC Trojans and are tied with the Arizona State Sun Devils for second place in the conference. The second half of the Pac-10 season kicks off at Sunken Diamond on Friday. Read on for details.

Arizona (28-15, 7-5) vs. #4 Stanford (27-11, 9-3)

Friday: 6:00 PM
Saturday: 1:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM
*All games will be played at Sunken Diamond and are Pacific Daylight Time.

Prior to the start of the Pac-10 season each year, the coaches come out with their annual poll. Before the start of the 2003 season, only one coach picked the Stanford Cardinal to win the conference. Now, at 9-3, the Cardinal have a two game lead over their closest competitor, the Arizona Wildcats, entering the toughest stretch of the Pac-10 schedule. Second place Arizona comes to town this weekend, while the next two weekends the Cardinal hits the road for bus trips to Los Angeles to take on USC and to Berkeley to take on California.

While Stanford's success in the conference is not surprising based on past history and the talent level of the 2003 club, the success of the Arizona Wildcats has been both modestly surprising and impressive. Andy Lopez has the Wildcats playing good baseball against quality opponents. The Wildcats are hitting at a .332 clip and giving up 4.31 earned runs per game. The Wildcats can also run, as they have stolen 111 bases through 43 games this season.

This weekend in Pac-10 play sees the top two teams face off at Sunken Diamond, while Arizona St., tied for second with instate rival UA, hosts Washington St. (4-8), Cal (8-7) travels to Washington (4-5) in a series that will likely decide the team that gets the last bid to the NCAA Tournament for the Pac-10, Oregon St. (4-8) takes on USC (6-6), while UCLA (5-7) does not play a Pac-10 series.

Friday's game will be televised on the College Sports Television Network (CSTV). This marks the first time that the new station will broadcast a Cardinal baseball game. CSTV is on some carrier's DirectTV plans, and they will join the broadcast in progress on Friday night at 6:30. As always, the games can be heard on KZSU 90.1 FM and on kzsulive.stanford.edu

STANFORD

The Cardinal came within one run of sweeping Oregon St. last weekend, but still must be feeling good against their performance last weekend and about Tuesday's 5-1 victory over Sacramento St. After all, throwing out two bad innings to start Saturday's game, the Cardinal have allowed just 5 runs in the last four games. Plus, the Cardinal remain the #4 team in the country, on pace for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

As they have been for most of the year, the Cardinal have been led lately by the big hitters in the middle of their lineup. Carlos Quentin continues his amazing stretch of baseball, one which he has proved to be one of the best players not only in the conference, but in the country. Quentin has raised his average to .434 with a 26-game hitting streak. Quentin is hitting just under .500 in his last 100 AB (51 for last 103). His power is coming around as well. Quentin now has hit 5 homers after a shot at Sacramento St. on Tuesday. Danny Putnam is also crushing the ball. The sophomore now co-leads the squad in HR with 9 after a tape-measure homer against Sac St. Over his last 3 games, Putnam is 7-11 with 3 HR and a simple incredible 11 RBI.

However, outside of Quentin, Putnam, and Ryan Garko who is also hitting the ball well, the Cardinal are not getting much production from other spots in the lineup. Sam Fuld and Brian Hall have cooled off over the last few weeks after a very good early April. Production from the bottom of the lineup continues to be very sparse. John Mayberry has been replaced by Donny Lucy as Mayberry is 0 for his last 12. Lucy has played well over the last month. Tobin Swope is 1 for his last 11. The Cardinal need to get more hits out of both Fuld and Hall and the bottom four to succeed in the last month.

