Arizona Preview

The Stanford Cardinal get set for their final home series of the regular season when they welcome Arizona to Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal are trying to finish the year strong as they search for a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the 8th ranked Wildcats still have Pac-10 championship aspirations. Read on for an in-depth preview of this weekend's opponent.

The 8th ranked Wildcats come to town this weekend in a key three-game series for both clubs.  Arizona still has visions of winning the Pac-10 championship after an impressive series victory at Arizona State last week.  The Wildcats, at 14-4 in conference play, are tied in the loss column with Oregon State.  However, the Beavers are one series ahead of Arizona and
currently sit at 17-4 as they finish their conference schedule this weekend at home against USC.  The Wildcats will definitely be scoreboard watching this weekend as they try to take care of business on the field against the Cardinal.

Expectations were high down in the desert for this team during the preseason.  Arizona returned nearly their entire starting lineup from a club that reached the College World Series last season.  Plus, one of their top starting pitchers in John Meloan, who went 10-0 last season, was back to anchor the rotation.  Now entering the home stretch, those expectations have certainly been met as Meloan and Kevin Guyette have both posted solid campaigns at the top of the rotation.  The offense is the most potent in the conference, if not the entire country.  Meanwhile, they've put themselves into a position to win the Pac-10 and host a regional next month.

The offense has the ability to reach double figures in runs against any pitcher in the country.  Arizona is hitting .334 as a team while they score 8.8 runs per game – both figures are tops in the conference and rank in the top ten nationally.  At the forefront of the offense is left fielder Trevor Crowe who is considered the leading candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year.  Crowe does it all for this Arizona team from the leadoff spot in the lineup with a spectacular .427 batting average, nine home runs, 50 RBI, and 22 stolen bases.

Crowe in the Pac-10:
·    1st in batting average: .427
·    1st in slugging percentage: .759
·    1st in runs scored: 72
·    1st in hits: 94
·    1st in doubles: 22
·    1st in triples: 9
·    1st in stolen bases: 22

Crowe is just one point ahead of Oregon State's Jacoby Ellsbury (.426) for the top batting average in the conference.  The junior was a starting outfielder for the U.S. National Team last summer, is a strong possibility for First Team All-American honors this year, and is receiving mention as a potential National Player of the Year candidate.  Crowe bats first in the order, so it's going to be absolutely key for the Cardinal pitchers to hold down the #7, #8, and #9 batters in the Wildcat lineup.

The 3-4-5 portion of the Arizona starting lineup is also dangerous with Jeff Van Houten, Jordan Brown, and Nick Hundley each putting up big numbers this season.  Van Houten is a former All-American as a sophomore who struggled a bit last season as a junior.  He's reemerged as a force on the national scene this year with a .360 batting average, seven home runs, and 60 RBI.

Batting right behind Van Houten is first baseman Jordan Brown.  Another veteran with CWS experience, Brown is tops in the conference in RBI with 72.  He's also hitting .342 with 11 home runs.  Catcher Nick Hundley bats fifth with his .348 average, 13 homers, and 40 RBI.  The 13 round-trippers are good for the third most in the Pac-10.  These hitters are all too good to keep down completely, but the Cardinal pitchers have to be able to limit the damage to have a chance at winning this series.

As a whole, the Wildcats starting nine is a great mixture of power and speed.  Crowe and Brad Boyer (14 stolen bases) will run wild on the base paths.  The trio of Van Houten, Brown, and Hundley form a potent, powerful middle of the order.  And even the bottom third is filled with tough outs.  Arizona wins with offense and is counting on their hitters to once again carry them to the College World Series.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1.    Trevor Crowe, LF  (Jr., .427, 9 HR, 50 RBI)
2.    Brad Boyer, 2B  (Jr., .273, 3 HR, 35 RBI)
3.    Jeff Van Houten, RF  (Sr., .368, 7 HR, 60 RBI)
4.    Jordan Brown, 1B  (Jr., .342, 11 HR, 72 RBI)
5.    Nick Hundley, C  (Jr., .348, 13 HR, 40 RBI)
6.    Chris Frey, CF  (Jr., .342, 3 HR, 41 RBI)
7.    Jason Donald, SS  (So., .286, 5 HR, 32 RBI)
8.    Derek Decater, DH  (Jr., .347, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
9.    Bryan Kervin, 3B  (Fr., .342, 0 HR, 19 RBI)

