Baseball Opens Preseason Practice

The Cardinal baseball squad opened preseason practice last weekend in preparation for the 2006 campaign. The team participated in a pair of intrasquad games with a handful of pitchers and a returning outfielder starting strong. Read on for a full report from Sunken Diamond.

The Cardinal opened preseason practice in preparation for the 2006 campaign on Friday.  The team took part in an intrasquad game that afternoon before rain cancelled Saturday's scheduled practice.  The sun though would return on Sunday with the Stanford baseball squad essentially playing two games worth of intrasquads at Sunken Diamond.

The general theme of January practice games - especially early - is that the pitching is ahead of the hitting.  A number of variables probably contribute to this each year including perhaps most notably, the fact the hitters haven't faced live pitching in two months and it takes a handful of at-bats to return to game speed.  The cooler weather and the freshness of the pitchers' arms also may be factors.  On top of that, the Cardinal boast an incredibly deep and talented pitching staff this year.  Add it all up, and runs were hard to come by all weekend.


* Matt Manship : The senior right-hander was one of the starters on the hill during Friday's opening contest.  Much like what we saw during Fall Ball, it was a solid performance for Manship.  The Texas native wasn't particularly dominating, but mixed his pitches well and the end result was another effective outing.  Over his three innings, Manship allowed one run on three hits with three strike outs (each batter started with a 1-1 count all weekend).  It would seem there is an excellent chance that Manship will begin the season in the weekend starting rotation.

* Greg Reynolds : The other starter on Friday, Reynolds continued to show he's ready to take the leading role on this pitching staff.  On the heels of his very impressive fall season, Reynolds opened January with three no-hit innings on Friday.  The junior added one strike out and was in complete control during his entire stint on the mound with very little solid contact against.  The lone strike out came against senior Chris Minaker - easily the hardest person to strike out on the entire team.

* Nolan Gallagher : Had a similar performance to Reynolds' in that he did not allow a single basehit over three innings of work on Friday.  The sophomore right-hander was dominant throughout racking up four strike outs.  He struck out the side in his final inning punching out veterans Adam Sorgi and Chris Lewis along the way.  Gallagher allowed one run as a couple of walks set up a rally before a passed ball scored the runner from third base.  Gallagher was one of Stanford's most effective relief pitchers last year and he continues to make a push to earn innings as a starter or potentially as a closer this season.

* Blake Holler : The junior left-hander was the only returnee to allow more than one run during his stint on the mound this weekend.  It was still an effective outing for Holler though as he allowed a total of two runs on five hits over three innings.  Holler was one of the few pitchers to not walk a single batter this weekend (which is especially impressive considering the hitters are starting each count with one ball).  Meanwhile, his five strike outs were the second most of any hurler.  Three consecutive singles produced one run off of Holler with another single two batters later accounting for the other score.

* Jeremy Bleich : The final pitcher (and only freshman) to see time on Friday.  Bleich built on his strong Fall Ball with three scoreless innings in his preseason debut.  The southpaw surrendered just one hit with a pair of strike outs.  Bleich continues to show that all of the hype isn't a fluke and that he should see a considerable amount of time on the mound this season.  The freshman is also doubling as a hitter (DH), but it would seem unlikely he'll see the field in that capacity this season.

* Matt Leva : Another candidate to begin the year in the weekend rotation, Leva had an impressive outing as a starter on Sunday.  After missing all of fall practice as the junior sat out with a minor arm injury (mainly as a precaution), Leva showed very little rust in his first action of the preseason.  Over 2 2/3 innings, the veteran allowed just one hit with no runs and two strike outs.  It was vintage Matt Leva with his sneaky fastball and effective off-speed pitches to keep the hitters guessing.  Expect to see plenty of Leva this year - either as a weekend starter or long reliever.

