Fall Ball: 10/25 Practice Notes

Fall Practice rolls on out at Sunken Diamond as the Cardinal baseball team participated in an intrasquad game Monday afternoon. The pitching continues to impress this fall with two veteran hurlers leading the charge today. Meanwhile, any questions about who will step in and replace Sam Fuld in center field appear to have been answered. Read on for all the latest notes and quotes from the practice field.

After taking Saturday off and undergoing a practice only on Sunday (no game), the team was back in action Monday afternoon taking part in an exciting intrasquad contest.  The first five intrasquad games of the fall season saw the hitters broken up into three groups of six or seven.  However in today's game, the coaching staff split up the hitters into just two teams of nine or ten.  This allows us to possibly get a preview of where certain players will fit in the starting lineup once the season starts.

In today's game, the White Team knocked off the Cardinal Team by a 7-1 score.  The White Team scored in each of their first five innings to take a commanding lead and they would not look back.  Four pitchers - Jeff Gilmore, Mark Romanczuk, Blake Holler, and Pete Duda - saw time on the hill.  The pitchers were not on a specific team as they faced batters from both squads.

White      2 1 1  2 1 0  0 0 0   -   7   9   0
Cardinal   0 0 0  0 0 1  0 0 x   -   1   5   3

White Team
1. Jim Rapoport, CF
2. Adam Sorgi, SS
3. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B
4. Ryan Seawell, LF
5. Chris Lewis, 3B
6. Michael Taylor, RF
7. Joe Ayers, 2B
8. Brian Juhl, C
9. Jeff Boes, DH

Cardinal Team
1. Chris Minaker, SS
2. Brendan Domaracki, RF
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B
4. John Hester, C
5. Ben Summerhays, 1B/DH
6. Randy Molina, 3B
7. Darren Gemoll, LF/1B
8. Cameron Matthews, CF
9. Josh Corn, DH
10. Zachary Gianos, DH/LF

First, take note of the starting lineups.  No surprise to see the two big boppers batting third for their respective teams.  Also no surprise to see Hester in the cleanup spot for his ballclub.  However, sophomore outfielder Ryan Seawell hit fourth today for the White Team which is a sure sign the coaching staff is high on this young man's abilities and think he can play a significant role on the team this season.  Seawell did go hitless in the contest today, however was the only player on the team to hit safely in each of the first five intrasquad games. 

I mentioned in my last practice report that Brendan Domaracki was playing well in games.  Obviously the coaching staff has also taken notice as they placed him in the #2 hole on his team today.  Domaracki is just a really solid player who does a lot of things well and could surprise some people this year if given a chance to play.  In addition, freshman Brian Juhl was exclusively the catcher for his team.  That's a pretty good sign that he is already the #2 catcher on this year's squad.  Juhl certainly has the ability (both offensively and defensively) to be a great catcher during his career on the Farm.

The top hitter of the afternoon for the White Team was sophomore center fielder Jim Rapoport.  Rapoport supplied one of the biggest hits of the ballgame when he came up with runners at second and third and one out in his team's fifth at-bat of the day.  Facing Romanczuk, Rapoport smoked a double into the corner down the left field line plating two.  As Rapoport walked to the plate, Associate Head Coach Dean Stotz yelled to him to "inside-out the ball."  This meant Romanczuk was likely going to pitch inside to which point Rapoport should try to hit the ball the other way.  Sure enough he did and with authority.  Once Rapoport reached second base, you could hear Stotz from the dugout yelling, "you're gettin' it, Rappy!  You are getting it!"  This young center fielder knows how to hit and will be a key member of the Cardinal starting nine this season.

"He hasn't started there (during his Stanford career)," remarks Coach Marquess to The Bootleg.  "But he's matured and I think he's ready to take over that spot.  If we were to start today, he would be in center field."