The pitching rotation questions have become very interesting. John Hudgins came through with another incredible outing against OSU, and the extra day off should benefit Hudgins, who threw a lot of pitches last weekend. However, Ryan McCally was hit hard for 5 runs on Friday. McCally threw very well on Tuesday against Sac St. and will likely remain in the rotation, but be pushed back this weekend to Sunday. The new Saturday starter will likely be Mark Romanczuk, who was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for the second time this year, throwing 7.2 innings of two hit baseball with 9 Ks (and 6 BB) against OSU. Matt Manship has been Stanford's best reliever lately, but will likely be joined this weekend by Kodiak Quick (3 IP, 2 H, 0 R vs. Sac. St.) and David O'Hagan. The big question for the Cardinal as the season enters its last 5 weeks is when will Tim Cunningham return to form? The senior who broke his finger in February has made two appearances since and has been very shaky at best in each. The Cardinal need a bona fide fourth starter in order to be successful in postseason play.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C Ryan Garko (.377, 9 HR, 48 RBI)
Garko continues to produce for the Cardinal. No homers this past week, but Garko is still the team leader in RBI by 11 over Putnam and has been a rock behind the plate. He is going to be throwing a lot against Arizona who loves to run.

1B Donny Lucy (.275, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
Lucy has for now taken John Mayberry's job at first as Mayberry is slumping (0 for last 12). Lucy has six hits in the OSU series including his first home run. He has looked questionable at first, as it is obvious that is not his primary position, but still Lucy is a great athlete and his tools allow him to make up for some inexperience.

2B Jonny Ash (.256, 0 HR, 10 RBI).
Arizona will throw two righties to start the series in Gardner and Rierson so Ash will likely remain in the lineup. 2 for 8 against OSU with two starts and had a hit to RF against Sac. St. this Tuesday.

SS Tobin Swope (.324, 0 HR, 21 RBI)
Swope is struggling right now, as he is just 1 for his last 11. His defense has been sound however, as he has made just 8 errors this year and now has raised his fielding percentage to .950. Looks much more comfortable out there than he did earlier in the season.

3B Brian Hall (.288, 4 HR, 30 RBI)
Hall is 2 for his last 16 and 1 for his last 10. As hot as Quentin is right now, he needs the people in front of him in the lineup (Hall and Fuld) to get on so he can pick up some RBI. Hall's defense has been steady at 3B, while to say his offense has been streaky would be a gross understatement.

LF Danny Putnam (.378, 9 HR, 37 RBI).
Red hot right now: Putnam has 3 HR in his last 8 AB and has now tied Garko for the team lead in HR and is second in batting average. Putnam's leg seems to be fully healed, and is playing to the potential that garnered him top honors in California High School Baseball in 2001 at Rancho Bernardo HS.

CF Sam Fuld (.324, 1 HR, 17 RBI)
Fuld has cooled since the WSU series, where he has seen his 15 game hit streak end and his average drop about 25 points. 1 for last 11. Between Fuld and Hall they just have not been getting on base enough recently for Carlos Quentin. Must improve this weekend.

RF Carlos Quentin (.434, 5 HR, 33 RBI)
The gaudy numbers this week are obviously his .434 batting average, .538 OBP, 26 game hitting streak, 20 2B, and 3/5 K to BB ratio. Quentin was a triple away from the cycle against Sac. St. on Tuesday and is definitely locked in. If you are wondering, the longest Stanford hit streak belongs to Jeffrey Hammonds (37 games in 1990) and the last person to hit .400 was David McCarty in 1991. Quentin is also threatening the single season BA mark at Stanford, which is .430 set by Tom Williams 31 years ago.

DH Chris Carter (.118, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
Beware of the statistics. Carter got off to a slow start last season and only came back 1 month ago from shoulder surgery rehab. Watch his BP to understand why he will be in the lineup- incredible power. As soon as the bat speed returns to where it was last year in Omaha, watch out.

Probable Rotation:

Friday RHP John Hudgins (7-2, 2.90 ERA, 12 GS)
2 CG in last 3 starts for Hudgins, who is by far and away the leading contender for Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year. His last start against OSU he K'ed 10 more batters for a total of 21 in his last 2 starts, and 88 in 90.0 IP this season. The guy you want on the mound in a big game for Stanford.

