College Baseball Roundup

Stanford may have had last weekend off from Pac-10 play, but there was still plenty of other action involving conference teams to get you caught up on. Included is a team from up north that's establishing themselves as a force in the Pac-10 race. Also, check out some notes on where the pitching staff stands right now as well as an updated "Super Sixteen."

Pac-10 Standings (records through games of Sun. Apr. 25)

                    Conf.  GB   Overall
Stanford             7-2    -    31-6
Washington           8-4   0.5   24-13-1
Oregon State         6-6   2.5   26-12
UCLA                 6-6   2.5   23-17
USC                  6-6   2.5   20-21
Arizona State        7-8   3.0   28-13
Washington State     5-7   3.5   23-15
Arizona              5-7   3.5   21-18-1
California           7-11  4.5   22-25

We continued to see the amazing parity in the Pac-10 last weekend with four closely contested series'.  Washington did sweep Arizona in Seattle, however the last two games were both decided by one run.  Still, the huge series sweep has propelled the Huskies into second place in the conference and the leading candidate to challenge Stanford for the Pac-10 title.  Meanwhile, Arizona, a preseason top 20 team, just hasn't been able to get things going this season.  They now find themselves squarely "on the bubble" for qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

In other action last weekend, Oregon State proved they're for real with a huge 2-of-3 series win at USC.  The Beavers are up to .500 in Pac-10 play while also sitting pretty with a 26-12 overall record.  Arizona State continued to play well away from Tempe with a 2-of-3 series win at Washington State.  The Sun Devils are slowly but surely creeping closer to the .500 mark in Pac-10 play.  Finally, California continued it's tailspin by dropping 2-of-3 at home to UCLA.

A quick glance at the Pac-10 standings sees the worst team in the conference with a 7-11 record.  That's not a great mark, but generally the team in last place in this conference finishes somewhere in the 5-19/6-18 range and that will obviously not happen this year.  The Bears are probably out of the NCAA race right now, but all other eight teams are still in the hunt.  The Cougars are just hanging in there, but probably need a series win at Stanford this weekend to remain in contention.  But after that, everyone else is still very realistically in the running for an NCAA Tournament berth.

This weekend, Stanford hosts Washington State.  Washington travels south to play Oregon State in a three-game series.  The Beavers have actually posted a 3-0 record against the Huskies in non-conference action so far this season.  Cardinal fans will certainly have their eyes on that series this weekend with Washington currently the only other team in the conference with an above .500 record.

UCLA hosts USC for three games at Jackie Robinson Stadium.  Both teams enter with 6-6 league records, so obviously the series winner will get above .500.  If someone gets swept in this series, their NCAA Tourney chances will take a serious hit.  Finally, California hosts Arizona in a three-game series featuring two teams looking to get back on track.

Stanford Notes

Not much to talk about with just two non-conference games last weekend (Stanford beat Sacramento State 15-1 on Friday in Palo Alto, but lost 2-1 in Sacramento on Saturday).  Cardinal fans have to be encouraged with the way the pitching has shaken out the past couple of weeks.  The Cardinal hurlers have basically overmatched Cal and Sac State the last two weeks.  Jeff Gilmore has really settled in as the #2 starter as he continues to throw strikes at an excellent rate.  Mark Romanczuk is already 8-1 this year while his ERA had dropped below four (3.82).  I mentioned in the preseason that a big key for Romanczuk as he stepped into the role as the #1 starter was his control.  So far, so good in that respect as the sophomore southpaw has walked only 24 in 70 2/3 innings (after 55 BB in 110 innings last season).

Certainly the most interesting development last week was the start of Greg Reynolds against Saint Mary's (a 10-5 Stanford win last Tuesday).  Reynolds threw very well yielding only two runs in five innings with no walks and four strike outs.  I would anticipate Reynolds getting the start tomorrow at Santa Clara and if he pitches well again, could very well get the nod on Sunday against Washington State. 

David O'Hagan, Jeff Stimpson, and Matt Manship have emerged as the go-to-guys out of the bullpen this past month as well.  O'Hagan sports a paltry 2.09 ERA to go with a 5-0 record and four saves.  O'Hagan is the best pitcher on this team and will be on the hill in countless big spots during May and June.  His competitive fire probably can't be matched on this ballclub as the guy will not accept losing.  His 12-1 career record speaks to this.

