Washington State Preview

Stanford returns to Pac-10 play this weekend with a three-game, home series against the Washington State Cougars. The Cardinal went 3-1 on a recent four-game non-conference stretch of games to move their overall record to 32-6 on the year. Meanwhile, the Cougars, at 5-7 in the Pac-10, are trying to get back on the winning track after consecutive series losses the last two weekends.

Washington State (23-15, 5-7)  at  #2 Stanford (32-6, 7-2)

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

The 2nd ranked Stanford Cardinal return to Pac-10 play this weekend with a three-game series at Sunken Diamond against the Washington State Cougars.  The Cardinal went 3-1 on a recent four-game, non-conference stretch of games.  Included was a thrilling 12-8, 14-inning win at Santa Clara on Tuesday of this week which moved Stanford's overall record to 32-6.  The Cardinal enter this weekend 1/2 game ahead of the Washington Huskies (8-4) in the Pac-10 race.

The Cougars are enjoying a fabulous regular season when you consider how poorly they've played the last few seasons.  Washington State is clinging to NCAA Tournament hopes with their 23-15 overall record, however they've dropped to 5-7 in Pac-10 play after consecutive series losses to USC and Arizona State the last two weekends.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: WSU- Aaron MacKenzie (RHP; 5-4, 5.09)  vs.  Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 8-1, 3.82)

Saturday: WSU- Aaron Trolia (RHP; 4-3, 4.80)  vs.  Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 6-2, 4.30)

Sunday: WSU- Garrett Alwert (LHP; 4-1, 4.56)  vs.  Stanford- TBA


WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH

* Offense -
Stanford and Washington State are the two most prolific run-scoring teams in the Pac-10 this season.  The Cardinal average an amazing 9.1 runs per game while the Cougars are a distant second at 7.9 tallies per contest.  With expected warm weather on tap for this weekend, look for some high-scoring games, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

* Sunday starter - It's really the only major question mark for Stanford these days.  Freshman Blake Holler (3-2, 4.37) has been the third starter, but Holler has not made it past the fifth inning in each of his last three starts.  However, Holler did toss four no-hit innings on Tuesday against Santa Clara in relief, so he may get another shot.  If it's not Holler, the most likely candidates are sophomore Matt Manship (0-0, 3.48) or freshman Greg Reynolds (2-0, 5.02).  And of course more important than who actually starts this weekend is if they pitch well enough to remain in that role.  Three effective starters are a must for a team looking to make a deep run in the postseason.

* Jed Lowrie - .399, 13 homers, and 53 RBI.  Add in 11 doubles, four triples, a .791 slugging percentage, and a .500 on-base percentage.  Lowrie is second in the conference in batting average, first in home runs, first in RBI, first in slugging, second in runs, second in on-base percentage, and tied for third in triples.  I think it's about time we start mentioning Lowrie as a serious contender for the Golden Spikes Award.


BY-THE-NUMBERS

* Where each team stacks up in the Pac-10 rankings.  Not included is Stanford's game on Tuesday versus Santa Clara or WSU's scheduled contest versus Gonzaga on Wednesday.

Stanford
Batting Average: 1st (.332)
Runs Per Game: 1st (9.0)
ERA: 1st (3.80)
Fielding Percentage: T1st (.974)

Washington State
Batting Average: 5th (.300)
Runs Per Game: 2nd (7.9)
ERA: 8th (5.09)
Fielding Percentage: 3rd (.972)


STANFORD NOTES

The Cardinal bring a gaudy 32-6 overall record into this weekend's series.  They're a perfect 10-for-10 in series victories this season (three-game sets only) and will look to extend that streak this weekend.  At the plate, Stanford has had to deal with the absence of Jonny Ash the past week.  With Ash out, Brian Hall has moved from right field to third base while freshman Jim Rapoport is getting the nod out in right.  Rapoport is batting in the #9 spot in the order and really serves as a second leadoff man in that position with his excellent speed.

Stanford has really picked things up with the bats in conference action.  In nine Pac-10 games, the Cardinal are hitting an amazing .368 as a team while they've clubbed 22 home runs.  Look for more offense this weekend with WSU's lofty team ERA and the expected warm weather.  Individually, Danny Putnam is hot with an 11-game hitting streak.  Putnam's season average is up to .368 while he's tied for second on the club with ten homers.  Meanwhile, catcher Donny Lucy brings a 14-game hit streak into this weekend as his average has moved all the way up to .353.  As a team, Stanford has six starters hitting .347 or above.

