Super Regional Preview

After playing three different teams in three days during the NCAA Regionals, the Cardinal return to some degree of normalcy this weekend as they take on the Long Beach State 49ers in the NCAA Super Regionals. The winner of the best-of-three series advances to the College World Series. In a battle that pits two of the best teams in the west and two of the best teams in the country, the fact that only one gets to advance to Omaha is very unfortunate. Here is the Super Regional preview.


2003 Super Regionals
#7 Long Beach St. (41-18) vs. #4 Stanford (44-15)


Friday 7:05 PM
Saturday 5:05 PM
Sunday* 3:05 PM
*All games will be played at Sunken Diamond. Sunday's game will be played only if the teams split on Friday and Saturday. Stanford will be the home team on Friday, Long Beach is the home team Saturday, and a coin flip will determine Sunday's home team.

When the NCAA Tournament field was announced one week ago Monday, college baseball fans in the west were dumbfounded that Stanford's Regional was matched up with Long Beach's Regional, and Cal St. Fullerton and Arizona St. were matched up as well. The tournament committee took four of the top eight teams (according to the Baseball America Top 25) and paired them up in what are two incredibly difficult Super Regionals. All four teams breezed through their respective Regionals and now only two will advance to Omaha (and only one can possibly advance all the way to the Championship Series).

The Stanford Cardinal are coming off a weekend of tremendous baseball. They swept through their Regional by a combined score of 41-14, defeating the University of Illinois-Chicago, UC Riverside, and Richmond in three games. The Cardinal used pitching that was good, not great, and an offense that hit 9 HR, living up the potential that it has had all year. Meanwhile, Long Beach St. also won three consecutive games at Blair Field in Long Beach, defeating Pepperdine 6-1, and Washington 7-2 twice. The Beach's offensive scored plenty of runs for one of the best pitching staffs in the country, and not surprisingly the 49ers played great defense (no errors).

Long Beach has seen their season end at Sunken Diamond in each of the past two years. They lost two in a row in the 2001 Regionals (did not play Stanford), and lost two games to Stanford in the 2002 Regional. They are trying to advance to their first College World Series since 1998, when the beat the Cardinal at Sunken in a six-team regional. In 2003, its the 49ers pitching duo of Abe Alvarez (11-1, 2.41 ERA) and Jared Weaver (14-3, 1.99 ERA) and their .981 fielding that has led them to the doorstep of Omaha. Unofficially named the Dirtbags, Long Beach has always been known for a version of small ball.

The Cardinal are attempting to go to their school record fifth consecutive College World Series. The last time Stanford did not go to Omaha, as stated above, they lost to Long Beach. Stanford has used a balanced attack to win 16 of the last 17, hitting the ball extremely well, pitching well, and fielding better. This weekend should be an incredible matchup.

STANFORD

Not a lot more you can ask of the Cardinal last weekend. While Stanford has never failed to advance from a four team Regional (since 1999 when the format began), usually it is a lot tougher. Stanford's closest game was Saturday when they trailed early but ended up winning by seven runs! The offensive attack carried the Cardinal last weekend, and in order to go to Omaha, they will need to swing the bats just as well or better this weekend.

Not surprisingly, Stanford was led by senior catcher Ryan Garko. The third round draftee of the Cleveland Indians had eight hits in 13 AB, hitting 3 HR and driving in nine, as he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Stanford Regional. The All-Regional Team was dominated by Cardinal players, as eight Cardinal were named to the team for good reason. Stanford hit nine homers as a team and got virtually every clutch hit they needed to in order to win.

On the mound, Stanford got enough out of their three starters. Ryan McCally was hit hard in the first two innings but settled down to have a career performance; one that could get him another start this weekend. John Hudgins gave up four runs in the first inning to UC Riverside, but calmed down to pitch as well as he has all year the last eight innings. And Mark Romanczuk got win number 11 with a good performance with the lead on Sunday.

To win this weekend, Stanford will need to either pitch perfectly or get to the staff of Long Beach. The 49ers are a team that is perfect for Super Regional play: two of the best pitchers at the country will make them a tough team to beat. But if the Card swing the bat like they did last weekend, there are very few pitchers in the game that can keep them from winning.

