College Baseball Roundup

The Stanford Cardinal rolled through Corvallis last weekend and took a pair of games from the Oregon State Beavers. Again it was the offense leading the way as Stanford produced 31 runs and nine homers during the three-game set. This week's Roundup takes an in-depth look at that series plus has all the latest from around the Pac-10 Conference. In addition, check out an updated "Super Sixteen" plus a few notes on this week's non-conference opponent, the Santa Clara Broncos.

Pac-10 Standings (records through games of Sun. Apr. 11)

                  Conf.  GB   Overall
Stanford           4-2    -    25-5
Washington         5-4   0.5   19-10-1
Arizona            5-4   0.5   16-14-1
California         6-6   1.0   19-20
Washington State   3-3   1.0   21-10
UCLA               3-3   1.0   18-14
USC                3-3   1.0   16-17
Oregon State       4-5   1.5   19-11
Arizona State      3-6   2.5   23-11

It's really incredible the amount of parity in the Pac-10 this season.  We're now almost halfway through April and still all nine teams have legitimate hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.  Still no sweeps in Pac-10 play, but the road teams continue to take care of business.  Last weekend, Stanford took 2-of-3 at Oregon State, UCLA won 2-of-3 at Arizona, Cal recorded two wins in three games at USC while Washington State surprised Washington with a 2-of-3 series win in Seattle.

The conference is still extremely bunched together, but you have to call Stanford the early favorite right now.  Combined with their lofty ranking and their current first place record, the Cardinal have done it all without playing a single Pac-10 home game.  Now that may not mean much considering how successful road teams have been in conference play, but is anyone really going to be picking against Stanford at Sunken Diamond right now with their current 11-1 home record?

The surprise last weekend was certainly Wazzu taking two-of-three at Washington.  The Huskies had jumped out to an early 4-2 record (with all of those games on the road) prior to their series with the Cougs, but they couldn't take care of business on their home field.  Just goes to show there's never an easy weekend in this conference.

Meanwhile, UCLA had to have had some momentum carry over from their dramatic Sunday win over Stanford two weeks ago as they promptly went into Tucson and won 2-of-3 from Arizona.  The Bruins are certainly right in the thick of the NCAA race right now.  Cal also had a very strong weekend with a series win at USC.  The Trojans were playing very good baseball, but now have to regroup with a tough road trip coming up.  Finally, Arizona State's struggles at home continued as they lost 2-of-3 to Oral Roberts in Tempe.  Now, Oral Roberts is a very solid team (ranked in at least one poll), but that's now four consecutive home series losses for the Devils.  Fortunately for them (or maybe it isn't a good thing), they finally get to go on the road for a series this weekend (first road games since February).

This weekend, there are just three Pac-10 series' on the docket.  The only team to have not played at home in Pac-10 play so far, the Stanford Cardinal, host the Cal Bears for three games.  Arizona State is on the road with a big three-game series in Los Angeles against the UCLA Bruins.  Meanwhile, the USC Trojans head north for a three-game set with the Washington State Cougars. 

For the Cardinal, they get a chance to add to their lead over their two closest competitors (Washington and Arizona) this weekend.  The Huskies have a huge non-conference series at ACC foe Georgia Tech this weekend.  The Wildcats try to get back on track with a three-game home series versus UT-Pan American.  Meanwhile, Oregon State is on the road for three games at Sacramento State.

Oregon State Series Notes

The Cardinal won another series last weekend - their ninth in a row to begin the season.  And once again, it was the offense that led the way.  Stanford scored 31 runs for the second straight series and continue to get contributions from everyone up-and-down the lineup.  The home run ball also continues to be a huge part of the Cardinal's offense as they blasted nine of them in the three games up in Corvallis.  Stanford has now hit 47 homers in their first 30 games and depending upon how deep a run they make in the postseason (remember postseason statistics do count), they could challenge the school-record of 102 homers set by the 1997  team.

Senior right fielder Brian Hall has been a major part of the Stanford offense this season - especially over the last month and a half.  Hall began the series at USC (Mar. 5) with a .208 average, two homers, and 15 RBI (this through 15 total games).  But over his last 15 contests (in which he's hit safely in every one), Hall is hitting an amazing .476.  The home run has also become a big part of Hall's game now as the New Mexico native has already clubbed seven bombs (a new career-high).  For the season, Hall's average is up to .353 to go with 31 RBI (third on the team).  I don't think there's a more dangerous #7 hitter in the country right now.