Saturday LHP Mark Romanczuk (8-0, 3.57 ERA, 13 G/7 GS)
Officially listed as TBA, look for Romanczuk to be moved up a spot in the weekend rotation. He won the Pac-10 pitcher of the week for the second time in four weeks with his 9 K, 0 R, 7.2 inning outing on Saturday against the Beavers. Certainly a Freshman All-American candidate and one of the national leaders in wins.

Sunday RHP Ryan McCally (3-2, 4.96 ERA, 12 G/10 GS)
Sunday, like Saturday, is listed as TBA but will likely be Mac. He was much sharper Tuesday than on Saturday. His breaking ball was tight and fastball looked like it had more gas. Has struggled a little bit recently but look for him to return to form.

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


ARIZONA


Head Coach Andy Lopez has a track record of success. He won a national title at Pepperdine in 1992 and took Florida to the College World Series. Now in his second year with the Arizona Wildcats, Lopez has a team who nobody gave a second thought to before the season started looking at a possible NCAA Regional berth in 2003. His team is terrific offensively and can fly on the base paths, While its not the best pitching team in the conference, starters in their rotation have experience and have helped UA to a 28-15 overall record, and a 7-5 conference record, tied for second with Arizona St.

Over the last month, the Wildcats have cooled to some extent. They lost a series against UCLA at the beginning of the month and have lost single games to Miami (OH), Sacramento St., Washington, Washington St., and Grand Canyon. The last two losses have come in succession, losing to the Cougars and to Grand Canyon. Washington St. almost took both of the first two games in that series before taking the finale.

UA's offense wins them games. They are averaging about 9 runs a game, while hitting .332 as a team. Two of their hitters are hitting over .400. They have also hit 40 3B this season while stealing 111 bases! Jeff Van Houten, who is the odds-on-favorite to win conference player of the year, posting .432, 11 HR, 58 RBI numbers. He also has stolen 9 bags this season and has been perfect in the field.

The top of the rotation for Arizona has been very good. Richie Gardner (RHP) is the Friday night starter, and he perhaps trails only John Hudgins for best pitcher in the Pac-10. Sean Rierson has three years of starting experience, starting against the Card last season in the marathon 18 inning game. And Joe Little is also an experienced 3rd starter, although the Cardinal lit him up last season in Tucson.

The Arizona Wildcats need to win at least one this weekend to keep pace, as they have winnable series against Cal and Oregon St. before finishing the season in Tempe against archrival ASU. A series win against the Cardinal could change the whole tone of the Pac-10 raise for not only Stanford and Arizona, but for ASU and even USC.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C Nick Hundley (.359, 2 HR, 19 RBI) or Richard Mercardo (.339, 3 HR, 36 RBI)
Hundley was a 5th round pick out of high school by the Florida Marlins in 2002 but elected to play for Andy Lopez. Great OBP and offensive numbers. He has started 25 games. Mercardo has stared 28 and has more experience behind the plate. He is also throwing out 50% of runners attempting to steal.

1B Pat Reilly (.305, 2 HR, 21 RBI)
Reilly is more apt to steal (10) than homer (2) but has started almost every game for the Wildcats. Hitting only .179 in conference play. Sophomore hits left/throws left.

2B Moises Duran (.277, 9 HR, 46 RBI)
Average is down a bit for Duran, but he still gets on base 40% of the time and has a number of steals (13), much like the rest of the lineup for UA. Good power numbers for a 2B and is a good fielder who can also play 3B.

SS John Hardy (.245, 1 HR, 21 RBI)
The lightest hitting member of the Wildcats, Hardy strikes out about 20% of the time. Making the transition from 3B in 2002 to SS in 2003 has gone rather smoothly, as he is fielding at .947.

