Friday: 2:30 PM
Saturday: 1:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM
*All games will be played at Evans Diamond in Berkeley and are Pacific Daylight Time.
After losing to Santa Clara by a 2-0 final on Tuesday, April 29, the Cardinal have turned things completely around in the last week and a half. With a series sweep at USC and a non-conference win at San Jose St., the Cardinal are out in front of everyone in the Pac-10 and once again look to be primed for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong final few weeks.
Stanford and Cal come into the series headed in different directions. The Cardinal were expected to once again compete for the Pac-10 title and have a chance again to play in Omaha. The Bears, on the other hand, are struggling, especially for a team who was expected to at the least to make the NCAA Tournament. However, Cal is barely over .500, and needs a series victory for a .500 Pac-10 record. Three of the Bears' losses are to the Cardinal, who swept David Esquer's squad back in March rather easily.
The Cardinal need at worst a series victory if they wish to maintain a lead in the conference. Currently, the Cardinal are the #7 team in the country, and rising after four straight wins. In order to keep momentum up the polls and on the field, Stanford needs to continue the success on the road at Evans Diamond, where the Cardinal have played well recently. However, in rivalry series such as this one, sometimes you can throw the records and history out the window.
What a turnaround for the Cardinal in the last seven days. Last Tuesday, the Cardinal were wondering if they could hit (losing 2-0 to SCU), pitch (no third starter), and if they had the ability to do what the previous four Stanford teams have done: get to Omaha. Certainly, a more positive aura surrounds the Stanford Baseball Cardinal as they again lead the Pac-10 outright and have won four in a row.
The offense was spectacular at USC. Ryan Garko led the way with a 10-13, 3 HR, 11 RBI performance. Garko was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week and the co-National Player of the Week. Garko's senior season has been simply incredible: he leads the team in HR and RBI, and if not for Carlos Quentin's spectacular year, would lead the team in batting average. Quentin has "slowed down" if it is possible to say that, as he is "down" to .416. Danny Putnam, Sam Fuld, and John Mayberry, Jr.'s contributions to the Card offensive attack in Los Angeles helped the Cardinal to three solid wins.
The hallmark of most Stanford teams is the pitching, and now this team has two starters that are having legitimate All-American seasons. While John Hudgins had his worst outing against USC on Saturday, going just five innings, he has been a terrific ace and Friday night starter, leading Stanford regulars with a 3.29 ERA. Mark Romanczuk has been better that Mark Marquess could have dreamed. The freshman is a perfect 9-0 in 2003 and his contribution has been invaluable for the Cardinal, particularly in conference play, where Romanczuk has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week an incredible three times! With Tim Cunningham's possible reemergence, the Cardinal once again look like they may have the arms to lead them deep into the playoffs.
Two intangibles for this weekend in the Card's favor: they have been great lately on the road and have really played well against Cal in the recent past. Stanford has won 11 in a row on the road dating back to March and the series in Tempe against the ASU Sun Devils. Stanford beat up on Cal in three games early this year, and took five of six in 2002. But Cal needs this series to salvage the season. Can they be the ones to stop the Cardinal?
Probable Starting Lineup:
CF Sam Fuld (.316, 2 HR, 24 RBI)
Fuld had six hits in the USC series, including a 4-5 performance in the middle game of the series. He was struggling going into the series, but put some good swings on the ball against the Trojans and led off with a solid 2B against SJSU. He also had six hits against Cal in March.
3B Brian Hall (.270, 4 HR, 31 RBI) or Jonny Ash (.245, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
The Cardinal have not got a lot of production out of their 3B position lately. Hall started on Tuesday and has played the majority of the games at the hot corner, but lately has not hit the ball. Did have a big 3B on Tuesday. Ash started against USC at 3rd and hit 2nd but had just two hits in the series.
RF Carlos Quentin (.416, 6 HR, 37 RBI)
Quentin was named a finalist for the 2003 Golden Spikes Award this week and certainly has deserved it with the season he has had so far. .416 BA leads the team, as does 22 2B, 31 BB, 10 HBP, and a .520 OBP. 5 hits against the Trojans. Hit his first HR this season against Cal in March.
C Ryan Garko (.391, 13 HR, 64 RBI)
From mid-2001 until Tuesday of this week, Garko started every game for Stanford in some capacity. After his day off, you can be sure that the national Player of the Week will be in the lineup against Cal. Garko's numbers are also going to be worthy of POTY attention in the conference, and possibly All-American status nationally. An amazing 9 HR in conference play.
LF Danny Putnam (.386, 9 HR, 39 RBI)
Putnam started the USC series by reaching in his first eight appearances, then went eight AB without a hit (including 5 Ks), but is back on track after two hits against San Jose St. Putnam's ability to take the ball the other way and his improvement against lefties has been the reason for his high average, and he has been a force in the #5 hole lately.
