Texas Preview

It's one of those weekends that you circle on the calendar prior to the start of the season. The 6th ranked Cardinal baseball team faces one of their toughest tests of the season when they take on the 4th ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin. Stanford is coming off a sweep of Kansas while the Longhorns are a perfect 8-0 on the young season. Here is a complete series preview.

#6 Stanford (7-2)  at  #4 Texas (8-0)

Friday - 12:30pm
Saturday - 12:00pm
Sunday - 11:00am

All times Pacific


The Stanford Cardinal return to the field this weekend when they battle the Texas Longhorns in a three-game series in Austin.  The Cardinal have won four games in a row after their sweep of Kansas last week.  Stanford easily won the first two games by scores of 7-3 and 9-2 before scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth in the finale to win 7-6.  The Cardinal, in playing Texas, will be taking on their second top 5 team on the road already this season.

The Longhorns, the national runners-up in 2004, are off to a hot start this year with a perfect 8-0 record.  Texas swept away visiting UNLV last weekend (4-3, 7-6, 12-3) and then smoked UT-San Antonio, 10-0, in a midweek contest.  The Longhorns opened the season with a road sweep of San Diego State.  Texas checks in at #4 in this week's Baseball America poll although they currently own the top ranking according to Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA, and the coaches.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 2-1, 3.50)  vs.  Texas- Randy Boone (RHP; 1-0, 1.64)

Saturday: Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 2-0, 1.89)  vs.  Texas- Buck Cody (LHP; 1-0, 3.72)

Sunday: Stanford- Nolan Gallagher (RHP; 0-1, 0.90)  vs.  Texas- Kyle McCulloch (RHP; 1-0, 4.85)


WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH

* The Bullpens:
This series could come down to which bullpen performs better.  Both clubs have strong pitching staffs from top-to-bottom (likely two of the best in the country) and Disch-Falk Field in Austin in unquestionably one of the better pitchers parks in college baseball.  Low scoring, tight games are expected, so the bullpens should play a major role in the late innings.  The two hot relievers right now for the Cardinal are sophomores Matt Leva (8 1/3 IP, 0 R, 8 SO) and Blake Holler (3.18 ERA, 11 1/3 IP, 13 SO).  Meanwhile, the Longhorns have a red-hot setup man in Clayton Stewart (9 1/3 IP, 0 R, 8 SO) while J. Brent Cox (7 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 10 SO) is probably the top closer in college baseball.

* Jed Lowrie and John Mayberry, Jr.: In a big series like this one, you want your big-time players to step up.  Lowrie and Mayberry have started strong this year with the second baseman hitting at a .361 clip while the towering first baseman is at .343.  The two have also combined for seven home runs in the early going and each are averaging well over an RBI per game.

* Drew Stubbs: This is a name to remember.  Stubbs is Texas' sophomore center fielder and their leadoff hitter.  The guy does it all and has the perfect pro body at 6'4", 199 lbs.  After being drafted in third round out of high school, Stubbs came through with a solid freshman campaign in which he hit .301 with eight home runs and 28 stolen bases.  After starring with Team USA over the summer, Stubbs was named a Preseason First Team All-American heading into this year.  He's now off to a hot start in '05 with a .417 batting average (15-for-36), a home run, five RBI, and three stolen bases.  Stubbs can beat you in a number of ways and will no doubt be a focal point this weekend for the Cardinal pitching staff.


STANFORD NOTES

The Cardinal have been very competitive thus far in the year as they boast a 7-2 record with the two losses coming to defending national champion Cal State Fullerton by a combined margin of three runs.  Pitching has been the major strength of the team as the club ERA sits at 3.42.  Jeff Gilmore has so far built on his solid sophomore campaign as the right-hander has been nearly unhittable through his first three starts.  Gilmore has allowed just four earned runs in 19 innings with only three walks issued and 16 strike outs.  Gilmore, a pitcher without overpowering stuff, is generally a pitcher that will give up some hits (although he'll still be effective).  But so far this season, through three starts, the opposition is hitting a paltry .145 against the Saturday starter.

Nolan Gallagher will get his second straight start on Sunday after tossing five shutout innings versus Kansas.  Gallagher, the hardest thrower of any pitcher in the starting rotation, scattered seven hits against the Jayhawks with one walk and five K's.  Gallagher replaced Greg Reynolds who has moved to the bullpen after two ineffective starts.  Reynolds made an appearance last Saturday versus Kansas and threw 1 2/3 innings with one run allowed to close out the ballgame.

