College Baseball Roundup

Top-ranked Stanford rolled through the competition last week posting a 5-0 record while outscoring their opponents by a 54-15 margin. We take a look back at the week that was for the Cardinal plus get you updated on all the latest from around the Pac-10. In addition, check out some notes on this week's non-conference opponent, the San Jose State Spartans, along with an updated "Super Sixteen."

Pac-10 Standings (records through games of Sun. Mar. 28)

                   Conf.   GB    Overall
Oregon State        2-1     -     16-7
Washington          2-1     -     15-7-1
Arizona             2-1     -     13-11-1
California          3-3    0.5    15-17
Stanford            0-0    0.5    20-3
UCLA                0-0    0.5    14-10
USC                 0-0    0.5    12-14
Washington State    1-2    1.0    15-8
Arizona State       2-4    1.5    21-7

Nobody has taken charge of the Pac-10 race yet and this is very good news for Stanford.  The Cardinal could have been put in a difficult situation as nearly all of their conference opponents played one and sometimes two series' before Stanford even took the field for the first time.  Fortunately, in the four total Pac-10 series' played thus far, none have ended in someone getting a sweep.

Last weekend, the big series was down in Tempe where the Washington Huskies took 2-of-3 at #9 Arizona State.  The Sun Devils had a golden opportunity to take early control of the Pac-10 race with back-to-back home series' to begin the year, however they lost both series' and now sit at 2-4.  For the Huskies, it was a huge weekend for them as they came-from-behind in Sunday's rubber contest before winning it in the ninth. 

In other conference action, Arizona took 2-of-3 at home versus Washington State.  The Cougars traditionally have been a really poor Pac-10 road team, but they got some encouraging results against a pretty good Wildcat team.  Meanwhile, Oregon State notched a big road series win when they took 2-of-3 at California.  Both of their wins were routs too.  Can't quite figure out this Golden Bears team as they struggled through a difficult non-conference schedule, turned around and took 2-of-3 at ASU (including a 20-8 rout in one of the games) to open Pac-10 play, but then they come home and drop 2-of-3 to Oregon State.  Maybe it just means Arizona State isn't nearly as good as we all thought.

In non-conference action, USC won 2-of-3 games versus UCLA in a series played at Dedeaux Field.  The Trojans have been playing much better baseball of late - this stretch of good play really started with their victory over Stanford in the series finale three weeks ago.  And of course, #1 Stanford easily swept Cal Poly in Palo Alto over the weekend.

It's still very early in the conference season, but I would argue that this is as balanced a Pac-10 maybe ever.  As it stands right now, all nine teams have an opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Tournament which is something I can never remember happening this late in the season.  Even Washington State looks much improved this year and will not be a team the top squads in the conference will be able to walk-over.  While Oregon State had a tremendous non-conference season and after their series win at Cal last weekend, could be making a run at a top-half Pac-10 finish this year.

Bottom line, if any team records a series sweep in conference play this year, it's quite an accomplishment.  I don't think we'll be seeing many of those this year, by any team.

This weekend, it's a full slate of Pac-10 series'.  Stanford gets their conference season started with three games down in Los Angeles against the UCLA Bruins.  Arizona State plays their third straight Pac-10 home series as they entertain USC for three games.  If ASU drops another series at home, they can kiss their Pac-10 title chances goodbye.  Typically, two series losses in Pac-10 play ends any shot of winning the title, however with all the parity in the conference, two losses may not end your title aspirations.

Elsewhere, the Beavers return to Corvallis where they will host Arizona for three games.  Meanwhile, California stays at home for a series with the Washington Huskies.  Washington State has the weekend off from Pac-10 play as they host Birmingham Southern for three games this weekend.

Last Week in Review

It was quite a week for the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal as they convincing went 5-0 against pretty decent competition (Santa Clara and Cal Poly both could make runs at the NCAA Tournament this season).  Stanford outscored their opponents by a whopping 54-15 margin while they hit ten home runs in the process.  Since their series win over Texas a month ago, the Cardinal have hit an amazing .338 as a team and are averaging 9.8 runs per game (10-1 record).  Really since the end of that series, Stanford started getting contributions from everyone up-and-down the lineup and we're seeing the results.

One of the hottest hitters has been Brian Hall as he's raised his average nearly 100 points over those 11 games to a season-high .307.  Hall could be on his way to a career-year as he's already blasted four home runs (career-high is six) to go along with 23 RBI (third on the team ... Hall's career-high is 44).  Jed Lowrie continued his assault on opposing pitching as he smoked four homers in the five games to bring his team-leading total up to eight.  Lowrie continues to hit above .400 at an amazing .420 clip.  Sam Fuld has also slowly but surely started to raise his average.  A traditional slow starter with the bat, Fuld was still doing an excellent job getting on base and scoring runs (in fact, he's on pace to break the school record for runs scored in a season - a mark he tied last season).  But now the hits are coming as his average is up to .280.

