Baseball Weekend Roundup

It was a tough weekend for the Cardinal baseball team as they were swept away by the Texas Longhorns. Stanford was competitive all weekend, losing the three games by a total of four runs, but the end result was still a sweep - the first against Stanford since February of 2003. Read on for notes on the series, the latest from around the Pac-10, and an updated "Super Sixteen."

Pac-10 Standings (overall records through games of Mon. 2/21)

USC                 4-0
Arizona             9-1
Oregon State        6-1
California          6-4
UCLA                6-4
Stanford            7-5
Washington State    5-5
Arizona State       6-8
Washington          2-4

It was a weekend of mixed results for the Pac-10.  Stanford took on the #4 Texas Longhorns and were promptly swept away, albeit only losing the three games by a combined margin of four runs.  Arizona State was also swept on the road against a top-notch opponent when the #1 Tulane Green Wave took out the Sun Devils.  ASU was far less competitve than Stanford dropping the three games, 8-2, 7-2, and 9-3.  It's been a frustrating beginning of the season for the Sun Devils as combined with the thrashing they took this weekend, they've also lost a home series to Long Beach State (who is now unranked).  ASU has also dropped single non-conference games to Oregon State and Arizona.  The Sun Devils garnered the #9 preseason ranking, but have now fallen all the way out of the poll.  It won't get much easier with non-conference series' versus 8th ranked Baylor and #2 LSU still on the docket.

The headline of the weekend had to be Cal's road sweep of (previously) #20 Long Beach State.  The Bears displayed excellent pitching all weekend defeating the Dirtbags by the scores of 3-2, 7-4, and 3-1.  Long Beach is playing without a couple of key hitters, but it was still an impressive sweep for the young Bears.

USC didn't have a chance to get even one game of their series in with #3 Cal State Fullerton because of wet weather down south.  The first game of the series was started, however, with the Trojans holding onto a 7-2, eighth inning lead.  Ian Kennedy was getting the best of Ricky Romero in that tilt.  That game will be completed eventually with the other two contests both scheduled for a later date.

Washington rebounded from getting swept by Irvine as they took 2-of-3 at Santa Clara this weekend.  After losing in the opener with ace Tim Lincecum on the mound, the Huskies posted 13-2 and 3-2 wins to take the series.  Other action saw UCLA lose their only game of the weekend to previously winless (0-6) Utah at home.  The other two contests were washed out.  Washington State split a four-game series with Portland while #10 Arizona managed a 2-of-3 series win at UT-Pan American.  The finale did see the Wildcats get handled 7-0, however.  Oregon State won both of their games last weekend (UC Davis and San Diego).

The big series this weekend pits Stanford and USC at Sunken Diamond.  The Trojans just might be back after two straight NCAA Tournament misses.  USC, on the strength of their perfect 4-0 record, is back in the top 25 at #22.  Arizona State also looks to get back on track with a key home set versus #8 Baylor.  Washington continues their road swing with a lengthy round-robin tournament at Texas A&M.

Texas Series Notes

It was obviously not the ideal weekend for Stanford as they were swept by the Longhorns, 6-4, 8-7, and 5-4.  UT Preseason All-American Drew Stubbs was nearly impossible to get out as the center fielder came up with numerous clutch hits all weekend.  He smacked three home runs, two of which were of the inside-the-park variety and one of those won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday.  Texas has a complete team with star power in their lineup, a balanced offensive attack, and one of the better pitching staffs in the country.  Perhaps their only main weakness is lack of pitching depth.  Augie Garrido was forced to bring back his Friday starter in short relief on Sunday in addition to using both his relief stars, Clayton Stewart and J. Brent Cox, in all three games.  Credit Stanford for getting to Cox in the Saturday game (six runs allowed without recording an out) - Cox may not give up much more than six runs the rest of the season.

Concerning Stanford, one way to look at this series is that the Longhorns are an incredible team, ranked #1 in three of the four major polls, and have loads of professional prospects.  Despite all of this, the Cardinal easily could have won all three games with a clutch hit here or there or the benefit of a couple of very questionable calls on the basepaths on Sunday that didn't go there way.  But the bottom line is that the Cardinal did lose all three games (first time Stanford has been swept in the 32 regular season series' - dates back to February of 2003, at Fullerton).  It's now time to figure out what went wrong and to regroup.

Mark Romanczuk suffered through a difficult outing in the opener surrendering five runs in just 3 1/3 innings.  The lefty entered the season with one of the highest winning percentages in Stanford history, but has been very up-and-down for a supposed junior ace hurler through four starts.  Jeff Gilmore didn't fare much better on Saturday (4 1/3 IP, 4 ER), but has shown the ability to throw many more strikes than Romanczuk and on the whole has been much more consistent (Gilmore's ERA at 3.09 with a .211 opposing average ... Romanczuk at 4.64 with a .269 average).  Against the marquee opponent, the coaching staff was certainly looking for more from their two top pitchers and for the most part they struggled.  But it was tough competition and the pitchers, even the best, have off days, so now you look to see how each bounces back in their next two starts (both at home) before finals break.