Probable Starting Lineup:

CF Sam Fuld (.333, 2 HR, 32 RBI)
Fuld was named to the All-Regional team after a 5-13 performance with a few walks, sparking the Stanford lineup from the top of the order. He continued his hit streak to 17 games with a base hit on Sunday afternoon. 1-9 against Long Beach lifetime and 0-3 vs. Alvarez. 24th round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

1B Brian Hall (.307, 5 HR, 41 RBI).
Hall has an 11 game hit streak of his own which continued with hits in each game this weekend, going 4-14 with a homer. Hall will likely hit second against lefties Alvarez and Ramos (Fri/Sun) and will be bumped down to the #8 hole vs. Weaver. All Regional last weekend. Hall surprisingly was not drafted, possibly due to signability concerns.

RF Carlos Quentin (.386, 10 HR, 55 RBI)
Memories of an awful 2002 postseaon were partially erased last weekend as Quentin went 5-12 with 2 HR and was also named to the All-Regional team. While it took some time for Quentin's power numbers to come around, he now is close to his career high (12) and is putting up huge numbers in average and RBI. A first rounder in the MLB draft: 29th overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks. One of just two Cardinal (Hall) with a hit off Alvarez.

C Ryan Garko (.418, 18 HR, 87 RBI)
Garko may be the best hitter in the country right now. He is not even hot so much is he is just good. The Johnny Bench Finalist was the Stanford Regional Most Outstanding Player with his 3 HR, 8 hit performance and almost every out he made was hit hard too. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 3rd Round (78th overall), Garko's numbers are up with Rick Lundblade (1985) and David McCarty (1991) as the best offensive seasons in Stanford Baseball history.

DH Donny Lucy (.291, 2 HR, 18 RBI) or Chris Carter (.276, 5 HR, 12 RBI)
Mark Marquess has a great problem in that both of his DHs are hitting the ball very well and can both play. Lucy will probably start versus Alvarez and Ramos after going 3-7 with a 2B last weekend. But Carter was just as hot against righties: 4-6 with a HR and 3 RBI. Carter will hit sixth when he starts on Saturday, and will probably pinch hit for Lucy whenever Long Beach brings in a right hander.

LF Danny Putnam (.349, 13 HR, 52 RBI)
Putnam gets the least attention for his numbers on the team. While Quentin and Garko get the spotlight and sometimes get pitched around, it has been Putnam who quietly has put up a huge sophomore season. He hit a huge two-run homer on Saturday and a grandslam Sunday, as he was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Hits sixth now against lefties, fifth against right handers.

2B Jed Lowrie (.316, 0 HR, 26 RBI)
A great start to the NCAA Tournament for Lowrie who was named to the All Tournament Team after going 6-12. He hit safely in all three games including a three hit performance on Saturday. Fifth on the squad in batting average.

3B Jonny Ash (.300, 0 HR, 22 RBI)
Like Lucy and Carter, Ash had a very slow start to 2003, including an early season injury, but lately has come on strong to play a big role for the Cardinal. He is a .431 career postseason hitter, which he helped by going 6-12 with 5 RBI last weekend, named to the All-Regional Team.

SS Tobin Swope (.282, 1 HR, 29 RBI)
Swope was just 3-14 last weekend but he did have two hits in the rout on Sunday. Still, struggling with the bat offensively.

Probable Starting Rotation:

Friday RHP John Hudgins (10-3, 3.33 ERA, 18 GS, 6 CG)
The Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year settled down to complete another game last week, allowing six runs on eight hits while striking out a career high 12. Hudgins has a 3-0 lifetime mark in the postseason, with one of those wins coming against Long Beach in a complete game in 2002. Hudgins was selected in the 3rd Round (76th overall) by the Texas Rangers.

Saturday LHP Mark Romanczuk (11-0, 3.49 ERA, 19G/13 GS)
Of the 13 times Romanczuk has started a game, the Cardinal have won 12 times, He is trying to be the second Stanford pitcher ever to finish with an unbeaten record with eight or more decisions. Romanczuk had an up and down outing against Richmond. While he walked five, he gave up just five hits.

Sunday RHP Ryan McCally (6-2, 4.88 ERA, 12 GS)
With his CG on Friday McCally will likely get the nod against the Beach if the Cardinal have a Sunday game. Cunningham is also a possibility. If McCally is needed in relief, he will be used. Drafted in the 22nd round by Tampa Bay Wednesday. McCally has a 1.09 postseason career ERA.

Bullpen: RHP Matt Manship (2-4. 3.59 ERA, 8 S)
RHP David O'Hagan (6-1, 5.83 ERA)
RHP Kodiak Quick (2-0, 4.41 ERA)


LONG BEACH STATE

It truly is shame that the Cardinal and the 49ers (aka the Dirtbags) are matched up in this Super Regional. Long Beach should have been a national seed and should have hosted this weekend, but alas, they come to Sunken Diamond fresh off a Regional sweep of their own. Long Beach won the Big West Conference and are trying for their fifth CWS appearance.