On the mound, you can't complain with the starting pitching efforts from last weekend.  Mark Romanczuk, Blake Holler, and Jeff Gilmore each went at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs in the process.  Romanczuk (5-1, 3.19) has firmly established himself as the ace of the staff and one of the top pitchers in the conference.  Holler (3-1, 3.03) has made the adjustment to college nicely as he came within three outs of a complete game last Saturday.  Meanwhile, Gilmore (5-1, 4.64) came through with a Greg Maddux-esque outing on Sunday inducing ground ball after ground ball.  He allowed just one run in seven frames while throwing only 73 pitches (just one three-ball count the entire start).  This was obviously a banner weekend for the starting pitching and if these guys continue to pitch anywhere close to this level for the rest of the year, then with this offense supporting them, the Stanford Cardinal will rack up a ton of wins.

"Super Sixteen"

                      Record    Pvs.
1. Stanford            20-3      1
* Perfect 5-0 week for the Cardinal including weekend sweep of Cal Poly.

2. LSU                 21-4      2
* Tigers post 2-of-3 series win over SEC rival Mississippi State.

3. Texas               28-4      3
* Longhorns continue strong play with 2-of-3 series win over visiting Oklahoma State.

4. Mississippi         20-3      4
* Rebels emerging as one of the favorites in the SEC ... won 2-of-3 at Alabama last weekend.

5. Miami               22-5      6
* Hurricanes drop a midweek game to Florida International, but come back to sweep Penn State over the weekend.

6. Rice                20-6      9
* Owls with impressive 4-0 week that includes win at Texas A&M and sweep of Fresno State.

7. Long Beach State    18-7      5
* 49ers sweep two-game midweek series with ranked Wichita State, but then get swept in two-game weekend series at UC Irvine.

8. South Carolina      21-4      7
* After perfect non-conference record, Gamecocks have now lost first two SEC series' ... dropped 2-of-3 at Arkansas last weekend.

9. Nebraska            16-5     10
* Huskers get a non-conference win at Creighton, then take 2-of-3 from visiting Kansas.

10. Arizona State      21-7      8
* Sun Devils also faltering in conference play after stellar non-league mark ... lost 2-of-3 at home to Washington.

11. Notre Dame         17-3     14
* 4-1 week for the Irish includes weekend sweep at West Virginia.

12. Tulane             19-7     15
* Green Wave have emerged as the favorite in Conference USA ... swept visiting Charlotte over the weekend.

13. Auburn             20-6     16
* Tigers get back on track with key series win at Tennessee.

14. Texas A&M          23-6     13
* Aggies break even at 2-2 after losing midweek game to Rice, but coming back with series win over Texas Tech.

15. Florida State      21-7     11
* Seminoles fall back after losing 2-of-3 at North Carolina (committed ten errors in the rubber game on Sunday).

16. Tennessee          21-5     12
* Vols also drop after losing 2-of-3 at home to Auburn.

Dropped Out: none

Rankings Update

Stanford remained #1 in Baseball America's Top 25 poll for the sixth consecutive week.  Arizona State, the only other Pac-10 team ranked, is now at #14.  The top five includes #2 Texas, #3 LSU, #4 Rice, and #5 Miami (ironically, the four teams that have knocked out Stanford in the CWS the last four seasons).

San Jose State Notes

Stanford's next game will be on Tuesday against the San Jose State Spartans.  SJSU will bring an overall record of 14-12-1 into this game while they're currently 4-5 in WAC play (4-2 against teams not named Rice).  After getting swept at home by the Owls, the Spartans have come back to notch series wins over Louisiana Tech and Nevada.  In terms of common opponents with Stanford, San Jose State went 0-2-1 in a home series against Cal Poly way back in early February.  Of course, the Cardinal just got through sweeping the Mustangs.  In other common opponents, the Spartans lost 2-of-3 games in a home-and-home with Santa Clara earlier this month.  They did shutout California, 8-0, in a single non-conference game in early March.

The Spartans play their home games in spacious Municipal Stadium (the site of Tuesday's contest).  This isn't a very good hitting team as San Jose sports a team batting average of just .265 and they average slightly over five runs per game (as opposed to .313 and 8.8 runs per game for Stanford's high-octane offense).  Only two regulars for San Jose are batting over .300.

SJSU is much stronger pitching-wise, but still nothing special.  Their team ERA is at 4.65 and they'll likely throw many different pitchers on Tuesday (like Stanford).  San Jose State probably won't score too many runs against this Cardinal pitching staff, so their only shot will be to contain the Stanford offense.  Not an easy task, but SJSU will probably throw out some of their top relievers.

San Jose State traditionally gives Stanford problems.  Last year, the Cardinal won both games played between the teams, however they were both close and low-scoring (4-2 at Stanford, 3-0 at San Jose State).  Back in 2002, the Spartans crushed the Cardinal by a 12-0 score at Municipal Stadium.  They also beat Stanford back in 2000 at Sunken Diamond.

On Deck

Tuesday's game at San Jose State gets started at 7:00pm.  Then it's the beginning of the Pac-10 season as the Cardinal head south to take on the UCLA Bruins for three games.  First pitch on Friday night is scheduled for 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will both get underway at 1:00pm.

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