2B Jed Lowrie (.320, 0 HR, 16 RBI)
Lowrie seems cemented at 2B after a great series against USC. He had just four hits, but made the most of his opportunities, driving in runs when needed and advancing runners, in addition to playing sold defense at 2B.
1B John Mayberry, Jr. (.316, 4 HR, 33 RBI)
Junior looks like he is back. He came into the USC series hitting below .300 overall and .176 in conference play. But after a 5-6 game in the first game of the series, Mayberry looks to have adjusted at the plate and looks more comfortable. 6 hits and 5 RBI against Cal in March.
DH Chris Carter (.148, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
With Donny Lucy struggling, the best choice at DH is probably Carter, who looked impressive against SJSU on Tuesday. Carter had an RBI single on Tuesday and one in his one appearance against USC. His swing looks to be speeding up, adjusting to the pitching.
SS Tobin Swope (.307, 0 HR, 24 RBI)
Swope continues to struggle. He probably had his worst game of the year on Tuesday, going 0-4, 2 K, and 2 errors in the field. His average has dropped about 30 points in the last three weeks. Still, look for Tobin to turn it around this weekend and he will be in the lineup.
Friday RHP John Hudgins (7-3, 3.29 ERA, 14 GS)
Hudgins had his worst outing of the year on Saturday, lasting a season low 5.0 innings, giving up 6 runs on 9 hits. But USC has been his nemisis in the last few years, and he has fared better against Cal. Hudgins threw a complete game seven hitter against Cal in March. He has pitched a Pac-10 leading 104 innings as he has been the workhorse for Stanford.
Saturday LHP Mark Romanczuk (9-0, 3.63 ERA, 15 G/9 GS)
Three times in the last seven weeks, Romanczuk has been named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week. Romanczuk threw a tremendous game on Sunday, allowing just one hit from the third inning on. His control has been a bit suspect lately but still, 9-0 with a 3.63 ERA will probably garner plenty of votes for Freshman All-American, and maybe Pitcher of the Year in the Pac-10 conference.
Sunday LHP Tim Cunningham (2-3, 6.04 ERA, 8 GS) or RHP Matt Manship (2-3, 3.67 ERA, 15 G/1 GS, 5 S)
Still listed as TBA by the Cardinal, Mark Marquess will probably make this decision based on how the first two games go. Because Matt Manship is so valuable out of the pen (5 saves), if Marquess needs to use him, he likely will. However, if the Cardinal don't use Manship on Friday or Saturday, he may get the start Sunday after his 7.2 innings last weekend. Cunningham threw his best outing this season on Tuesday, and while it was only three innings, it may be enough to earn him the start. Cunningham may be the wild card in 2003: if he can return, watch out for this team in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Bullpen: RHP Ryan McCally, RHP David O'Hagan, RHP Kodiak Quick, RHP Mark Jecmen, RHP Billy Paganetti, RHP Drew Ehrlich.
2003 has been a disappointing year for the Golden Bears. Most college baseball prognasticators thought Cal would probably make the 2003 NCAA Tournament, perhaps even as a Top 25 team. However, a slow start for Cal never really turned around. While the Bears started the conference hot, they have slowed down against better teams and have a very slim chance now to make the tournament. They absolutely must win two of three this weekend and possibly have to sweep the Cardinal to earn a tournament bid.
Cal's biggest problem is their inconsistency on the hill. Matt Brown was picked as a preseason All-American after a solid 2002 and a great summer in the Cape. But Brown has disappointed, posting a 3-6 record and a 6.27 ERA and early in the Pac-10 season was taken out of the starting rotation. Brown is back starting on Sundays, but has not lived up to the hype, and has not been able to fill the big shoes of departed ace Trevor Hutchinson. Jesse Ingram was outstanding in the bullpen earlier in 2003, but now is making starts, with mixed success. Brian Montalbo also has been in and out of the rotation, and Mike Padgett has really been the only pitcher who has worked with any consistency.
The Cal offense has not been enough to make up for insonsistent pitching. Conor Jackson has had another great offensive season, and while his power numbers are a little down (7 HR), he probably doesn't see too much to hit out of the ballpark. Still, Jackson is expected to be a high first round pick. Brian Horwitz has picked up some of the slack, but his power numbers have dropped off from the start of the season. Chris Grossman, who leads the Bears in HR, has done a good job replacing John Baker behind the plate, but other than those three, Cal is a very average offensive squad.
David Esquer is in his fourth year at Cal, and while he certainly isn't feeling the heat yet, the former Stanford great must be disappointed with the 2003 season. Cal will lose a lot of talent this season, and reloading will be a challenge. However, Esquer will get his current team up to face his former team, and the games this weekend will likely be close.