Rapoport can and should do so many things for this team - very much like Sam Fuld during his Cardinal career.  The one aspect of Fuld's game that I marveled at was the amazing jumps he was able to get on fly balls in center field.  Fuld's speed was good, but nothing spectacular, however he was able to track down just about everything because of those jumps.  Rapoport isn't quite at Fuld's level in that department (I have yet to see a college outfielder though at that level), but Jim's pure speed is definitely better than what Fuld brought to the table.  Rapoport also has an outstanding throwing arm that is considerably better than Fuld's.  He plays the game similarly in that he has a leadoff hitter's mentality - he's not afraid to take pitches and will draw plenty of walks.  His power stroke is also impressive when you consider his size.  Bottom line, expect big things from Jim Rapoport this year as he steps up and attempts to become a leader on this Stanford team.

In the intrasquad game today, Rapoport finished 3-for-5 with a double, two singles, a walk, and a stolen base.

Other multi-hit games from the White Team came from Mayberry, Jr. (2-for-5, 2B, RBI) and Juhl (2-for-4).  Mayberry, Jr. hammered a double to deep left center field off Jeff Gilmore in the first inning - one of few solidly struck balls off Gilmore today.  Meanwhile, Juhl continues to impress with his approach at the plate.  A lot of solid contact and someone who displays a good eye and can hit with two strikes.

Freshman outfielder Michael Taylor also had a good game as he ended the day at 1-for-3 with a triple, a sacrifice fly, and two RBI.  The triple came off Gilmore in the later stages of the pitcher's afternoon.  Gilmore was absolutely dominating the Cardinal hitters (more on that later) primarily with a fastball that he was able to spot on both corners.  Facing Taylor, Gilmore tried to sneak a curve ball by Taylor but didn't get it down far enough.  Taylor was able to get the right part of the bat on the ball and promptly lined a triple up the power alley in left center field. 

I think the best way to describe Michael Taylor is that he's raw.  Much like Mayberry, Jr. in his freshman year, there does appear to be a way to pitch Taylor to get him out (like with every freshman hitter).  But if you make a mistake to this slugging outfielder, he will make you pay dearly.  Meanwhile defensively, it's much of the same.  Taylor made a nice diving catch in the ballgame today, but didn't exactly take the most graceful route to the ball.  Later in the game, he also showed off an outstanding arm on a throw to home plate from right field.

"
He's going to be a great player," observes Coach Marquess.  "But how quickly he becomes a great player, I don't know.  Is he talented?  Yes.  Can he have a good year as a freshman?  Yeah, he can.  He's very tooled and talented and is a hard-worker.  Ability-wise, there's nothing to keep him from being successful.  It's just about how quickly he makes the adjustment freshman year."

Based on my observations, there's no reason to think Taylor can't be an important part of the Cardinal offense this year.  Especially when you consider that both corner outfield positions are up for grabs.  However, I will caution fans that there is still a long way to go for Taylor to really be an impact player in the Pac-10.  We shall see if the potential is realized as soon as this spring.

Overall, it was a good day for the pitchers.  This has been a theme of fall practice which shouldn't surprise anyone when you consider all the returning talent on this pitching staff.

Juniors Jeff Gilmore and Mark Romanczuk started today's game.  Gilmore struggled briefly in his first inning giving up a leadoff single to Rapoport and then RBI doubles to Mayberry, Jr. and Lewis.  But after that, the Huntington Beach native was nearly unhittable.  And when you think of Jeff Gilmore being unhittable it usually means he's throwing a lot of strikes (especially with his offspeed stuff) and inducing ground ball after ground ball.  Well, he was certainly throwing plenty of strikes today, but what I observed from Gilmore was not what we've come accustomed to seeing.

In his 5 1/3 innings of work, Gilmore struck out a whopping nine with just two walks (hitters still start each count at 1-1).  Seven of those strike outs came in his last three frames and the majority were coming on the fastball.  Gilmore doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but his effort today with that heater reminded me of a Jason Young or Jeremy Guthrie performance.  Now don't get me wrong, Gilmore doesn't have a low-mid 90's fastball like those two, but his offspeed stuff is so good right now that when you complement it with a fastball that you can throw anywhere than this is the result you're going to get. 

Personality-wise (and even pitching-wise), Gilmore most resembles former Stanford ace John Hudgins.   Both hurlers thrive off a spectacular change-up and a well-located fastball.  Gilmore and Hudgins are each tremendous students of the game who are also ultra-competitive.   Based on what I've seen from Gilmore thus far in the fall (he easily has the top strikeout-to-walk ratio on the team) plus what he accomplished last summer up in Alaska (0.67 ERA in 27 innings with six walks and 40 K's), I have plenty of reason to think that he's going to improve on his final numbers from a season ago. 

