Baseball News & Notes

Stanford is flying high right now with a 15-3 overall record and the #1 national ranking. With no games this weekend or next, check out the latest from the most recent practice. In addition, read on for notes about a couple of key hitters in the Cardinal lineup, one possible area of concern for this team, and thoughts on team chemistry.

Let me first start out with notes from Friday's intrasquad game at Sunken Diamond.  On a beautiful afternoon for baseball, the Stanford team was split up into two squads for a nine-inning contest.  With the Cardinal in the midst of a 15-day break from real game action, Coach Marquess sent his top two pitchers - Mark Romanczuk and Jeff Gilmore - to the mound to start today's contest.  Romanczuk started for Team A, Gilmore for Team B.

Team A    0 1 0  0 0 2  0 0 2   -   5   9   0
Team B    0 0 0  0 3 1  0 0 0   -   4  10   1

WP: Matt Leva
LP: Pete Duda

HR: Team A- Chris Carter, Donny Lucy

Romanczuk and Gilmore looked every bit like the top two starters in today's action.  And while a 15-day break during the middle of the season is nice for the Cardinal hurlers to rest up, they still need to throw on a regular basis to stay fresh.  The two sophomore right handers both went three innings today - not overextending themselves, but still throwing enough to not lose their touch.

Romanczuk faced nine batters and retired all nine in his three-inning stint.  He struck out two.  Meanwhile, Gilmore also looked very impressive as he surrendered one run on a pair of hits in his three frames.  Team A tallied their run when Lucy walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored when Adam Sorgi bounced a single up the middle.  Gilmore struck out three today.  Not a lot of solid contact off either pitcher this afternoon.

Jonny Dyer and Mark Jecmen were the next two hurlers to throw today.  Throwing for Team B, Dyer worked a scoreless fourth and fifth inning before allowing a two-run homer off the bat of Lucy in the sixth.  Meanwhile, Jecmen had the rockiest outing of any pitcher this afternoon.  In his three innings of work, the towering right hander surrendered four runs on eight hits.  He didn't walk anyone, but at the same time, Jecmen wasn't fooling anyone today.

Team B's three runs in the fifth inning off Jecmen came from the most unlikely of sources.  With two on and two out, Cameron Matthews ripped a double to deep left center field plating two.  Matthews has played in three games this season, but all as a pinch-runner as he's yet to make a plate appearance.  After the Matthews hit, freshman Ryan Kissick smoked an RBI single into right field, then fellow freshman Zachary Gianos singled to left.  Impressive hitting from the bottom of the order for Team B today.

Team B had a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning.  Pete Duda fired scoreless seventh and eighth innings and looked poised to close out the victory.  The sophomore Duda has yet to make an appearance this season, but clearly is one of the hardest throwers on the team and will likely see some action before the year is done. 

In the ninth, Duda quickly set down Josh Corn and Joe Ayers for the first two outs.  Then on the first pitch to the next batter, Jim Rapoport, Duda gave up a ringing double off the top of the wall in right center field.  That set the stage for a Carter vs. Duda matchup.  Today, the battle was won by Chris Carter.  The slugging outfielder/DH hammered a two-run home run well over the fence in right field to put Team A in front by a 5-4 score.  A clutch bomb from a hitter looking to break out of an early season slump.

Matt Leva threw the last three innings for Team A and was credited with the win.  He gave up just two hits while not walking or striking out anyone.  With a bevy of Tuesday games coming up on the schedule, look for Leva to see more time on the hill (he's made two relief appearances thus far in 2004 - 2 2/3 IP, 1 R).

Top performers with the bat today for Team A were Carter (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI) and Sorgi (2-for-3, RBI).  Chris Lewis had a loud 1-for-4 afternoon.  Hard to believe this guy is still looking for his first hit this season (0-for-13).  Fortunately, the middle infield position opposite Jed Lowrie is still very much up for grabs, so Lewis has time to straighten everything out.  The ability is certainly there.  Lucy also homered for Team A today.

Over on Team B, Putnam (2-for-4), Hester (2-for-4, RBI), and Kissick (2-for-3, RBI) had multi-hit games.  Lowrie "only" went 1-for-4, but missed a home run by just a couple of feet when he flied out to the wall in center field facing Jecmen. 

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One-third of the way through the regular season, you really have to marvel at what Jed Lowrie has accomplished so far.  The sophomore middle infielder leads the club in batting average (.446), runs scored (24), hits (29), doubles (5-tied), triples (3), home runs (4-tied), RBI (26), slugging percentage (.800), and on-base percentage (.529).  The improvement from Year One to Year Two is staggering.

To compare, Lowrie had 28 RBI in 60 games last season.  He already has 26 in 18 games this year.  He's already equaled his 24 runs scored from a year ago.  After not homering last season, Lowrie has blasted four here in 2004.  He had 12 total extra base hits last season and already has reached 12 this season. 

