Stanford welcomes the USC Trojans to Sunken Diamond this weekend, hoping to win its second Pac-12 series in as many tries. It’s rare that this early in the season, the key to Stanford’s success is so neatly and clearly focused: If this team hits, it’s gonna win.
Monday’s meltdown to San Jose State notwithstanding, that still stands as the diagnosis for the Cardinal. In fact, Monday may have been a prime example of a lost battle that ends up pointing to a won war as the season progresses. While Chris Viall’s stunning implosion was a bitter pill to swallow coming on the heels of a dramatic ninth-inning four-run rally, the offensive output was a refreshing and hopefully auspicious reversal of the Cardinal’s 2016 narrative.
A number of slumping players broke out against the Spartans, and Stanford will look to them to take down the Trojans this weekend. The top of the Cardinal order all went off on Monday. Tommy Edman went 2-3 with three walks, Nico Hoerner went 3-4, and “The Bro” Quinn Brodey went 3-6 with a double and four RBI’s. Leftfielder Duke Kinamon also contributed, going 2-4 with a double. The Cardinal didn’t homer, but that was the only blight on an otherwise outstanding hitting display.
The Trojans of Southern California take Klein Field tied with Stanford at 2-1 in conference play. With the four-team (Cal, UCLA, UW, Utah) logjam in first, fifth place is not so bad. USC is actually under .500 (11-12) overall, but conference play offers them a chance to start the season anew. USC enters this series third in the conference in runs scored, hits, and second in home runs.
On the mound, USC’s 4.64 team ERA is ninth, and its .264 batting average against is 10th in the league. So clearly there is a chance for Stanford’s hitters to keep up their offensive uptick against the Trojans, while the Cardinal’s vaunted pitching staff (they are basically the best in every measurable category) will face a challenge from the Trojan lineup.
USC’s key hitters are David Oppenheim, second in the Pac-12 with a .390 batting average, and Timmy Robinson, whose five home runs are tied for second in the conference.
Stanford’s Freshman Ace Tristan Beck gets things started in Game One on Friday night vs. fellow righty Joe Navilhon (1-2, 4.43). Chris Castellanos, off his Saturday gem vs. Washington State, starts in Game Two vs. RHP Mitch Hart, who makes his season debut for USC. Neither squad has named a starter for the finale on Sunday.
Stanford’s Jack Klein noted how rough the start of the Pac-12 season was in 2015 for Stanford, and opening with two series at home puts some pressure on the Cardinal before it faces tougher teams on the road, starting with a trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA next weekend. The Trojans are bringing some decent bats to Sunken Diamond, but if Stanford’s offense continues its surge, the Cardinal should leave on a Sunday with a series win.