Offensively, the Cardinal continue to score their fair share of runs via the long ball.  Stanford has clubbed an impressive 13 homers through their first nine games with, not a surprise, Lowrie and Mayberry, Jr. leading the way.  John Hester has yet to homer, but the junior catcher has blasted five doubles and has 11 RBI on his resume.  Chris Minaker enters the series with a .343 batting average while Chris Lewis has already knocked out three home runs.  Meanwhile, Adam Sorgi is coming off a 4-for-5 game last Sunday versus the Jayhawks that included the game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Michael Taylor, RF  (Fr., .156, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
2. John Hester, C  (Jr., .333, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (Jr., .361, 4 HR, 12 RBI)
4. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (Jr., .343, 3 HR, 14 RBI)
5. Chris Minaker, SS  (Jr., .343, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
6. Adam Sorgi, 3B  (So., .323, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
7. Chris Lewis, LF  (Jr., .222, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
8. Jim Rapoport, CF  (So., .250, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
9. Ben Summerhays, DH  (Jr., .133, 0 HR, 1 RBI)  or  Ryan Seawell, DH  (So., .111, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Fri- Mark Romanczuk, LHP (Jr., 2-1, 3.50 ERA, 18 IP, 11 BB, 14 SO)
Sat- Jeff Gilmore, RHP (Jr., 2-0, 1.89 ERA, 19 IP, 3 BB, 16 SO)
Sun- Nolan Gallagher, RHP (Fr., 0-1, 0.90 ERA, 10 IP, 2 BB, 10 SO)

Notes: Taylor picked up his first collegiate extra base hit when he tripled down the right field line in the Kansas series finale ... Hester is a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen bases ... Lowrie leads the team in batting average, home runs, and slugging percentage ... Minaker has yet to strike out in 35 AB's ... Sorgi raised his average 92 points (.231 to .323) with his four-hit game last Sunday ... Summerhays and Seawell have combined to go just 3-for-24 (.125) ... Romanczuk is holding the opposition to a .190 batting average against.


TEXAS NOTES

The Longhorns are off to a perfect start this season and are without a doubt one of the premier college baseball programs in the country.  However, the last time Texas won a regular season series from Stanford was back in 1999 when they took 2-of-3 from the Cardinal.  The teams split a rain-shortened, two-game series in 2000 while Stanford has won the last four regular season series' played between the teams (2001-04).  Texas does though own the two most important wins of this recent series when they defeated the Cardinal twice in the 2002 College World Series en route to the national championship.

Last season, Texas and Stanford spent the final three months of the regular year alternating between the #1 and #2 spots in the polls.  Entering the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal sat at the #1 position with Texas just behind them.  Stanford was knocked off twice by Long Beach State in the regional ending their season, but the Longhorns cruised their sub-regional with three straight wins and then swept Vanderbilt in the Supers to advance to Omaha.  While in Omaha, Texas fairly easily won their bracket with three straight wins and entered the championship series as the heavy favorite.  But a red-hot Cal State Fullerton ballclub recorded a pair of close victories (6-4 and 3-2) to sweep the Longhorns and deny Texas of their sixth NCAA championship.

Fast forward to this season, and there's a reason the Longhorns are ranked in the top five in all four polls and expected to make another run to Omaha.  Seven of their 12 regular position players starters returned led by the aforementioned Stubbs in center field.  Junior catcher Taylor Teagarden, a teammate of Stubbs on the US National Team, also possesses a potent bat in the middle of the lineup and is off to a hot start (.435, 2 HR, 9 RBI).  Shortstop Seth Johnston was a seventh round draft pick last June, but somewhat surprisingly returned to Austin for his senior season.  He enters the weekend tops on the team with a .441 average to go with three doubles, three triples, and two home runs through the first eight games.  Texas' top of the lineup looks to be as strong as anyone's in the country with Stubbs leading off, Johnston batting second, and then Teagarden hitting third.