Probable starting lineup:
CF Ben Conley (.269, 4 HR, 19 RBI)
Conley is 2 for his last 17 and not exactly a prototypical leadoff hitter. He does walk more than he K's (17:16). Conley did not play at all against the Cardinal in March. The senior has had two consecutive down years after a great 2001. Has been hit 16 times.
3B Allen Craig (.298, 2 HR, 16 RBI)
Craig started the year at SS, but is now at 3B with Jeff Dragicevich at SS. He missed considerable playing time in March/April and since has not played well. Is hitting just .235 in conference play. Started the season with a 12 game hit streak. 2 for 13 against Stanford in March.
RF Brian Horwitz (.355, 6 HR, 46 RBI)
Certainly the hottest Bear right now, as he is hitting .444 in conference play and has a 12 game hit streak. Since his return from injury in March, he has 12 multi-hit games in his last 16. 0 for 11 against Stanford in March, hitting in front of Jackson.
1B Conor Jackson (.387, 7 HR, 35 RBI)
Jackson is looking for some revenge against the Cardinal, who he has never hit well in his career. He is 4 for his last 34 against Stanford with just 1 HR. However, Jackson is the best threat for the Bears. He has been pitched around this year and has been great at getting on base: a .549 OBP. Gone back and forth from 3B to 1B but probably is best at 1B.
C Chris Grossman (.333, 8 HR, 43 RBI)
Grossman has been a pleasant surprise offensively, leading the Bears with 8 HR and 65 hits. Hitting .346 in conference play and has been consistent. 5-13 with 1 HR against Stanford earlier in 2003. Homer came against John Hudgins.
SS Jeff Dragicevich (.298, 2 HR, 18 RBI)
Dragicevich has regained his starting position at SS, where he played in 2001 and 2002. Much like older brother Scott, a tremendous fielder, who has made just 6 errors and is fielding .964. Hit better in Pac-10 play: .346. 2 for 7 against Stanford in March.
DH James Holder (.305, 6 HR. 36 RBI)
Holder had a good game on Tuesday vs. Fresno St., where he went 3-3 with a HR. He can also play 1B when Jackson plays 3B. 3-10 against the Cardinal and was hit 3 times, which is not surprising considering he leads the Pac-10 in HBP.
LF Justin Nelson (.250, 8 HR, 29 RBI)
Nelson strikes out a lot (46 times in 148 AB). Last two games he is 5-10. Had 4 hits in the non-conference series but also struck out four times.
2B David Nicholson (.278, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
Not a great offensive threat but if he gets on will run: 13 steals leads the team by far (the Bears only have 35 steals). 13 errors at 2B but has had a lot of chances.
Probable Starting Rotation:
Friday RHP Jesse Ingram (2-2, 6.11 ERA, 23 G/3GS)
The only announced starter for the Cal Bears, Ingram was lit up in his last appearance, lasting just 3.1 innings against Arizona, giving up 8 runs on 6 hits and walking 5. Most of his appearances have been out of the pen but has just recently been converted to a starter. Threw two innings against Stanford in March, giving up 2 runs in 3 hits in 2 innings. Has seven saves as the closer.
Saturday RHP Mike Padgett (5-3, 3.43 ERA, 19 G/3GS)
The sophomore transfer from Portland has the best numbers on the staff, but has not been announced officially as a starter this weekend. Last outing gave up 8 runs on 10 hits in 5.1 innings against Arizona. Pitched twice against Stanford. On Friday of the series he pitched a scoreless inning, but on Saturday he gave up 2 runs in 1.2 innings.
Sunday RHP Matt Brown (3-6, 6.27 ERA, 16 G/11GS)
The former Friday night starter is now not even a lock to make the rotation. Brown has had a very disappointing year, including allowing 7 runs to the Card in March in 4 innings. Pitched pretty well against Arizona: lasting 7.2 innings while allowing 5 runs. Other potential candidates to start are righties Joe Todoroff, Brian Montalbo, or Kyle Crist.
The Last Time:
3/7/03 Stanford 11, California 2
The Cardinal roughed up Matt Brown for 7 runs in 4 innings and four California errors assisted Stanford in the Friday night victory. John Mayberry, Jr.was 4-5 with 2 3B.
3/8/03 Stanford 9, California 4
Stanford once again took an early lead on Cal and never looked back. Ryan McCally went 5.2 for his third victory, and 8 of 9 Stanford starters had hits.
3/9/03 Stanford 11, California 2
The Cardinal wrapped up a non-conference sweep of the Bears with 7 runs in the 3rd and 4th inning. Carlos Quentin hit his first HR of the year and had 4 RBI. Every starter had a hit by the fourth inning, as the Cardinal pounded out 20 hits. Mark Romanczuk picked up his 5th win of the year.