Baseball News & Notes

The start of the baseball season is only six weeks away as the Cardinal look to make a run at the College World Series. Looking past this year, the fall recruiting period has concluded and we've got the latest on all of the future Stanford Cardinal. Read on for notes on each player plus other news items surrounding the current team.

The current freshman class consists of six pitchers - many of which will be ready to contribute from day one this season.  The following class of Cardinal pitchers is also large in size because after all, you can never have enough pitching.  The future would appear to be bright on the mound for Stanford and here's why:

Stanford has locked in five pitchers - all right-handed - in the high school class of 2006.  Headlining the list is Texas hurler Brandt Walker and Southern California righty Kyle Thompson.  Walker, who resides in Austin, checked in at #87 on Baseball America's recently released Top 100 High School Seniors list.  The hardest thrower in this recruiting class, Walker routinely sits in the 90-91 M.P.H. range with his fastball.  He complements the pitch with a curve ball and change-up and is known for his aggressive nature on the mound.  Walker went a perfect 11-0 as a junior to go with a 1.49 ERA and 85 strike outs in just 60 innings.  Other schools on his list included the hometown Longhorns, Notre Dame, and Tulane.  Walker checks in at 6'2", 175 lbs.

Thompson, from Northridge, decided for Stanford over the likes of California and UCLA a couple of months ago.  He features a fastball in the 88-90 M.P.H. range to go with a tight upper 70's slider and an excellent change-up.  A lean body at 6'1", 165 lbs., Thompson has excellent pitchability and like Walker, could make an immediate impact on the Farm.  Thompson was named the Region Pitcher of the Year (San Fernando Valley) by the Los Angeles Times last spring.

A familiar name from a familiar school also will begin his Cardinal career in the fall of '06.  Cory Bannister of Paradise Valley, Arizona has committed to Stanford despite a strong family history at USC.  Bannister's older brothers, Brian and Brett, both had very successful pitching careers as Trojans over the last half decade (the younger Brett was drafted out of USC last June).  Meanwhile, his father, Floyd, had a lengthy career as a pitcher at the Major League level. 

Bannister hails from the same high school (Chaparral) as current freshman pitcher/infielder Austin Yount.  And by all reports, Bannister is a very similar pitcher to his future teammate in that he fits into the finesse mold on the mound.  Not only are they similar in size (Bannister is even smaller than Yount at just 5'10", 155 lbs.), but the two both reportedly have excellent feel of three pitches.  With his small stature and mid 80's fastball (much like Yount), Bannister probably won't be much of a draft prospect this June, but if the reports are true and he can get outs with three different pitches, he could enjoy plenty of freshman success - much like what Yount hopes to accomplish this year. 

Rounding out the pitching class is Washington D.C. native Will Krasne and Washington state native Andrew Clauson.  Krasne possesses a mid-high 80's fastball with good running action thanks to a low 3/4 arm slot.  He also throws a curve and has a decent feel with a change-up.  An ace in the classroom, Krasne just missed on a perfect SAT score.  His other schools of interest included fellow academic powerhouses Duke, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.  Finally, Clauson decided to come to Stanford over nearby schools Washington and Gonzaga. 

While the pitching prospects are very bright, it remains to be seen what will happen with any hitters in this recruiting class.  As of now, to my knowledge, there are no scholarship position players in the fold in this class.  It's reportedly been a tough year with admissions and thus the overall size of the class should be much smaller than the previous one.  The Cardinal should be set at catcher with two very talented backstops (who can also play first base) in Brent Milleville and Jason Castro in the previous class.  The outfield corps is deep with two current sophomores (Michael Taylor and Brendan Domaracki) plus three exciting freshmen (Joey August, Sean Ratliff, and Jeff Whitlow) locked in.  Landing football/baseball standout Toby Gerhart (ranked #50 in Baseball America's Top 100) would be a huge get for Coach Marquess.  Gerhart would be the biggest name outfield recruit since Taylor inked his name over two years ago.  Gerhart's outstanding skill on the baseball diamond combined with the lack of position players in this recruiting class should make him a top priority for the coaching staff.  The Southern California product plays running back on the football field.

The biggest potential void could potentially be felt on the infield with the pending graduation losses of Chris Minaker and Chris Lewis and the possible loss of Adam Sorgi to professional baseball in June.

However, despite the lack of position players, this recruiting class was rated the 11th best in the country by (last year's group garnered a #4 rating by the same organization).  That should speak to the strength of these pitchers and if Walker and Thompson don't go pro out of high school (Stanford hasn't lost a recruit to the pro game since 1999), there is plenty of reason to be optimistic on the pitching side.

Jeff Austin is back in the Stanford Baseball program.  The 1998 National Player of the Year and former first round draft pick is one of three student managers on this year's Cardinal baseball squad.  After seven years away from the Farm, Austin has returned to school and can be seen wearing #44 in the Stanford dugout this year.

Austin went 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA as the ace hurler on the '98 team that spent all but two weeks of the regular season ranked #1 in the country.  He was also a key pitcher on the 1997 club that advanced to the College World Series.  His big league career spanned three seasons (2001-2003) totaling 38 games (seven starts).  The 29-year old compiled a 2-3 record with a 6.75 ERA over 65 innings for the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinal have a unique non-conference schedule this year in that they'll open the season with ten straight games at home before going on the road for ten straight away from Sunken Diamond.  The '06 campaign begins six weeks from today on February 3rd with the first of three home games against the 2004 National Champion Cal State Fullerton Titans.  After a weekend tilt with the Kansas Jayhawks, the 2005 National Champion Texas Longhorns are in town for three straight games, February 17-19.  The lengthy homestand wraps up with a single contest against the Nevada Wolf Pack on the Presidents Day holiday of February 20th.

Stanford then takes their act on the road with three straight non-conference series' against Fresno State, California, and USC (with a single game at San Jose State mixed in) before the finals break.  The Cardinal return from their two-week break on March 25th to open the Pac-10 schedule with a home series versus the Washington State Cougars.

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