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.
Just six games remain in the 2003 regular season for the Stanford Cardinal. After eight consecutive wins, the Cardinal are just a series victory away from capturing a share of the Pac-10 Title, and very likely an NCAA Tournament National Seed. The Cardinal have won eight straight, with seven of the eight wins coming on the road. Stanford returns to Sunken Diamond for the final six games of the season, starting with UCLA this weekend and finishing up next weekend against Cal Poly.
The UCLA Bruins have six games left in their 2003 schedule, and may finish up their season with a record at or below .500 for the second consecutive year unless they win at least five of their last six. Gary Adams is the coach at UCLA, a position he has held since 1975, the only coach in the Pac-10 with more tenure than Mark Marquess. However, with a new AD in town (Dan Guerrero) who has already fired both Steve Lavin (Men's Basketball) and Bob Toledo (Football), many are wondering if Adams will be next. The Bruins were not expected to make much noise this year, but even with quality series wins over Arizona, ASU, and USC (non-conference), this series may prove important for his job security.
With just six games remaining for the Cardinal and the Bruins, some top notch baseball should be played this weekend at Sunken Diamond with beautiful May weather finally cooperating. Stanford looks to continue its hot stretch run.
While Stanford had to score in its final at-bat in each of the three games against Cal to preserve victories, the Cardinal did manage to sweep the Bears on the road, finishing the regular season road schedule with 14 consecutive victories. An impressive feat, especially considering Stanford dropped its first three on the road, but managed to lose just one away game at #5 Texas and one away game at #6 Arizona State the rest of the year!
However, now the Cardinal is back home, where Stanford hopes it will be playing for the next four weeks. This week should be pivotal. If Stanford can defeat the Bruins in two of the three games, they are a virtual lock for a national seed which means they will host NCAA Regionals, and if they win those games, the Super Regionals. Since 1999, when the NCAA Tournament field was expanded to 64 teams, the Card have had the privilege of playing at hone for both of the first two rounds, and all four times Stanford has advanced to the CWS. That is why this series is critical for the Card.
Stanford comes into this weekend having won eight consecutive games: a sweep against USC and Cal, with victories against San Jose St. and St. Mary's as well. A balanced attack for the Cardinal, with timely hitting and clutch pitching performances, has really cleared up many questions for the 2003 Cardinal. With Tim Cunningham's return to the starting rotation last weekend, the Cardinal have three bona fide starters in John Hudgins, Mark Romanczuk, and Cunningham. All three can be outstanding and have won big games in their careers. Hudgins and Romanczuk will likely be two of the top three candidates for Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, as both have had terrific years.
Questions about the offense are starting to be answered as well. Jonny Ash solidified the #2 spot in the batting order last week by going 6-11 against Cal, garnering Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. Brian Hall served as a valuable bench player and spot 1B starter in Berkeley, as the junior looks to have found his swing again for the last few weeks of the season. Quentin and Garko continue to put up two of the best offensive seasons in Stanford recent history, while role players like Lowrie, Lucy, Swope, and Carter seem to better understand their roles. Sam Fuld at the top of the lineup has been hitting "seeds" lately as well.
The questions right now are these: first, can the pitching be as good for the rest of the year as it has been the last eight games or so? Second, can the offense continue to come up with the big hit when necessary? And third, are the Cardinal peaking too soon? This weekend will help to shed light on each of those questions.
Probable Starting Lineup:
CF Sam Fuld (.321, 2 HR, 26 RBI)
Fuld had five hits in 14 AB against Cal, and another two hits against St. Mary's Tuesday. His job is to get on base for Quentin and Garko, because when he does, he typically scores. His 58 runs this year in 50 games have been critical. Fuld also has an eight game hit streak.
3B Jonny Ash (.276, 0 HR, 13 RBI) or Brian Hall (.283, 4 HR, 34 RBI)
Mark Marquess has a nice problem in that both of his potential third basemen are hot right now. Ash was Pac-10 player of the week, crushing his hometown Bears 10 minutes from his house. Hall had a key 3B on Friday which seemed to get him going, as he has 6 hits in his last 10 AB. Ash will probably start on Friday against the righty Janssen, while Hall will probably play against lefties Whistler and Kunes.
RF Carlos Quentin (.401, 7 HR, 41 RBI)
Quentin earned a day off on Tuesday against St. Mary's, the first game he has not played in since early 2001. His seventh homer of the year came on Sunday, giving the Cardinal a lead against California. However, he was only 3-14 in the series and now stands just over .400.
C Ryan Garko (.387, 14 HR, 72 RBI)
Garko is now primed to make a run at the all time Stanford RBI record. His 72 RBI currently put him at 11th all time, but with 10 more RBI in 2003 he would move up to 2nd all time, behind Rick Lundblade who had 92 in 1985. Garko is putting together one of the most prolific offensive years in Stanford history. He has 14 HR and 11 Ks, and he hasn't struck out since April 5!