He's hardly doing it alone right now as Jonny Ash continues to lead the team with a .384 batting average to go with four homers.  Sophomore infielders Jed Lowrie (.375-9-40) and John Mayberry, Jr. (.369-9-38) have been the leading power sources this year.  Mayberry hit three homers in the three games at Oregon State last weekend.  Danny Putnam, meanwhile, is right on pace to put up the same kind of numbers he did last year (he hit .348 with 16 homers and 66 RBI in 2003), but looking at the stat sheet, he's only the fifth best hitter on the team.  Pretty incredible stuff right now from an offensive perspective and the season is only half over.

Meanwhile, the pitching has been a bit up-and-down since the start of Pac-10 season two weeks ago.  This isn't uncommon as the Cardinal hurlers have to face very talented lineups every weekend now, however the starting rotation is a little unsettling at this particular point in time.  With a 25-5 overall record, nothing is really a major concern, but it's hard not to notice freshman starting pitcher Blake Holler not being able to get out of the fifth inning in his last two starts.  Maybe a return to the Sunken Diamond mound this weekend will change his fortunes as if Holler can become a little more consistent, then teamed with this offense, the sky is the limit.

One very big bright spot last weekend was the long relief performance from sophomore Matt Manship on Friday (in relief of Holler).  Manship tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings allowing just two hits to go with four strike outs.  We'll see where he goes from here, but Manship, who was expected to be a key starting pitcher for Stanford this season, should see his role on this pitching staff become more of a prominent one.  A return to the starting rotation at some point may be in the cards too.

"Super Sixteen"

                      Record    Pvs.
1. Stanford            25-5      1
* Cardinal keep perfect series win record intact by taking 2-of-3 at Oregon State.

2. Texas               35-4      3
* Longhorns enjoying a tremendous regular season as well ... swept Kansas State on the road last weekend (including a 20-inning victory in the opening contest of the series).

3. Miami               26-7      5
* Hurricanes with an impressive road series win as they take 2-of-3 at Florida State.

4. Rice                27-6      6
* Owls with a perfect 3-0 week as they defeat Houston and Miami of Ohio (twice).

5. Long Beach State    23-8      7
* 49ers open Big West play with a bang ... convincingly swept Cal State Northridge on the road.

6. Mississippi         26-6      4
* Rebels fall back after dropping 2-of-3 at home to Auburn.

7. LSU                 24-9      2
* Tigers fall way back after 0-4 week that includes series sweep at the hands of Arkansas at home.

8. South Carolina      25-7      8
* Gamecocks lose a midweek game to Clemson, but come back to win 2-of-3 over visiting Florida.

9. Tulane              25-9     11
* Green Wave move up after a midweek win at LSU and then a series victory versus Louisville.

10. Tennessee          29-5     12
* Vols making a lot of noise in the SEC ... swept Georgia on the road over the weekend.

11. Notre Dame         25-4     10
* Irish win a pair of midweek games then spilt a two-game series with Boston College.

12. Nebraska           24-7      9
* Cornhuskers drop a few spots after losing 2-of-3 at home to Texas Tech.

13. UC Irvine          22-7-1   15
* Anteaters with a 3-1 week that includes series win over visiting UC Santa Barbara.

14. Oklahoma           22-11    NR
* Sooners (10-2) are a half a game ahead of Texas (9-2) in the Big 12 race after their sweep of Missouri last weekend.

15. Southern Miss      27-6     13
* Golden Eagles lose a pair of midweek games to Mississippi State, but come back to easily sweep St. Louis on the road over the weekend.

16. Texas A&M          29-9     16
* Aggies go on the road and take 2-of-3 from Kansas.

Dropped Out : North Carolina (25-8, 2-2 last week)

Santa Clara Notes

The Cardinal return to Sunken Diamond this week for a single non-conference game on Tuesday versus the Santa Clara Broncos.  The Broncos are struggling right now as they bring a 16-19 overall record into this contest with Stanford.  They were by swept on the road by San Diego last weekend to fall to 5-7 in WCC play.  The only way the Broncos get in the NCAA's is for them to win their conference, so this upcoming game with Stanford is a chance to get some momentum back before their next WCC series this weekend. 

Stanford crushed Santa Clara by an 18-4 score back on March 24th at Buck Shaw Stadium.  Jed Lowrie hit two home runs in the victory.  The Broncos have struggled on the mound this year (5.97 ERA), but they do have a pretty good hitting team (.293 average).  This will be the second of four meetings between the teams this season.

On Deck

After their midweek tilt with the Broncos (6pm first pitch), Stanford welcomes cross-bay rival California for a huge three-game series over the weekend.  The Bears are currently an even 6-6 in Pac-10 play and are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives.  Friday's contest is scheduled to start at 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will both be getting underway at 1:00pm.


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