The Longhorns offense last season was nothing to really write home about (.289 average).  Certainly playing in pitching-friendly Disch-Falk Field had something to do with it, however the offense obviously did enough since Texas racked up a 58-15 record a year ago.  Pitching is always the strength of Texas and I would expect nothing less this season.  The staff compiled a 2.66 ERA in '04, but did lose many of those key players.  All three starting pitchers have moved on as All-American J.P. Howell was a top draft pick, Sam LeCure (who was a Preseason All-American this season and the expected ace) was kicked off the team because of grades, and Justin Simmons (who went 16-1 back in '02) has graduated.  All-American closer Huston Street is also no longer with Texas after the Oakland A's selected him in the first round.

Don't feel sorry for Texas, however.  J. Brent Cox is as dominant a pitcher as there is in college baseball.  Cox probably would have been the closer on every team in the country last season with the exception of Texas.  In 2004, he racked up a 6-2 record with a 2.12 ERA and five saves while mainly setting up for Street.  He has the closer role all to himself in 2005 and thus far he's been unhittable ... literally.  The junior right-hander, who starred as the closer for Team USA last summer, has allowed only one basehit through 7 1/3 scoreless innings this season.  He's walked only two and struck out ten.  Opponents have a .043 average against him so far this season.

As for the starters, the Longhorns should still boast one of the top starting rotations in the country despite the three new faces.  Sophomore righty Randy Boone has moved into the Friday slot after a successful rookie campaign as a long reliever and Tuesday starter.  Boone went 3-1 last season with a 3.27 ERA and is off to a hot start this year with just two earned runs allowed through 11 innings over his first two starts.  The Saturday spot in the rotation belongs to senior lefty Buck Cody.  Cody shared the setup duties with Cox last season and was magnificent owning a 1.81 ERA and a .195 opponents batting average in a team-best 40 appearances.  Finally, sophomore right-hander Kyle McCulloch has taken over the Sunday job.  McCulloch, like Boone, was used in long relief and as a Tuesday starter a year ago in finishing a perfect 7-0 with a 3.25 ERA.  He's been a bit up-and-down through his first two starts this season, but 14 strike outs in 13 innings speaks to his excellent stuff.

It's really no surprise that the Longhorns garnered the #1 ranking in 3/4 of the preseason polls (and my "Super Sixteen" as well).  It's an experienced lineup with plenty of high average players.  Head coach Augie Garrido likes to play small ball, so expect plenty of sacrifice bunts and stolen bases this weekend,  Meanwhile, on the mound, the starters are all new to their role, but each has already proven that they can be very successful at this level with their work from a year ago.  And if Stanford doesn't have the lead after seven innings, it's going to be awfully hard to win the game because you know Cox is coming in. 

Interestingly, Texas and Stanford tied for the most players on the US National Team this past summer.  The Longhorns had Stubbs, Teagarden, and Cox on the Gold Medal winning team.  Meanwhile, Lowrie, Mayberry, Jr., and Romanczuk represented the Cardinal on the Red, White, and Blue.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Drew Stubbs, CF  (So., .417, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
2. Seth Johnston, SS  (Sr., .441, 2 HR, 11 RBI)
3. Taylor Teagarden, C  (Jr., .435, 2 HR, 9 RBI)
4. Will Crouch, DH  (Sr., .348, 2 HR, 6 RBI)
5. Calvin Beamon, RF  (Jr., .211, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
6. Carson Kainer, LF  (So., .346, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
7. Chance Wheeless, 1B  (So., .294, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
8. Robby Hudson, 2B  (Sr., .226, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
9. Clay Van Hook, 3B  (So., .227, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Fri- Randy Boone, RHP  (So., 1-0, 1.64 ERA, 11 IP, 2 BB, 12 SO)
Sat- Buck Cody, LHP  (Sr., 1-0, 3.72 ERA, 9.2 IP, 4 BB, 7 SO)
Sun- Kyle McCulloch, RHP  (So., 1-0, 4.85 ERA, 13 IP, 5 BB, 14 SO)

Notes: Stubbs is a near certain first round draft pick in 2006 ... Johnston hit .296 with seven home runs last season ... Teagarden has been projected by Baseball America to be drafted in the middle portion of the first round this June ... Crouch had just 31 AB's last season (0 HR, 3 RBI) ... He's already surpassed those home run and RBI totals from a year ago ... Kainer had an outstanding freshman campaign last spring finishing the season with a .335 batting average (second on the team) ... Cody was a seventh round draft pick last June, but elected to return for his senior season.

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