Baseball To Take On Pacific, Sac State

With expected dry weather on the horizon, the Cardinal baseball team may actually get on the field for an extended period of time. On tap is a single game with Pacific on Thursday afternoon followed by a home-and-home two-game weekend set against Sacramento State. The stretch of non-conference games concludes on Tuesday with a home contest again versus the Tigers. Read on for notes on the Cardinal and their upcoming opposition.

Stanford endured yet another rainout this week when their scheduled game at San Jose State was postponed on Tuesday.  The teams hope to make the game up.  Moving forward, the Cardinal will play four non-conference games over the next six days before opening the Pac-10 season next Friday, April 1st in Pullman.

Sophomore right-hander Matt Leva will start on the hill tomorrow against the Tigers.  The Texas native began the 2005 season on fire not allowing a run over his first 8 1/3 innings.  A couple of rocky relief appearances though have ballooned his ERA up to 4.50 (14 IP/7 ER), so tomorrow's start will try to serve as a bounce back performance.  Leva likely won't have more than a few innings to show what he can do, however, as Coach Marquess may use a predetermined, relatively low pitch count with his pitcher in an effort to get a couple of relievers some time on the hill.  

With Mark Romanczuk starting on Friday night and then Jeff Gilmore getting the ball Saturday afternoon, tomorrow's matchup and the Pacific game next Tuesday will be important contests for the other seven primary pitchers.  The season picks up the following weekend at Washington State and you know Marquess will be riding out his hot hands when those games arrive.  Meanwhile, there's also the topic of the third starter that needs answered.  Nolan Gallagher has struggled over his last two Sunday starts which may result in a change of his role.  Blake Holler, Greg Reynolds, Matt Leva, or even possibly Erik Davis could be in the mix if the coaching staff does make a change.  These upcoming four non-conference games will no doubt be key for these pitchers as they look to make a good impression.

Despite plunking six batters last Sunday at Pacific, Gilmore came through with yet another quality outing on the mound.  His long relief stint started slow as he hit the first two batters he faced and then allowed a three-run homer.  But the veteran right-hander was able to put it all behind him as he went the next seven full innings without allowing a run on just three hits.  The excellent control from Gilmore (with the exception of the HBP's last Sunday) this year is not a surprise.  What is especially worth noting is the incredibly low batting average against.  The .191 figure is staggering when you consider that Gilmore doesn't miss a lot of bats since his fastball routinely only sits in the mid-80's.  What that tells you is Gilmore is doing a fantastic job of spotting his pitches and keeping hitters off-balance with an assortment of off-speed offerings.  His fastball isn't quite as hard, but what Gilmore is doing so far in 2005 is awfully similar to what All-American John Hudgins was accomplishing in '03 – both with how they pitch and their overall numbers.  

At the plate, center fielder Jim Rapoport is coming alive.  The speedy sophomore has been playing much better defense of late after a couple of rocky series' early in the year.  While at the plate, Rapoport brings a career-high five-game hitting streak into tomorrow's game.  During the streak, Rapoport is batting .529 (9-for-17).  Overall, Rapoport's season average now sits at .303.

•    For a change, the Cardinal will actually be facing teams in the next week not on lengthy winning streaks.  Stanford had faced four consecutive teams that had entered their series with the Cardinal on long win streaks : Kansas – 6, Texas – 8, USC – 4, California – 9.  Contrast that to Pacific who has lost seven in a row (the Tigers play tonight versus Hawaii) and Sacramento State who has also dropped seven straight.
•    John Mayberry, Jr. is another hitter swinging a hot bat.  The slugging first baseman has recorded five straight multi-hit games to raise his season average to a team-high .360.
•    Stanford has not committed an error in a remarkable ten of 19 games this season.  Their overall fielding percentage is at .979 – two percentage points higher than the .977 mark of the 2001 team which is the highest in school history.  The primary reason for the high percentage is the starting infield of Adam Sorgi, Chris Minaker, Jed Lowrie, and Mayberry, Jr. have combined for just three errors.
•    Despite Stanford playing the fewest games of any Pac-10 team (tied with USC), Lowrie is second in the conference in home runs (8) and tied for fifth in RBI (27).  The second baseman is also second in slugging percentage (.722).
•    The Cardinal have won 13 straight over Pacific in games played between the teams at Sunken Diamond (last UOP win was in 1977).  Stanford has also won ten consecutive over the Hornets at Sunken Diamond with the last Sac State win coming in 1994.  However, the Cardinal have struggled of late in Sacramento as the Hornets have taken two of the last three games played between the teams.  That includes a 2-1 Sac State victory last April.


The Tigers are currently 10-14 on the season and figure to toil near the bottom of the very competitive Big West Conference this season.  Losers of seven in a row, Pacific will host Hawaii tonight in Stockton before traveling to Sunken Diamond tomorrow afternoon.  The Tigers have struggled with their hitting as they enter the Hawaii game with a paltry .248 team batting average while they score under five runs per game.  UOP does have a respectable 20 home runs as a team, but nearly all of that power is coming from two players.  Justin Baum has already smoked nine home runs while Matt Berezay is at five round-trippers.  Baum is leading the team in hitting, but at just .296.

On the mound, the Cardinal will have to go up against Pacific's ace tomorrow since the Tigers have the weekend off.  Junior right-hander Luke Massetti, with his 4-2 record and 4.56 ERA, gets the ball on Thursday.  Massetti is not a strike out pitcher with just 21 punch outs in 47 1/3 innings, but he is no doubt the workhorse on this pitching staff and is expected to go deep in the game.  Massetti is in his first season with the Tigers after two All-American campaigns at Modesto Junior College.

Pacific has already played eight games this season against Pac-10 teams.  They went 2-1 in a weekend series at UCLA while they dropped both contests at Washington during a midweek tilt.  Meanwhile, the Tigers have split a pair of midweek games with Cal and, of course, dropped the 9-6 decision at home to Stanford last Sunday.


While Pacific has shown they can compete against some quality competition, the Hornets have struggled mightily throughout the season.  Sac State took 2-of-3 in their season-opening series against visiting Washington State – the most likely last place team in the Pac-10 this year.  They also went 3-0-1 against North Dakota State in a home series the last week of February.  Other than that, there hasn't been much to speak of for the Hornets.

Sac State has dropped seven straight games scoring over four runs in just one of those contests.  Last weekend, the Hornets were easily swept by 18th ranked Oregon State up in Corvallis.  Sacramento State is an independent in baseball as they fill their schedule with mainly teams from the Pac-10, Big West, and West Coast conferences (in addition to their random series' with the likes of North Dakota State and Utah Valley State).  Overall, the Hornets sit at 7-15-1, but this is a team Stanford certainly can't look past considering their recent struggles in Sacramento (see above).

Like Pacific, hitting is what has been the major flaw for the Hornets.  As a team, they're batting just .260 while scoring slightly over four runs per game.  Brett Flowers is the top hitter on the team at .321 with two home runs and 17 RBI.  Power is certainly lacking for Sac State as they've slugged just six homers through their first 23 contests.

On the mound, the Hornets have a respectable 4.73 ERA.  Ethan Katz is an experienced starting pitcher who fired a complete game, with just one run allowed, against Stanford last season.  He's been up-and-down this season with a 1-5 record and a 5.60 ERA through seven starts.  Matt Campbell (1-3, 3.60) and Trevor Plouffe (2-1, 3.80) round out the Hornets starting rotation.  Katz and Plouffe are right-handed while Campbell throws from the left side.  As of Wednesday, Sacramento State has yet to officially announce their rotation for the weekend.

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