3B Brad Boyer (.358, 4 HR, 33 RBI)
Boyer has been a pleasant surprise for Arizona and is actually challenging many Wildcat freshman records. He gets on base and scores (53 runs, leads team), swiping bags in the process (17 SB, leads team). However, 17 errors at 3B and with a .837 fielding percentage so he may DH in the series.

LF Trevor Crowe (.340, 2 HR, 27 RBI)
A converted infielder, Crowe, like Boyer, has been a great freshman addition to the Wildcats lineup. 11 SB but like Boyer a very low fielding percentage: he has made 7 errors and his fielding percentage is at .883.

CF Brian Anderson (.384, 10 HR, 42 RBI)
Huge numbers for Anderson who is a little overlooked because of the great season that Van Houten is having. 7 3B and 10 HR are more than he had in his freshman and sophomore years combined, where he did see a good deal of playing time both seasons. No longer a two-way player, with no outings on the hill in 2003.

RF Jeff Van Houten (.423, 11 HR, 58 RBI)
As good as Stanford's big guns have played and as good as Dustin Pedroia has been for ASU, Van Houten's surprise monster season may be good enough to garner the sophomore the honor of Pac-10 player of the year if he keeps it up. Slugging .769 and for good measure has thrown in 9 SB. Showed power last season but these numbers are outrageous.

DH Terrence Taylor (.413, 0 HR, 8 RBI) or Dallas Haught (.238, 4 HR, 10 RBI)
Taylor has struggled over the last few games and his average has actually come down, while Haught has come through with some big hits and has more power (1 HR/10 AB) despite the lower average. Probably will be Taylor on Friday and Sunday against the righties and Haught against Romanczuk on Saturday.

Probable Rotation:

Friday RHP Richie Gardner (6-1, 3.63 ERA, 11 GS)
Gardner has gotten it done for UA. However, he is hittable. Opponents are hitting .277 against him. He has walked 22 and struck out 66 in 74.1 innings. Gardner was lit up against Washington St., giving up 8 runs in 5+ innings last Thursday.

Saturday RHP Sean Rierson (7-1, 4.50 ERA, 13 G/11 GS)
Rierson got some early season publicity when he was pictured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd for 2-hitting UC-Irvine in February. He has posted good numbers since then, especially for a #2 starter. He pitched on Friday nights much of last season. A solid 8 inning outing against WSU last weekend. Has walked just 12 in 72 innings.

Sunday LHP Joe Little (4-2, 4.63 ERA, 13 G/11 GS)
Joe Little is decent 3rd starter who started against the Cardinal last year and didn't last long. He is very hittable: opponents are hitting .294 against him and he has surrendered 10 HR. He was tagged for the loss on Tuesday against Grand Canyon and UA's Sunday starter is TBA. He threw 52 pitches Tuesday.

Bullpen: RHP Wes Zlotoff (1-0, 2.70 ERA, 11 G)
LHP Brian Pemble (2-2, 3.07 ERA, 10 G)
RHP John Meloan (4-0, 4.58 ERA, 13 G)
RHP Mark Worrell (2-3, 6.87 ERA, 13 G)


The Last Time:

4/5/02 Stanford 5, Arizona 4
An unbelievable 18 inning performance in which Chris Carter scored on a PB to win it. The Cardinal took the lead in the 12th and 15th but UA fought back. 10 innings by Jeremy Guthrie and 8 relief from Ryan McCally.

4/6/02 Stanford 19, Arizona 1
The Cardinal scored 6 in the first 3 and then 10 in the final 3 drubbing the Wildcats only hours after game 1. Tim Cunningham was outstanding, inducing 17 ground ball outs. Sam Fuld was 3-5 with 6 RBI and Tobin Swope was 5-5.

4/7/02 Arizona 15, Stanford 13 (8 innings)
A low point for the Cardinal as they squandered a 10 run lead in this 8 inning game. It was thought that the 9th inning would be made up later, but that never came to fruition. Stanford used 5 pitchers, none of whom were very effective. Tobin Swope also broke a finger in this game.

The Bootleg Top Stories