The third starter spot appears to be locked down for the time being with freshman Nolan Gallagher throwing well.  After his five shutout innings versus Kansas, Gallagher carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth this week versus the Longhorns.  The Montana native did surrender a couple of runs in that sixth frame to knock him out of the game, but it was still, overall, an impressive outing.  Through 15 1/3 innings this season, Gallagher has allowed just three earned runs to go with 15 strike outs.  Not bad for a freshman against this high level of competition.   The future looks very bright.

The same can be said for the other freshman pitcher, Erik Davis.  Davis was a bit up-and-down over his first three outings, but came up with a masterful long relief stint in the Friday contest versus Texas.  Over 4 2/3 innings, Davis allowed one run on three hits.  He also struck out four.  Fans can certainly expect to see plenty of Gallagher and Davis in big spots this season.

Perhaps the pitcher most suffering from the emergence of these freshman pitchers is sophomore Jeff Stimpson.  Stimpson was one of Stanford's top relievers last year as a freshman and is coming off a fantastic summer in Alaska (as a starter) and equally impressive fall and January practice seasons on the Farm.  It was expected that Stimpson would be one of the primary late-inning relievers this year (Coach Marquess even indicated this), but through 12 games, the right-hander has yet to make an appearance.  No reason has been given, but his absence has certainly been noticed.

As for the hitting, the Cardinal did a nice job with the bats in the final two games rapping out 29 hits.  Jed Lowrie continues to his thing as the slugging second baseman has now homered in four consecutive games.  He's already blasted seven round-trippers this season to go with 20 RBI and a cool .354 batting average.  Mayberry, Jr. also is sitting pretty at .354 with a very healthy three home runs and 14 RBI - good enough to lead just about every other team in the country.  The respect Lowrie is getting from opposing coaches was evident on Sunday when Garrido, with a runner at second and one out and a one-run lead in the seventh, walked Lowrie intentionally.  Not often do you see a head coach put the go-ahead run on base for free especially with a probable first round draft pick coming up next. 

Adam Sorgi and Michael Taylor have also been swinging hot bats of late.  Sorgi has his season average up to .341 and is showing tremendous improvement since last season.  Meanwhile, it appears Taylor is getting the hang of college pitching as the freshman right fielder has recorded four multi-hit games in a row.  Taylor continues to hit leadoff for Stanford.

Moving forward, the Cardinal coaching staff certainly has to be looking for continued production from the entire lineup.  The bottom of the order guys (plus Taylor at the top) are gaining more experience and each is starting to produce a little more.   The pitching has been good as very rarely has an opponent broken out against this staff so far.  I would anticipate the starters will continue to have relatively quick hooks with the depth of the bullpen.  However, it's certainly worth noting that Marquess continues to go with the same relievers as his first options out of the 'pen.

"Super Sixteen"

                      Record   Pvs.
1. Texas               11-0     1
* Longhorns remain perfect with sweep of Stanford.

2. CS Fullerton         5-1     3
* Titans rout Loyola Marymount in midweek game before weekend series versus USC was washed out.

3. South Carolina       6-0     5
* Gamecocks still unbeaten after sweep of visiting Radford.

4. Tulane               7-0     7
* Green Wave move up after impressive sweep of Arizona State.

5. LSU                  7-0     6
* Tigers with perfect 5-0 record with wins over Nicholls State, UL-Munroe, and Arkansas-Little Rock.

6. Miami                8-2     2
* Hurricanes drop down after losing 2-of-3 at Florida in closely contested series.

7. Georgia              3-0     8
* Bulldogs open season with sweep of visiting Elon (only five runs allowed in three games).

8. Stanford             7-5     4
* Cardinal take a tumble after getting swept at Texas.

9. Mississippi          3-1     9
* Rebels post 2-1 record at tournament at Rice (1-0 vs. Lamar, 1-0 vs. SW Missouri State, 0-1 at Rice).

10. Arizona             9-1    10
* Wildcats record midweek win over Arizona State and then take 2-of-3 at UT-Pan American.

11. Florida             5-2    14
* Gators pick up big series win by taking 2-of-3 from Miami.

12. North Carolina      4-0    15
* Tar Heels get started with perfect week against Appalachian State and Seton Hall (just two runs allowed in four games).

13. Washington          2-4    11
* Huskies rebound by taking 2-of-3 at Santa Clara.

14. Texas A&M           5-2    NR
* Aggies back in the "Super Sixteen" after 4-0 week with wins over Jacksonville, South Alabama, and Wake Forest in a tournament.

15. Rice                7-1    NR
* Owls with a perfect 3-0 record at their own tournament - included win over Mississippi.

16. Baylor              5-2    16
* Bears break even at 2-2 that includes home series win over Oral Roberts.

Dropped Out: Long Beach State (5-6, 0-3 last week), Arizona State (6-8, 0-4 last week).

Baseball America

The Cardinal fell all the way down to #13 in this week's Baseball America Top 25 poll.  Texas and Fullerton flip-flopped with the Longhorns now sitting at #3 and the Titans at #4.  Tulane remained at #1 after their sweep of Arizona State.

As for the rest of the Pac-10, Arizona is now the highest ranked team at #9.  In addition to Stanford, Washington (#19), and USC (#22) are also in the poll.

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