On the mound, Mark Romanczuk has put together two very solid outings in a row.  Last Friday versus Sacramento State, Romanczuk tossed eight innings yielding just one run on four hits.  Romanczuk is now 20-3 in his career at Stanford and 15-0 at Sunken Diamond.  Meanwhile, Jeff Gilmore dominated the Hornets last weekend (after his complete game effort versus Cal two weeks ago) surrendering just two hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings.  In fact, Gilmore carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of that start only to lose the ballgame, 2-1.  Meanwhile, David O'Hagan appears headed for All-Pac-10 honors, at the very least.  O'Hagan (5-0, 2.00 ERA, 4 SV) leads the conference in ERA and opposing average (.172) and has become one of the most dominant relief pitchers in college baseball.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Sam Fuld, CF  (Sr., .280, 1 HR, 19 RBI)
2. Brian Hall, 3B  (Sr., .362, 7 HR, 38 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (So., .399, 13 HR, 53 RBI)
4. Danny Putnam, LF  (Jr., .368, 10 HR, 37 RBI)
5. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (So., .347, 10 HR, 44 RBI)
6. Donny Lucy, C  (Jr., .353, 8 HR, 31 RBI)
7. Chris Carter, DH  (Jr., .273, 4 HR, 22 RBI)
8. Chris Minaker, SS  (So., .276, 1 HR, 19 RBI)
9. Jim Rapoport, RF  (Fr., .256, 0 HR, 8 RBI)

Notes: Fuld reached the .300 mark halfway through last Friday's game versus Sac State, but a current 0-for-11 slump has dropped him back down to .280 ... Hall leads the club with ten stolen bases ... Putnam leads the team in hits with 60 (one ahead of Lowrie) ... Minaker and Lowrie bring stellar fielding percentages of .968 and .966 respectively into this weekend's games.


WASHINGTON STATE NOTES

The Cougars are in dire need of a series win, but just finding a way to get one W against Stanford has proven to be a difficult task over recent years.  In fact, since the Pac-10 merged in 1999, Stanford has a perfect 15-0 record against the Cougs.  However, 2004 is a different year and this Washington State team is much-improved.  Last year, the Cougars were a dismal 19-37 including a 7-17 record in Pac-10 play.  They've already surpassed that overall win total this year and are looking to make some noise in the Pac-10 race.  So, while a series win for WSU this weekend would certainly be surprising, don't be shocked if the Cougars rise up and win a game at some point (remember there have only been two sweeps in Pac-10 play this season ... Stanford over Cal and Washington over Arizona).

Washington State is coming off back-to-back series losses at home to USC and Arizona State.  In both series', the Cougars dropped the first two games before salvaging the final contest.  Hitting is definitely the strength of this year's WSU team, however few teams have been able to out-hit this Stanford team, especially at Sunken Diamond.  Still, one name to keep an eye on this weekend is junior first baseman and #4 hitter Grant Richardson.  Richardson is hitting .322, but his 11 homers are good for second in the Pac-10 (behind only Lowrie).  And his 48 RBI put him third in the conference in that category.  Second baseman and #2 hitter Jason Freeman leads the team in hitting at .352 and is batting well above .400 in Pac-10 play.

On the mound, nothing really jumps out at you with this Washington State team.  Despite having the worst ERA of their starting pitcher corp, Aaron MacKenzie is the ace of the staff.  His ERA took a major hit last weekend when he was tagged for nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings against ASU.  Trolia is a transfer from Clemson and has put up solid numbers this season.  Meanwhile, Alwert just joined the weekend rotation a couple of weeks ago when regular starter Bryce Chamberlin (6-1, 5.18) went down with a jaw injury.  Chamberlin will not be available this weekend. 

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Kaeo Rubin, LF  (Jr., .340, 4 HR, 29 RBI)
2. Jason Freeman, 2B  (Jr., .352, 1 HR, 26 RBI)
3. Jay Miller, RF  (So., .349, 2 HR, 32 RBI)
4. Grant Richardson, 1B  (Jr., .322, 11 HR, 48 RBI)
5. Zach McAngus, 3B  (So., .302, 5 HR, 25 RBI)
6. Collin Henderson, CF  (Sr., .234, 1 HR, 16 RBI)
7. Justin Hart, DH  (Sr., .288, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
8. Brandon Reddinger, C  (Sr., .292, 2 HR, 20 RBI)
9. Justin McClure, SS  (Fr., .217, 2 HR, 19 RBI)

Notes: Rubin is tops on the club in both doubles (13) and triples (3) ... Freeman is a really tough out in the #2 spot, he hits for a high average, doesn't strike out a lot, will lay down a bunt, and also leads the club in stolen bases with ten ... Richardson and Hart both earned All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention honors last season (WSU did not place anyone on the All-Pac-10 team) ... Jeremy Farrar (.330, 2 HR, 20 RBI) may also start at DH. 

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