Stimpson has been the most pleasant surprise this year out of the bullpen with a 0.87 ERA in 20 2/3 innings.  Both Stimpson and O'Hagan have WHIP's (walks+hits per innings pitched) under one.  That is an amazing statistic.

Finally, credit Matt Manship for turning his season around.  Manship started a bit slow last season as well, but eventually became the closer on the pitching staff.  Fast forward to 2004 and Manship hasn't allowed an earned run since late February and has lowered his season ERA to 3.38.  Easily one of the toughest pitchers to hit on the staff too with a .194 opposing average.  If Reynolds doesn't pan out as the #3 starter, the most logical choice to rejoin the rotation would be Manship.

Don't forget about Blake Holler either.  Holler should play a major role on this staff down the stretch.  While he's most likely lost his job in the starting rotation, Holler becomes the only lefty out of the Cardinal bullpen.  And of course, he has the ability to go 6-7 innings which will be huge come postseason time if a fourth or fifth starter is needed.

"Super Sixteen"

                       Record   Pvs.
1. Stanford             31-6     1
* Cardinal with a 2-1 week (1-0 vs. Santa Clara, 1-1 vs/at Sacramento State).

2. Texas                41-6     2
* Longhorns post a 2-of-3 series win at home versus Nebraska.

3. Miami                30-9     3
* Hurricanes keep perfect series win record intact by taking 2-of-3 from visiting Virginia.

4. Rice                 33-7     4
* Owls continue to roll in the WAC with a rain-shortened two-game sweep at Louisiana Tech.

5. Long Beach State     29-9     5
* 49ers now 9-0 in Big West play after impressive sweep at Cal Poly.

6. LSU                  31-11    7
* Tigers notch a huge series win at Tennessee.

7. East Carolina        34-6    11
* Win streak has reached 16 games after weekend sweep of Louisville.

8. South Carolina       29-11   10
* Gamecocks take 2-of-3 from visiting Alabama.

9. Tulane               30-12   14
* Green Wave with an impressive series sweep of a very talented Southern Miss team.

10. Arkansas            29-13   NR
* Hogs moving way up after sweep of Kentucky ... Arkansas has the best record in the SEC at 13-5.

11. Mississippi         31-11    6
* Rebels plunge after 0-5 week that includes getting swept at Georgia.

12. Virginia            35-9    12
* Cavs with a 3-2 week that includes dropping 2-of-3 at Miami.

13. UC Irvine           26-11-1 15
* Anteaters win 2-of-3 from visiting Pacific over the weekend.

14. Oklahoma            26-16    9
* Sooners fall back after 1-3 week that includes series loss at Texas Tech.

15. Notre Dame          32-8     8
* Irish suffer through 2-3 week with losses coming to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh (twice).

16. Arizona State       28-13   NR
* Sun Devils playing much better baseball with consecutive road series wins over UCLA and Washington State.

Dropped Out: Nebraska (27-12, 1-3 last week), Tennessee (31-11, 2-2 last week)

Santa Clara Notes

The Cardinal will play their third game of the season against Santa Clara this Tuesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium (6:00pm).  Stanford has already posted 18-4 (at SCU) and 12-3 (at Sunken) wins over the Broncos this year.  Santa Clara brings a 19-23 record into the game on Tuesday after winning 2-of-3 contests last weekend versus Saint Mary's.  The Broncos are currently 8-10 in WCC play.

Pitching has been the major problem for SCU this year as their team ERA currently stands at a whopping 6.19.  You wouldn't expect the Broncos to throw any of their top pitchers tomorrow, so Stanford should be able to score some runs.  Santa Clara is hitting pretty well right now though as they scored 14 runs in the final game of the Saint Mary's series.  Their team batting average is at .293 and they are led by right fielder Nic Crosta (.374, 8 HR, 36 RBI).  Crosta hit four homers last weekend while he also picked up eight RBI in the finale on Sunday. 

On Deck

After their tilt with Santa Clara on Tuesday, Stanford welcomes Washington State for a three-game series this weekend at Sunken Diamond.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will both get underway at 1:00pm.  Stanford is still a perfect 10-for-10 this season in three-game series' and they'll look to extend that streak this weekend against a Washington State team fighting for their NCAA Tournament life.  I'll have a series preview in a few days.

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