LF Danny Putnam (.353, 9 HR, 39 RBI)
He scored the winning run on Sunday after a key walk, but Putnam is just 1 for his last 17 with the bat and 3 for his last 27 after a streak at USC when he reached eight consecutive times. Still, he is putting up great numbers behind Garko, which doesn't allow teams to entirely pitch around Stanford's cleanup man.
2B Jed Lowrie (.326, 0 HR, 17 RBI)
Lowrie has a sold 8 game hitting streak and has started the last 11 games for the Cardinal at 2B. Good enough the Marquess has used him primarily in the #6 spot in the order, even though his power is limited.
DH Chris Carter (.195, 1 HR, 5 RBI) or Donny Lucy (.260, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
Carter's first 2003 HR was a nice sight for Stanford fans last Friday, and he will probably stay in the lineup against UCLA, at least Friday. Lucy may earn the start against lefties on Saturday and Sunday, but may be on the bench, as he is 7-9 as a pinch hitter this year. Hall is also a possibility here during the two day games if Ash hits the ball well again on Friday.
1B John Mayberry, Jr. (.311, 4 HR, 33 RBI)
Junior did not start on Friday or Sunday against Cal, and was taken out on Saturday after starting 0-2 with a K and a DP groundout. Still has not found the consistency he had in the early goings, when he had a 16 game hit streak.
SS Tobin Swope (.298, 0 HR, 25 RBI)
Still going through a tough phase, Swope is just 2 for his last 18 at the plate. He is fielding a very respectable .946 for the Cardinal, starting every game at SS in 2003.
Probable Starting Rotation:
Friday RHP John Hudgins (7-3, 3.49 ERA, 15 GS)
Two subpar outings in a row for Hudgins, who lasted a season low 4.1 innings against Cal on Friday, giving up five runs on seven hits. He has not won since the 17th of April against OSU. Look for him to return to form this week.
Saturday LHP Mark Romanczuk (9-0, 3.63 ERA, 16G/10 GS)
A quality outing for Romanczuk against Cal despite the no decision: 7.1 innings, six hits, three earned runs. In each of his last three starts Romanczuk has had a bad inning early and has shut down the opponent the rest of the way. Against Cal, he gave up a 3-run HR in the first, but then shut down the Bears the rest of the way.
Sunday LHP Tim Cunningham (2-3, 5.46 ERA, 9 GS)
Cunningham's solid performance on Sunday likely earns him another start this week, despite the TBA listing on the official release. His outing last week was encouraging: 6 innings, 2 runs, 6 hits. While Cunningham did walk 4 and threw more balls than strikes, anything hit was a groundball, which means he is getting sink on his ball. Certainly the wild card, but a strong Tim Cunningham means good things for Stanford.
Bullpen: RHP Matt Manship (2-3. 3.48 ERA, 7 GS)
RHP David O'Hagan (6-1, 5.13 ERA, 21 G)
RHP Ryan McCally (4-2, 5.59 ERA, 18 G)
RHP Kodiak Quick (2-0, 4.35 ERA, 20 G)
The knock on UCLA Baseball is that very talented players come to UCLA, and while many of them head to the professional ranks and even Major League Baseball, the Bruins still are not a college baseball powerhouse. In fact, UCLA is threatening to finish under .500 for the second year in a row. While talk about Gary Adams' job status has hung like a dark cloud over the team all year, they have some quality wins this season and without question have a talented team.
The Bruins have some great series wins this year. They took 2 of 3 from North Carolina St. early in the year, a team that has been in the top 10 at some points during the year. They took two of three from Arizona the first weekend of Pac-10 play, and took two of three from Arizona St. in Tempe. They also defeated the #5 Texas Longhorns at the Kia Baseball Bash in Fullerton. However, UCLA just has not been consistent. A perfect example: they beat ASU in two close games to start the series in Tempe and then lost 17-1 in game three. They have lost close games to UC Riverside, Cal St. Fullerton, Texas A&M, and Long Beach St., all teams in the top 25.
The Bruins are led by Wes Whisler. The top prospect in the Cape last summer, Whisler plays both ways and is a huge pro prospect for the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft. He will start on Saturday on the hill, as the lefty has the best stuff on the team, and can hit the ball to boot. He is having a down year, however, after being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2002, when he hit a league high 18 HR. UCLA has other talented players, including RF Billy Susdorf and 3B Brandon Averill, who each have 8 HR, but are hitting just .283 as a team and have a team ERA of 5.80.
The Bruins have six games left this season: 3 against the Cardinal and 3 vs. Washington St. With five wins in their last six, they can finish over .500 and salvage a bit of their season.