This Long Beach Team is marked by their incredible starting pitching and fantastic defense. As mentioned several times above, LHP Abe Alvarez and RHP Jared Weaver comprise the best starting duo in America. With a combined 25-4 record, both starters have big game experience and have great stuff, albeit in different ways. Alvarez is a finesse starter while Weaver has much harder stuff. Not only are those two solid pitchers, Long Beach's staff has a team ERA of 3.00 even. They are fielding at an amazing .981 clip. This is definitely a team that depends on pitching and defense. They allowed Pepperdine and Washington to just five runs last weekend and a .196 average.

Offensively, the Dirtbags have some good hitters but are not a powerhouse. They are hitting .298 as a team with just 34 HR this year. No player has more than 7 HR while Adam Heether leads the team with a .360 batting average. Its no secret that Long Beach outpitches you and doesn't make mistakes while putting up enough offense to win.

While the 49ers won the Big West, they have stumbled against some good squads this year. They lost two of three to ASU earlier in the year, and lost four of six to Fullerton. But don't allow that to fool you: almost all of the losses are close pitchers duels. Don't expect anything less out of the Beach this weekend. Alvarez and Weaver are 13-3 against the Top 25.

Mike Weathers is in his second year as the Head Coach of Long Beach St. He was the Conference Coach of the Year in 2003. He served as an assistant under Dave Snow from 1993-2001.

Probable Starting Lineup:

C Todd Jennings (.293, 5 HR, 33 RBI)
A catcher who can also play third, Jennings has a 26 game hit streak currently and hits leadoff frequently despite being just 2-5 in stolen base attempts. Missed the Miami series but led off with a HR against Pepperdine last weekend. Second round pitck of the Giants and the Co-MOP at the Long Beach Regional.

DH Travis Udvarhelyi (.303, 1 HR, 17 RBI)
Good bunter at the top of the lineup who can play both LF and CF as well as DH. 4-5 in stolen base attempts without much power: just nine of his 43 hits are for extra bases.

LF John Bowker (.340, 7 HR, 33 RBI)
Bowker leads the leam in HR as a redshirt freshman. Honorable Mention Big West player who has hit better in the last few months than he did early.

SS Troy Tulowitzki (.265, 5 HR, 43 RBI)
All Big West and All Regional tournament. Streaky hitter who plays good defense but is not a huge bat for the middle of the order.

3B Adam Heether (.360, 5 HR, 30 RBI)
An 11th round pick by Milwaukee, Heether leads the club in batting average and is an All-Big West selection. Started the year very hot: a .579 average in February and .412 in March.

1B Mike Hofius (.292, 4 HR, 38 RBI)
Started 49 games at 1B and had a big game in the Regionals against UW: 2-2 with 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. Does not run or walk often.

RF Brad Davis (..308, 3 HR, 26 RBI)
Davis caught for the Dirtbags last year but this year has successfully made the transition to OF. An All Big West selection and an All-Regional selection. Can run (8-13 SB) as well. He was a first team freshman All-American last year.

CF Mike Velazco (.281, 0 HR, 12 RBI)
Utility player who has played in both CF and RF. Just five extra base hits out of his 36 hits overall. Good speed however: 9-14 in stolen bases.

2B Chuck Sindlinger (.295, 0 HR, 21 RBI)
Steady 2B doesn't hit for much power but doesn't make a lot of mistakes in he field and has some speed (8-10 SB).

Probable Starting Rotation:

Friday LHP Abe Alvarez (11-1, 2.41 ERA, 17 GS)
The first half of their tremendous duo, Alvarez was the co-Big West Pitcher of the Year (with Weaver). A second round pick of the Red Sox, Alvarez is a crafty lefty who was also named a second team All-American (Collegiate Baseball). Last time out against Pepperdine he threw a four hitter, walking four and striking out six.

Saturday RHP Jared Weaver (14-3, 1.99 ERA, 18 GS)
Weaver will start Saturday but is probably the best pitcher in the West and maybe in the country. 126 innings with 19 BB, 139 Ks, with opponents hitting .176 against this sophomore. The brother of Jeff Weaver on the Yankees, Weaver shared the co-Big West Pitcher of the Year honors and also was named a first team All-American (Collegiate Baseball).

Sunday LHP Cesar Ramos (6-4, 2.85 ERA, 14 GS)
Ramos has been a solid #3 as a freshman. He threw seven shutout innings against UW his last time out, giving up just six hits and earning All-Regional honors. A sixth round pick out of high school last year.




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