* Sean Ratliff : The freshman lefty also started on Sunday and had possibly the most dominant performance of the afternoon.  Ratliff tossed four shutout innings with just one hit surrendered.  The Colorado native used a well-placed fastball and an impressive big curve ball to rack up a weekend-high six strike outs.  Like Bleich, Ratliff is also seeing time as a hitter (outfield), but it would appear is much more likely to make a contribution this season on the mound.

* Austin Yount : The third freshman hurler that looks ready to make an impact as early as February, Yount had a very impressive fall practice - both on the mound and as a hitter.  On Sunday, he fired a pair of no-hit innings with a whopping four strike outs.  A few control issues led to a higher pitch count (therefore limiting him to just two innings), but based on his Fall Ball effort, this was probably a fluke.  Of the two-way players on the team, Yount appears most likely to see time as both a hitter and pitcher this season.

* Erik Davis : The sophomore right-hander sat out the entire fall season, but returned to the hill on Sunday afternoon.  Davis tossed 2 1/3 innings in his preseason debut with one hit and one earned run allowed.  He also struck out three.  It was a nice outing for the Mountain View product as he started his afternoon with consecutive strike outs of talented freshmen Jason Castro and Brent Milleville.  Expect again to see plenty of Davis on the mound this upcoming season.

* Jeff Stimpson : After a very impressive Fall Ball, Jeff Stimpson started his January strong with 3 1/3 no-hit innings on Sunday.  With some of the best pure stuff on the team, Stimpson really appears to be finding his groove after a rocky sophomore campaign.  On Sunday, he proved to be unhittable racking up four strike outs along the way.  All signs are certainly pointing toward Stimpson playing a major role out of the Cardinal bullpen this season.

* David Stringer : The surprise of Fall Ball, sophomore walk-on David Stringer picked up right where he left off.  Stringer had the lowest ERA on the team during the month of October and Sunday saw the right-hander fire three perfect innings.  Five of the nine hitters went down via the strike out.  The one caveat was that eight of the nine batters Stringer faced were freshmen.

* Others : Sophomore Rex Petrill (3 IP, 5 H, 4 R) and freshmen Grant Escue (2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 4 R), Max Fearnow (3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R), and Blake Hancock (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R) also pitched on Sunday with mixed results.  Of this group, Fearnow is probably most likely to see any time on the mound during game situations this season.


* Michael Taylor looked like he was already in midseason form during the pitching-dominated weekend.  In his first at-bat on Friday, the sophomore right fielder blasted a triple off the wall in right against Manship.  He contributed two more hits on Sunday including a double off of the top of the fence in left field versus Leva.

* Other returnees with impressive weekend results included senior catcher John Hester (2-for-5 with a double on Sunday) and senior second baseman Chris Lewis (base hits in both games including an RBI double to deep left field on Sunday).

* To no surprise, it was a difficult weekend for the freshmen.  Based on their tremendous production as a group during Fall Ball, I expect it won't take long before the numbers improve.  However, the only real notable performance from a first-year hitter this weekend came from Joey August.  The Salem, Oregon native picked up a single on Friday before a 2-for-6, 2B, RBI performance on Sunday.  August really came on strong during the final week of fall practice and appears most ready among the three freshmen outfielders to contribute this season.  Meanwhile, the other noteworthy hit from a freshman this weekend was an opposite-field double to right from Brent Milleville against Manship on Friday.

* Junior center fielder Jim Rapoport continued to show he's the fastest player on the team with a pair of stolen bases on Friday.  Rapoport stole a team-best 16 bags last year before leading the club in swipes during Fall Ball.

* The team was split into three hitting groups of 6-7 players for both games this weekend.  It was no surprise to see the veteran-laden group of Minaker, Sorgi, Lewis, Brendan Domaracki, and Brian Juhl easily win the game on Sunday with 11 runs (in eight at-bats).  The other two groups (with only five total returnees combined) struggled mightily to score runs on both days.

* Minaker and Sorgi continue to rotate between shortstop and third base during intrasquad games.  It remains to be seen whether Coach Marquess will make the switch to begin the year or if he'll leave Minaker at short and Sorgi at third - where each started every game in 2005.

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