Cal Poly Preview

Stanford is finally back at home this weekend after eight consecutive games on the road. And while the Cardinal did post an impressive 7-1 record in those eight contests, playing again at Sunken Diamond has to be a welcome sight as Stanford has been nearly unbeatable at the friendly confines of late. The opponent this weekend are the surprising Mustangs of Cal Poly who bring a 22-9-1 record into this three-game series. Read on for a full preview.

Cal Poly (22-9-1)  at  #1 Stanford (17-3)

Friday - 6:00pm
Saturday - 1:00pm
Sunday - 1:00pm

The #1 ranked Stanford Cardinal return to play at Sunken Diamond for the first time in over a month when they host the Cal Poly Mustangs for three games this weekend.  Stanford just wrapped up a stretch of eight consecutive games on the road (their longest road swing of the season) and they finished with an excellent 7-1 record.  After not playing for 15 days for final exams, the Cardinal returned to action earlier this week with a pair of games against WCC foes.  On Tuesday, Stanford knocked off Saint Mary's 7-3 while the Cardinal thumped host Santa Clara by an 18-4 score on Wednesday.

The Mustangs have been playing very good baseball this season which is reflected in their 22-9-1 record.  They also played a pair of non-conference games earlier this week recording two victories over visiting Cornell.  Cal Poly was picked to finish 5th in the Big West Conference prior to the start of the season, but their strong first half has the Mustangs thinking about the NCAA Tournament.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday : Cal Poly- Jimmy Shull (RHP; 6-2, 3.40)  vs.  Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 4-1, 3.31)

Saturday : Cal Poly- Jonathan Fleming (RHP; 4-0, 2.43)  vs.  Stanford- Blake Holler (LHP; 2-1, 3.65)

Sunday : Cal Poly- Garrett Olson (LHP; 5-2, 3.95)  vs.  Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 4-1, 5.30)


WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH

* Stanford's recent power surge -
The Cardinal have blasted seven homers as a team in the first two games since returning from break.  Leading the way has been Jed Lowrie with three homers, but Stanford continues to get tremendous power production from nearly the entire starting lineup.  This team's offensive identity is turning into a club that waits for the three-run homer to carry them to victory.  Stanford has already hit 27 home runs this season in just 20 games played.

* Cal Poly's starting pitching - The strength of the Mustangs is certainly their starting pitching.  Their bullpen isn't too shabby either, but all three of their starters have winning records and earned run averages below four.  In addition, all three starters throw lots of strikes and don't give up many home runs.  They will certainly be given a stern test this weekend though against the potent Cardinal offense.

* Jed Lowrie - The Stanford second baseman has remained hot after the long finals break.  He's hit three homers in the two games after the break and four homers in the Cardinal's last three games overall.  The sophomore from Salem, Oregon continues to lead Stanford in batting average (.438) and RBI (31) while he also now leads the club in home runs (7).


STANFORD NOTES

Stanford is ranked #1 for the fifth consecutive week and they've played the part of the top ranked team in the country in their games the last few days.  The Cardinal clubbed four home runs and received solid pitching efforts from Blake Holler, Greg Reynolds, Jeff Stimpson, and David O'Hagan in their 7-3 win over the Gaels of Saint Mary's on Tuesday.  They then followed that up with a 18-4 thrashing of Santa Clara on Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.  Lowrie blasted two homers while Chris Carter also went deep as Stanford put the game away with a nine-run third inning.

Clearly offense is the strength of this team, but the pitching has also been very good for the Cardinal this season.  They currently sport a team ERA of 3.81 (after a 4.01 ERA last season) and have gotten contributions now from 12 different pitchers on the staff.  Leading the way is ace pitcher Mark Romanczuk who is averaging over a strike out an inning (36 K's in 35 1/3 IP) and is coming off a tremendous start at USC three weeks ago (7 IP, 0 R, 7 SO).  The rest of the rotation includes freshman Blake Holler, who has been pushed up to start Saturday's game this week, and sophomore Jeff Gilmore.  Holler tossed three shutout innings in his start versus Saint Mary's on Tuesday and currently has a solid 3.65 ERA.  Meanwhile, Gilmore started the game on Wednesday versus SCU.  He surrendered two runs in the first inning before settling down and putting up zeros in the second and third frames.  Senior David O'Hagan leads a deep bullpen as he brings a sparkling 1.35 ERA into this weekend's games.  He also leads the team with three saves and is striking out over a batter an inning (28 SO in 26 2/3 IP). 

At the plate, Lowrie was mentioned above, but he's hardly doing it himself.  Danny Putnam is now batting .376 this year to go with four homers and 15 RBI.  John Mayberry, Jr. has already surpassed his home run total from a year ago with five bombs to go with a stellar .357 batting average.  Jonny Ash has settled into the #2 spot in the batting order and is hitting a cool .363.  Leadoff hitter Sam Fuld's average may be down right now, but he's still scoring runs at a record pace.

