Cal/Stanford series preview and radio cast

Cal and Stanford renew their rivalry at Sunken Diamond this weekend in a matchup with huge postseason implications for the home team. The Cardinal (37-14, 17-10), winners of eight straight, have a shot at finishing the regular season with 40 wins with a sweep of the scuffling Golden Bears (27-24, 10-17).

With some help from elsewhere, such a finish could push Stanford into the top two Pac-12 spots and earn the club a potential Super Regional-hosting national seed.

Cal has no postseason aspirations. They have a solid offense (.293 average, third Pac-12), but the pitching (4.05 ERA) has been mediocre at best while the defense (.957 fielding percentage) has been downright atrocious. David Esquer's club has committed 87 errors on the year, a whopping 18 more than second-place Arizona – which plays on a concrete-hard desert infield.

Speaking of Esquer, he was the starting shortstop on the 1987 Stanford College World Series championship team. It's the 25th anniversary of that magical season (think Paul Carey walk-off grand slam versus LSU), and members of that club will be honored at Saturday's game.

In the meantime, enjoy this flashback to Stanford-Cal, 1987 style (Jeff Kent at shortstop). If you can identify Mark Marquess, Dean Stotz, and equipment manager Matty Ritter in the video, tweet me: @davidmlombardi. I'll have a prize for you.

Without further ado, the second-to-last Pac-12 power rankings:

1) Oregon (19-8; previous rank: 1)
With the worst offense, by far, of any of the original Pac-10 schools, don't the Ducks remind you of the 2010 San Francisco Giants? Oregon is winning on pitching and defense, but they'll have to earn their conference crown in a tough road series at Oregon State.

2) Arizona (18-9; previous rank: 2)
The Wildcats' one loss at lowly USC knocked them off the Pac-12 pace. Arizona gets to return home for the final weekend, but the task won't be easy: the postseason-banned Sun Devils will be out for blood.

3) Stanford (17-10; previous rank: 3)
That's eight wins in a row for a Cardinal team that was the sexy pick to win the Pac-12 before the season started. It'll take some sweep help from Oregon State, but Stanford is still very much alive in the race with Cal coming to town.

4) UCLA (17-10; previous rank: 4)
The Bruins must still be kicking themselves after blowing a three-run eighth inning lead Sunday in Berkeley. That loss was critical for UCLA and may end up costing them a national seed come postseason play.

5) Arizona State (17-10; previous rank: 6)
Former Sun Devil outfielder Kole Calhoun (Los Angeles Angels) became the 100th player in program history to make it to the big leagues. Texas is the only other school with 100 MLB alumni. That Arizona State swagger means that Tim Esmay's squad will give the ‘Cats a hearty battle in Tucson, even if they are banned from postseason play.

6) Oregon State (15-12; previous rank: 5)
The Beavers are mathematically eliminated from title contention, but Oregon State can still scratch and claw its way into the top two conference spots. More notably, they can spoil Oregon's trophy chase at home in the baseball Civil War. What's not to love?

7) Washington (11-16; previous rank: 7)
A class structure has emerged in the Pac-12: the top five clubs (Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, UCLA, ASU), Oregon State in the middle, and then everyone else. Washington is the best of the worst.

8) Cal (9-15 previous rank: 8)
Down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth to UCLA, it certainly looked as if the Golden Bears were going to finish 0-6 in their challenging homestand versus Arizona and UCLA. Then, Cal found some Senior Day magic and plated four runs to dodge the Bruins' sweep and win 6-5.

9) Washington State (9-14; previous rank: 9)
With both the Cougars and rival Washington out of the running for a spot in the NCAA tournament, baseball's Apple Cup will only be significant because of Taylor Ard's final chance to overtake Abe Ruiz and Michael Conforto for the Pac-12 home run title. Ard has blasted 12 bombs, while his aforementioned competition has pumped 13 out on the year.

10) USC (7-16; previous rank: 10)
Surprise, surprise: the Trojans didn't roll over and play dead at home against Arizona. They scored eight runs (an offensive explosion!) on Saturday against the Wildcats to help the Pac-12's other contenders. USC will be asked to do the same this weekend against UCLA.

11) Utah (7-20; previous rank: 11)
Mercifully, the inaugural Pac-12 season is over for the Utes. They've clinched the worst record in the conference. Even if USC is swept by UCLA, the Trojans will have one fewer loss than Utah because of a weather cancellation in Pullman earlier this season.

Bonus radio cast

We are pleased to present David Lombardi and Chris Fitzgerald's "Baseball Talk", 20 minutes of analysis of Pac-12 baseball for the true diehards. Enjoy!


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. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.


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