Anytime Texas visits Palo Alto, it's a big deal. The Longhorn program is the winningest in college baseball history (a .740 clip) and holds the records for most College World Series appearances (34) and CWS wins (82). Texas coach Augie Garrido has more victories than any other coach in college Division I college baseball history. He is 43-40-1 all-time against Stanford; the Longhorns narrowly lead 27-25-1 against the Cardinal, so a Stanford sweep would give the Cardinal the overall lead.
A weaker Longhorns squad
Both Stanford and Texas were eliminated by North Carolina last season: the Cardinal in the Super Regional round, the Longhorns in the College World Series. Texas is a program that expects to end up in Omaha on an annual basis, but returning there this year is going to be a tough chore. The Longhorns' success was built on pitching last year, but almost all of their top arms are gone for this 2012 season. Top starters Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green were drafted, and projected ace Sam Stafford has suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Sophomore closer Corey Knebel is a star in the making; he set a school record with 19 saves during his freshman season. But the Texas offense wasn't impressive last season and is only hitting .176 through the first four games of the 2012 campaign.
The Stanford offensive juggernaut
Relatively inexperienced Texas starters Nathan Thornhill, Hoby Milner, and John Curtiss, meanwhile, will have to deal with a Stanford offensive juggernaut that hung 35 runs on Vanderbilt in three games.
"You've seen in the last few days how dangerous our offense is," Stanford shortstop Kenny Diekroeger said. "Both times that we've fallen behind, nobody was worried because we all knew we were capable of putting up a lot of runs in any given inning."
The Cardinal scored 18 unanswered runs after Vanderbilt took a 4-0 lead against them last Sunday.
The Texas attack
Leadoff-hitting right fielder Mark Payton is a Texas bat that Stanford must look out for. He's reached base twice in all four of the Longhorns' games this season on his way to an early, but smoldering, .538 batting average. Freshman infielder Brooks Marlow homered twice in his collegiate debut last Saturday.
The Cardinal counter the otherwise disappointing Texas lineup with Mark Appel, Brett Mooneyham, and a Sunday starter to be named after A.J. Vanegas struggled against Vanderbilt. Freshman John Hochstatter may well pitch himself into that Sunday starter slot if he can replicate his relief debut performance, when he threw 6 2/3 no-hit innings.
"The thing that impressed me most about Hoch was his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes," Diekroeger said.
All in all, it looks like Stanford is clearly better than Texas in all facets of the game, with the exception of the Cardinal's young, untested bullpen. The prediction here: Stanford's hot bats (hitting .352 through four games) should simply overpower a questionable Texas lineup.
The Cardinal have a more tested starting pitching rotation, and outside of Stephen Piscotty's struggles defensively at third base, better gloves in the field. A sweep over one of college baseball's great programs is not out of the question.
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link.
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