Probable Starting Lineup:
2B Preston Griffin (.272, 8 HR, 39 RBI)
Griffin is not exactly your prototypical leadoff hitter. The junior has good power numbers but is striking out like a power hitter: 40 K in 202 AB. He is struggling now: 2 for his last 15. Won't run much: only 2-4 on the bases this year. The Bruins have only stolen 25 as a team. Errorless in Pac-10 play at 2B.
DH Brett McMillan (.351, 6 HR, 27 RBI)
Solid start for this large freshman, as he leads the club in hitting with a .351 average. He also strikes out a lot like Griffin (39 K in 171 AB). Also will play some 1B and can play 3B. Built a little like John Mayberry, Jr.: 6'5", 210. Hits left and leads UCLA in 2B (14).
RF Billy Susdorf (.325, 8 HR, 36 RBI)
The everyday RF, Susdorf has been solid offensively, which has kept his sometimes questionable glove in the lineup. Has made six errors as an outfielder. Was a two-way player in 2003 but is only playing RF now. Leads UCLA with 61 hits.
1B Wes Whisler (.291, 7 HR, 29 RBI)
The only player to play in every game for the Bruins, Whisler is having a down year after a huge 2002 in which he led the conference with 18 HR as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. The Indiana native got off to a very slow start and hasn't been able to pick it up enough. Still, great power from the left side. He hit a grand slam the other way off the Cardinal last year.
LF Chris Jensen (.273, 2 HR, 7 RBI)
Has only played in 31 games this season, starting 16. However, has consistently been the LF for Gary Adams lately, hitting from the left side. Only player to homer against UW last weekend in a series loss.
C Warren Trott (.346, 2 HR, 7 RBI)
Trott has been starting lately, but the senior utility player has not played much, like Jensen. He has played well when he has been in the lineup. Can also play 2B and OF. Switch hitter.
SS Ryan McCarthy (.250, 7 HR, 36 RBI)
Second consecutive year starting at SS for the sophomore, who has improved upon his offensive numbers from last year in terms of power, but not average. He is fielding at .928 which is a little below average for a SS.
3B Brandon Averill (.295, 8 HR, 25 RBI)
Averill has good power numbers, especially for a guy hitting #8 in the lineup. Good hitter but not a good fielder: 13 errors for a .862 fielding percentage. His average is a little down from his first two years but power is up. Used to be a two-way player but now is exclusively a hitter.
CF Matt Thayer (.296, 5 HR, 33 RBI)
Thayer is really the only guy that steals on the club, as he has a team high 9 SBs. Big improvement over his freshman year in terms of offense. Looks like Fuld in the field but hits right handed.
Probable Starting Rotation:
Friday RHP Casey Janssen (5-5, 5.78 ERA, 14/ G/12 GS)
Janssen was the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week after striking out 11 in 7 innings against Washington last week, picking up the win. Strikes out over a batter an inning (67 K in 62 innings) and is around the plate (only 23 BB), but opponents are hitting .303 against him. Suffered a season-ending knee injury last season after a promising 4-2 start.
Saturday LHP Wes Whisler (3-6, 5.22 ERA, 13 GS)
Whisler has been much more hittable in 2003 than he was in 2002, when he went 5-2 with a 4.06 ERA. This season has been tougher, as the lefty with the "best stuff on the squad" according to pitching coach Gary Adcock has suffered through a bit of the sophomore slump. Still, a very good pitcher, as he picked up the loss last week despite allowing just three runs in a complete game vs. Washington. Also keep in mind that Jackie Robinson Stadium is a bandbox.
Sunday LHP Mike Kunes (4-2, 6.53 ERA, 13 G/12 GS)
Still listed officially as TBA, Kunes (pronounced the same as Stanford's pitching coach Tom Kunis) was roughed up against Washington on Sunday, lasting just two innings. Will likely go Sunday, as the senior has the experience factor working for him.
Bullpen: RHP Chris Cordeiro (0-2, 4.89 ERA, 4 S)
RHP Bryan Beck (3-2, 4.30 ERA, 17 G)
RHP David Johnson (2-2, 6.60 ERA 19 G)
The Last Time:
5/17/02 Stanford 11, UCLA 0
Jeremy Guthrie pitched one of the best games of his Stanford career, allowing only 6 hits, no runs, and 13 K. Jason Cooper hit a 2 run HR for the Cardinal and Stanford scored six runs in the sixth against Mike Kunes and Kevin Jerkens.
5/18/02 UCLA 9, Stanford 4
Wes Whisler hit a grand slam in the eighth inning off Ryan McCally as UCLA put an end to the Cardinal's Pac-10 title hopes. Whisler hit 2 homers in the game while starting the game on the hill, striking out eight in six innings.
5/19/02 Stanford 17, UCLA 4
The Cardinal got two homers from Chris Carter and 4 RBI from Jason Cooper, scoring 11 runs in the final three innings of this Game 3 rout. Tim Cunningham got the win for Stanford, going seven strong innings against UCLA.