Baseball Notebook

The start of preseason practice is only two weeks away as the Cardinal baseball team gets set to defend their Pac-10 title. Among the latest news and notes includes a couple of additions to the current recruiting class. Read on for all the details plus other tidbits of information.

Last month, I wrote a detailed article on Stanford's current recruiting class (Baseball Lands Top Recruiting Class).  The Cardinal have locked in a class filled with pitching (primarily left-handed pitching), outfielders, and catchers with numerous players expected to make immediate contributions.  However, one position that was notably absent was that of first base.  Fear not though as The Bootleg has learned of a first base commitment in the form of Illinois native Grant Escue.

Escue bats and throws left-handed and is not a particularly big guy by first baseman standards (6'0", 180 lbs.).  Reportedly, Escue features a very nice line drive swing from the left side and has shown he can go the opposite way with authority.  More power is expected from Escue as he continues to mature and grow stronger.  As a junior last spring, Escue hit .495 with 18 doubles and 30 RBI.  The Cardinal beat out SEC school Tennessee for his services while Escue also considered Notre Dame, Arizona State, Missouri, and Purdue.

The Cardinal have also nabbed yet another left-handed pitcher (the fourth of this class).  Blake Hancock from Kingwood, Texas has committed to Stanford and will begin his collegiate career in the fall of 2005.  Hancock is a finesse hurler with a fastball in the mid 80's.  He's reportedly a very polished pitcher and that should allow Hancock to fit in nicely on the Farm next season.  He's not a big guy at 5'11", 170 lbs, and the lack of size likely doesn't make him much of a pro prospect at this point in his career, however the coaching staff has to be excited that they've gone into Texas and picked up one of the top pitchers in the state.  Of note, the last Cardinal pitcher to come out of Kingwood, Texas was 1998 Baseball America Player of the Year and eventual first round draft pick Jeff Austin.


NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

It will be another difficult non-conference schedule for the Stanford Cardinal this season with six three-game series' on tap before the start of Pac-10 play.  Stanford opens the season on January 28th with a three-game set at Sunken Diamond versus Fresno State.  The Bulldogs were once one of the top programs on the west coast as recently as the 1990's, but have been rebuilding of late under head coach Mike Batesole.  Last year, Fresno broke even at 29-29, but did finish 17-12 in the WAC and won their last five games of the season (including a series win over Rice).  The Bulldogs lost a lot of talented hitting from last season's team, but do return eight of their top nine pitchers so an above .500 season is expected from Batesole in '05.

Following the Fresno series, the Cardinal travel south to take on the defending national champion and preseason #3 ranked team in the country, Cal State Fullerton.  The last time Stanford played a regular season series in Fullerton, they were swept away by the Titans in convincing fashion (February of 2003).  The Cardinal will then come back home for a three-game series versus the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks finished last year at 31-31-1, but well under .500 in Big 12 play finishing in ninth place (there are only ten teams in the Big 12 in baseball).  On paper, this looks to be a necessary series to win as it comes immediately after the Fullerton tilt and right before a matchup against the preseason #1 ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin.  Texas finished second at the College World Series last year and as evident by that preseason ranking, look to have all the necessary ingredients to get back to Omaha.  A pair of road series' versus Cal State Fullerton and Texas during the first month of the season will tell us quite a bit about where this Stanford team stands early on this year.

The final two non-conference series' are back at Sunken Diamond against Pac-10 foes.  The USC Trojans and California Golden Bears invade Sunken Diamond the last week of February and the first week of March respectively.  Neither team reached the NCAA Tournament last season and both are picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Pac-10 this year.  After two weeks off for final exams in mid-March, Stanford will play a pair of home-and-home, two-game sets versus Pacific and Sacramento State before opening conference play on April 1st at Washington State.  A full Pac-10 (and national) preview can be found here : Pac-10/National Preview


PRESEASON ACCOLADES

The Cardinal have already received a lofty preseason ranking this month as Collegiate Baseball tabbed Stanford #6 in their Top 40 poll.  Stanford was also given the preseason #6 ranking by Collegiate Baseball (and Baseball America) last year at this time.  They ended the '04 campaign with the #9 national ranking after falling to Long Beach State in the regionals at Sunken Diamond.  Baseball America is expected to release their Preseason Top 25 poll during the first week of January.

Stanford is one of four Pac-10 teams ranked by Collegiate Baseball as Arizona State (#11), Arizona (#12), and Washington (#17) also found their way into the poll.  Stanford hosts the Wildcats and Huskies this year while they'll be traveling down to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils.

Three Cardinal players have also earned Preseason All-American honors thus far.  Jed Lowrie (.399, 17 HR, 68 RBI in 2004) and John Mayberry, Jr. (.333, 16 HR, 62 RBI) garnered First Team honors from both Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.  Meanwhile, ace pitcher Mark Romanczuk (11-3, 4.31) was named a Second Team All-American by both organizations.  Stanford was tied for the most players selected on the NCBWA team with these three.  Only Texas, with four chosen, had more players represented than the Cardinal on the Collegiate Baseball team.


ON DECK: PRESEASON PRACTICE

Winter may have just started, but preseason practice is just around the corner.  The team is scheduled to conduct their first full-team, preseason practice on Friday, January 7th - two weeks from today.  They will play approximately 12 intrasquad games out at Sunken Diamond starting on the 7th up until opening day on January 28th.

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