The Salem, Oregon native has found a home in the #3 spot in the batting order and appears poised to make a run at All-Pac-10 honors (at the very least).

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It's a shame for Chris Carter that Stanford doesn't play any games this weekend because this guy is hot.  Coming off the bench down at USC last weekend, Carter went a perfect 3-for-3 including a single off a left handed pitcher in the ninth inning during Sunday's series finale.  In a "JV" game at Santa Clara on Tuesday, Carter blasted a home run off the batters eye.  Then during Friday's intrasquad game, Carter rapped out two hits including the game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth inning.

I really believe Carter is the answer at DH against right handed pitching.  Slow starts are the norm for him, but his solid weekend at USC has his average up at .219 while he's driven home ten in just 32 AB's.  The powerful junior from Concord will be popping home runs in real games before you know it.

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There aren't a whole lot of concerns for this 15-3 and #1 ranked Cardinal baseball team right now.  The offense looks to be among the very best in the country (averaging over eight runs per game).  The team defense has been very good thus far with a stellar .974 fielding percentage.  The overall pitching has been good with a team ERA hovering around four (last year's ERA was 4.01).  The depth of the pitching staff looks to be improved with three freshman (Blake Holler, Jeff Stimpson, and Matt Leva) already showing they can get people out at this level while another (Greg Reynolds) is poised to make his debut.  Sophomore Jeff Gilmore has basically come out of nowhere to take over the #2 starting spot.  Perhaps the main concern right now is solidifying that starting rotation.

Freshman Blake Holler is currently the #3 starter and you'd expect him to keep that role coming back from break as he's thrown very well in two of his three starts.  He is, however, just a freshman with only 21 2/3 career innings, so you know he'll be watched closely.  If Holler falters, sophomore Matt Manship could get another look as a starter.  Manship really struggled the first month of the season, but he came in and nailed down the save last Saturday at USC with a 1-2-3 13th inning.  It was just one inning, but hopefully a step in the right direction for Manship.  We know he has it in him.  Finally, Greg Reynolds could potentially get a look as a third starter.  Reynolds has all the skills necessary, but is just now rounding himself back into form and I'm sure doesn't want to rush anything.

This is a very young starting rotation.  After Romanczuk in the #1 spot, I'd expect Coach Marquess to not hesitate like he has been to lift one of his starters from a game if their struggling.  The depth in the bullpen appears to be there this season, so there's not going to be any reason to wait around for a struggling starter to try to figure things out.  A huge key for the rest of the season and on into the postseason will be starting pitching, of course.  These young arms are going to have to grow up in a hurry.

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One aspect of this team that may get overlooked is the outstanding team chemistry.  It may be tough to notice at games, but it's very evident during practices.  Lots of chatter going on whether it be during drills or during games.  Some good-natured ribbing mixed in as well.  When Lowrie flied out to the wall during today's game, he was heckled by numerous teammates to "hit the weight room."  This team, while very focused on winning games, clearly is having a lot of fun right now and is a joy to watch in that respect.

When Carter homered in the ninth inning today, he had an extra jump in his step as he rounded the bases.  In fact, he sprinted around the bases while happily yelling at the top of his lungs in the process.  When he got to home plate, he was greeted by Donny Lucy, Chris Lewis, and Ryan Seawell with chest bumps as his team took the lead at a pivotal point in the game.

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The whole team chemistry aspect of this team can probably be traced back to Coach Marquess.  Marquess is always the loudest person at practices (and games, for that matter) and while his demands on players are at an incredibly high level, he's clearly having fun with them and looks like he could keep doing this for 10 or 15 years, if he wanted. 

I don't know if anyone has ever noticed this before every game, but Coach Marquess always gathers all the players together in a big huddle for some last minute words of wisdom (or I assume that's what he's saying).  The team meeting takes place about 20 minutes prior to the first pitch out in the right field corner (when the team is at Sunken).  Well, the players are always out there first talking amongst themselves and then Coach Marquess will run out from the dugout to join them for his talk.  When he arrives at his players, he doesn't stop.  He runs with a full head of steam into one or two guys and jumps high up into their arms.  It's like a five-year old kid jumping up into their parents arms for a hug.  Quite a humorous sight.  Could you imagine Mike Montgomery jumping up into Rob Little's arms in the huddle prior to the opening tip of every basketball game? 

This guy is having so much fun.

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The team doesn't return to action until Tuesday, March 23rd when they travel to Saint Mary's for a single game.  If you haven't been out to Sunken yet to see these guys play, I would highly suggest you go out and do so.  There's no telling right now what this team can accomplish in June as that generally involves how well you're playing at the end of the season.  However, the overall journey that is the 2004 Stanford baseball season could be one not to forget.  This group of players, while being one of the most talented I've seen on The Farm, is clearly very focused and has loads of experience.  The top-notch coaching is there while the team chemistry is excellent as well.  Again, who knows what the end result will be come June, but I hope everyone can enjoy and appreciate the next few months of Stanford baseball.


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