On the mound, the Wildcats aren't spectacular, but still very solid.  And with their offense, solid has been plenty good enough to maintain their top ten national ranking.  Junior right-hander John Meloan has been the Friday starter all season.  Last year, Meloan went 10-0 with a 4.66 ERA as the Wildcats' #2 man.  He picked up a late-season victory over Stanford (8 IP, 2
R) in the rubber game of their series in Tucson plus a key win over Arkansas in the College World Series.  This season, Meloan is 8-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 91 innings.

Kevin Guyette, another junior right-hander, gets the ball on Saturday.  Guyette, who has always had great potential, has really emerged this year.  Overall, he's 9-4 with a 3.75 ERA with just 26 walks compared to 114 strike outs in 98 1/3 innings.  The 114 K's is good for second in the conference behind USC's Ian Kennedy (Meloan's 108 strike outs is the third-most).  Meloan and Guyette aren't quite as dominant as a Kennedy or Tim Lincecum, but they're both capable of overpowering performances with their good stuff and high strike out totals.

Sean Rierson, a fifth-year senior, is scheduled to start on Sunday.  Rierson was a regular member of the Arizona rotation from 2001-2003 before missing all of last season with an injury.  His final year in Tucson has been a struggle at times and he just recently rejoined the starting rotation.  But he's coming off a nice start last Monday at Arizona State and you won't find a more experienced Sunday starter in the conference.  Rierson is 3-2 this year with a 5.70 ERA.

The bullpen is led by Mark Melancon with his 2.45 ERA and eight saves.  Melancon has 62 strike outs in 55 innings and is regarded as one of the top closers in the Pac-10.  Overall, the Arizona bullpen isn't very deep, so if the Cardinal can get to Meloan or Guyette early, they should be in a good situation.  Arizona head coach Andy Lopez though isn't shy about letting
his starters go 130-140+ plus pitches.  Considering how big this series is, however, look for both Meloan and Guyette to pitch very deep into the games before handing it over to Melancon or fellow reliever Eric Berger (6-0, 3.66 ERA, 1 SV).

Probable Starting Pitching Rotation:
Fri. – John Meloan, RHP  (Jr., 8-2, 3.66 ERA, 91.0 IP, 92 H, 49 BB, 108 SO)
Sat. – Kevin Guyette, RHP  (Jr., 9-4, 3.75 ERA, 98.1 IP, 88 H, 26 BB, 114 SO)
Sun. – Sean Rierson, RHP  (Sr., 3-2, 5.70 ERA, 36.1 IP, 46 H, 10 BB, 34 SO)

The Wildcats RPI sits at about the #30 mark which puts them right on the bubble for hosting a regional despite their top ten ranking in the polls.  The reason was a, by and large, weak non-conference schedule.  Arizona had a strange mixture of opposition as they played a pair of series' against Texas and Cal State Fullerton (just like Stanford).  They dropped both series' recording a 2-4 record in the process and just like the Cardinal, were very competitive against the top 5 competition.  Arizona beat up on the likes of Northern Colorado, Texas Pan-American, New Mexico, and Utah Valley State as well which has resulted in the lower RPI rating.  The fact is though, this team is a legitimate College World Series contender with
still a possibility of claiming the Pac-10 title.  They've yet to lose a conference series this year and have all the tools in their starting lineup to make a deep postseason run.  Whether or not they can win the national championship should depend largely on their sometimes inconsistent pitching (#3 starter, lack of depth in bullpen, in particular).

The Bootleg Top Stories