As a team, Stanford's batting average is all the way up to .309 while they're averaging a whopping 8.8 runs per game.  In fact, the Cardinal have more then doubled their opponents this year in runs scored at 175 to 86.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Sam Fuld, CF  (Sr., .259, 0 HR, 14 RBI)
2. Jonny Ash, 3B  (Sr., .363, 1 HR, 15 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (So., .438, 7 HR, 31 RBI)
4. Danny Putnam, LF  (Jr., .376, 4 HR, 15 RBI)
5. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (So., .357, 5 HR, 22 RBI)
6. Donny Lucy, C  (Jr., .303, 3 HR, 13 RBI)
7. Brian Hall, RF  (Sr., .263, 4 HR, 22 RBI)
8. Chris Carter, DH  (Jr., .216, 3 HR, 14 RBI)
9. Adam Sorgi, SS  (Fr., .233, 0 HR, 4 RBI)

Notes: Fuld is struggling a bit at the plate right now, but has still scored 24 runs in the first 20 games this season ... Lowrie leads the team in every major offensive category except doubles (one behind Hall) ... Putnam is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak ... Mayberry, Jr. had four homers and 33 RBI all of last year, he has five homers and 22 RBI so far this season ... Hall has his average up to its highest point of the year and is closing in on a career-high for home runs (six in 2003).


CAL POLY NOTES

The Cal Poly Mustangs are also playing very good baseball right now as they've won eight out of their last ten games and currently boast an overall record of 22-9-1.  The Mustangs have played a fairly difficult schedule with weekend series' against the likes of San Diego, Pepperdine, San Jose State, and Santa Clara.  However, this will be the first ranked team they will have to play this season.

Pitching is certainly the strength of this Cal Poly team.  Their team ERA is 3.13 while they rely on five main pitchers to lead them to victories.  The three starters in Shull, Fleming, and Olson are a combined 15-4 this year.  The #1 guy Shull has walked just 12 and struck out 47 in 47 2/3 innings pitched this season.  #2 man Fleming is holding the opposition to a .178 batting average.  Meanwhile, Olson has struck out 49 in just 43 1/3 innings of work.

Out of the bullpen, closer Nolan Moser has seven saves already to go with a 1.96 ERA.  Opponents are hitting just .171 against him.  Meanwhile, fellow reliever Dennis LeDuc has a team-low 1.29 ERA and has walked just four batters in 28 innings.  Like I said above, Cal Poly has yet to face any ranked teams this year, but these numbers are still awfully impressive.

At the plate, Cal Poly has a good offense, but usually go about scoring runs a little differently than Stanford.  The home run is not a big part of their game.  Despite playing 12 more games than Stanford this season, the Mustangs have hit 14 fewer home runs.  They score slightly over six runs per game while their team batting average is a very impressive .313.  This is primarily a singles and doubles team and they aren't afraid to steal a lot of bases.  They also put the ball in play and generally don't strike out very much.

Individually, right fielder Chalon Tietje is leading the team.  He brings a .407 batting average into this weekend's games to go along with two homers and a team-leading 30 RBI.  Tietje bats fourth in the order.  #3 hitter Brandon Roberts is second on the club with a .370 average.  He's hit only one home run, but has already stolen 18 bases this year.  By contrast, Stanford has only stolen 12 bases as a team all season.  Finally, keep an eye on leadoff batter and center fielder Sam Herbert.  Herbert is the catalyst for this team with his .344 batting average and six stolen bases.

In terms of common opponents with Stanford, Cal Poly swept Saint Mary's on the road back in late January.  They did drop 2-of-3 games at home to Santa Clara in late February.  Stanford, of course, just got through routing the Broncos on Wednesday.  Cal Poly has also played two midweek games at Fresno State this season losing both times.  Stanford won 2-of-3 games at Fresno back in early February.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Sam Herbert, CF  (Sr., .344, 1 HR, 19 RBI)
2. Kyle Blumenthal, 3B  (Jr., .298, 3 HR, 24 RBI)
3. Brandon Roberts, DH  (So., .370, 1 HR, 17 RBI)
4. Chalon Tietje, RF  (Sr., .407, 2 HR, 30 RBI)
5. Billy Saul, LF  (Sr., .303, 1 HR, 15 RBI)
6. Josh Mayo, SS  (Sr., .324, 0 HR, 18 RBI)
7. Bret Berglund, 1B  (So., .319, 4 HR, 21 RBI)
8. Cory Taillon, C  (Sr., .346, 0 HR, 13 RBI)
9. Adam Leavitt, 2B  (Sr., .156, 0 HR, 6 RBI)

Notes: Herbert was projected as Big West Player of the Year before the season by Collegiate Baseball ... Roberts had a 25-game hitting streak snapped last Sunday against Sacramento State ... Tietje is certainly the star hitter on this team ... In addition to leading the team in average and RBI, he also walks and strikes out the most of anyone on the Mustangs ... Berglund usually bats seventh in the order, but does lead the team in homers with four ... Leavitt was First Team All-Big West last season when he hit .327, but is struggling at .156 this year.

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