For this first time this fall, Mark Romanczuk has his full arsenal of pitches.  The curve ball had a nice break on it today and he was able to locate it reasonably well.  Over his first two innings, Romanczuk surrendered just one hit and no earned runs.  His final inning of work saw him allow two runs on two hits with the aforementioned Rapoport double the big blow.  Romanczuk was hardly overpowering today with no strike outs, but remember he is one rotation behind his fellow pitchers (see previous practice reports) and may be holding a little back.

Junior Pete Duda was one of two other pitchers that also saw time on the hill.  Duda, who has only thrown 5 1/3 innings over his first two years at Stanford, continues to impress and I further believe he will see some meaningful innings out of the bullpen this year.  In today's contest, Duda surrendered just one run on three hits in four innings with no walks and three strike outs.  His fastball was quite lively today with lots of natural movement on it.  And that's a good combination for Duda who throws one of the hardest balls on the team.

Last but not least, sophomore Blake Holler threw today.  I talked about Holler in earlier fall reports saying that his stuff was really on but control has been a bit of an issue.  Better control this afternoon (four walks in 4 2/3 innings), but still plenty of room to improve.  But I must say, the pure stuff Holler is bringing to the table right now is very, very impressive.  He was practically unhittable this afternoon with just two singles allowed in 4 2/3 innings.  He did not allow a run while he fanned six.

What the coaching staff does with Holler this season should be interesting to watch.  Based on what I've seen in the fall, Holler can be a very successful starting pitcher for Stanford in 2005.  The stuff and the makeup is most definitely there.  Again, I do have some concerns with his control, but it is just the fall and this is the time most pitchers work on a lot of things so we'll see if this improves in January (although the fall season is far from complete).  Holler right now has a slight edge on Gilmore for the fall team-lead in strike outs while his ERA is now below one.  One of Holler's main competitors for the third starters spot is his classmate Greg Reynolds and Reynolds currently has the lowest opposing batting average of any Cardinal hurler in the fall (well below .200).   There is certainly no shortage of talented pitchers on this staff and the battle for playing time should be very exciting as the fall and January seasons unfold.

*******

A few quick notes on Friday's intrasquad game:
* Sophomore Logan Ardis was the top pitcher of the day.  Ardis did not pitch in a single game last year as a freshman, but tossed five quality innings on Friday (1 R, 3 H).  Ardis struggled mightily with his control in the first inning, but settled down and was able to pitch effectively for the remainder of his outing.  It's tough to see Ardis seeing much time on this talented staff in 2005, but as he continues to improve, Logan can certainly be a key pitcher in the years to come.

* Freshman walk-on pitchers Rex Petrill and David Stringer also threw on Friday.  Both are local products with Petrill graduating from St. Francis High School and Stringer from Palo Alto High School.

* Chris Lewis had an outstanding afternoon at the plate with a perfect 3-for-3 effort.  All three hits were singles with one recording an RBI.  Lewis is starting to see more playing time at third base and I'd give him the edge over freshman Randy Molina for that starting position if the season were to begin today.  This position will likely come down to who hits more and thus far, Lewis has been more impressive with the bat through the first week and a half of fall practice.

* Adam Sorgi also had a strong day going 2-for-3 with a pair of ringing doubles (one off the wall).  Sorgi also has the ability to play third base, but I've yet to see him over there in intrasquad games or in drills.  The sophomore from Mission Viejo has been backing up Chris Minaker at shortstop.

* A pair of pitchers in sophomore Matt Leva and freshman Nolan Gallagher are currently inactive.  Neither has done any throwing in intrasquad games or even on the side from what I've seen.  I personally have not heard that either player is suffering from a serious injury, but both have been shut down for the time being.  October is certainly not the month to push anything when it comes to injuries.  Nine scholarship pitchers (Romanczuk, Gilmore, Duda, Holler, Manship, Reynolds, Stimpson, Davis, Ardis) plus two walk-ons (Petrill, Stringer) are currently active this fall.

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