Baseball Weekend Roundup

After an impressive sweep of Cal State Fullerton, the Cardinal dropped two-of-three games to the Kansas Jayhawks last weekend at Sunken Diamond. Stanford still boasts a winning record thanks in large part to stellar pitching. In this week's Roundup, we take a look at the Cardinal pitching staff plus give you an in-depth review of all the latest from around the Pac-10 Conference.

Pac-10 Standings (overall records through games of Sun. 2/12)

Washington State      3-1
Arizona               4-2
Stanford              4-2
Oregon State          2-1
Washington            2-1
USC                   4-3
Arizona State         5-4
California            3-4
UCLA                  2-4

A review of the Pac-10 :

* Arizona - Wildcats have many holes to fill both offensively and defensively this year after a fielding a legitimate top-ten club in 2005.  So far, Arizona has notched series wins
(two-of-three) over Loyola Marymount (home) and UC Riverside (road).  Expect plenty of more wins in a relatively weak February non-conference schedule (home series' with New Mexico and LaSalle are next).  March finds Arizona playing the likes of nationally ranked CS Fullerton, Mississippi State, and Nebraska before the start of the Pac-10 season.

* Arizona State - Preseason Top 20 team is playing many freshmen, so the slow start is expected.  ASU went 5-1 at home against dismal CS Northridge and Northern Illinois before getting knocked around at a round-robin tournament in nearby Surprise.  The young Sun Devils went 0-3 last weekend with blowout losses to Gonzaga (9-1) and Oregon State (11-0) before losing a closer affair to Nevada (12-8).  Of course, the Wolf Pack entered that game in search of their first win of the season after five losses.  ASU is now out of the Top 25.

* California - Golden Bears dropped two-of-three to a talented UC Irvine club on the road two weeks ago before losing a midweek game to USF.  After a Friday loss at home to Long Beach State, Cal was in the midst of a 1-4 start to the season.  But the Bears, the preseason #25 team in the country, rebounded with a pair of victories (3-2 and 4-1) over the nationally ranked Dirtbags to notch the impressive series win.  Cal is no longer ranked, but it shouldn't be long before they're back over .500.

* Oregon State - The preseason pick to win the conference opened their season last weekend at the tournament in Surprise, Arizona.  The Beavers routed Nevada (12-4) and Arizona State (11-0) to start things before dropping a 6-5 heartbreaker to a much-improved Gonzaga team on Sunday.  Oregon State held steady at #6 in the Baseball America poll released this morning.

* UCLA - Bruins had a dreadful 2005 and the verdict is still out on whether '06 will be much better.  UCLA has dropped a pair of home series' thus far losing two-of-three to Fresno State and two-of-three to Miami.  The Bulldogs were tabbed #21 in the preseason while the Hurricanes are an unranked ballclub.

* USC - Trojans started slow after getting swept by Long Beach State in a home-and-home series two weekends ago.  But USC has rebounded with a perfect 4-0 week that included a Tuesday win over UC Riverside and a home sweep of Florida International (included 12-0 and 13-4 victories).  The impressive week has the Trojans back in the polls at #25.

* Washington - Huskies allowed host New Mexico State to score eight runs in the eighth inning in a shocking 12-11 loss last Friday.  To Washington's credit, they bounced back with a pair of hard-fought victories (5-3 and 5-4) to record the road series win. 

* Washington State - Cougars had a nice 3-1 showing at a round-robin tournament in Charleston, South Carolina over the weekend.  WSU recorded a 9-3 victory over #10 Missouri on Sunday (although this was a Tiger team that also lost to East Tennessee State in the tournament, so that #10 ranking may have been a bit generous).  The Cougars also defeated Charleston Southern and East Tennessee State while dropping a contest to Kennesaw State. 

This Weekend:
New Mexico at Arizona
Houston at Arizona State
California at Baylor
#6 Oregon State at #16 Pepperdine
#7 Texas at #24 Stanford
UCLA at Pacific
Kansas/Vanderbilt/#15 San Diego at USC
Washington at CS Northridge
Washington State at Hawaii-Hilo

It's certainly a big weekend for the Cardinal as they host the defending national champions for three games at Sunken Diamond.  California also takes on a marquee Big 12 opponent in 2005-CWS participant Baylor.  The Bears of Baylor lost a ton of talent from that team and thus are not currently ranked in the Top 25.  However, it's still a huge weekend for the Golden Bears and a chance to record their second straight impressive series win. 

Oregon State also has a big weekend when they travel down to Malibu to take on the 16th ranked Waves - the preseason pick in the WCC.  There will be plenty of competitive baseball at Dedeaux Field as the Trojans host a three-day round-robin tournament.  Included in the field are the 15th ranked Toreros of San Diego who shocked the college baseball world by sweeping Texas a couple of weeks ago.  Kansas will remain on the west coast to participate in that tournament as well.

Baseball America Rankings:
-- Pac-10 --
6. Oregon State (2-1)
24. Stanford (4-2)
25. USC (4-3)

-- West Coast --
6. Oregon State (2-1)
9. CS Fullerton (3-3)
15. San Diego (5-1)
16. Pepperdine (3-3)
19. Long Beach State (4-2)
22. Cal Poly (7-2)
24. Stanford (4-2)
25. USC (4-3)

-- Top Ten --
1. Clemson (0-0)
2. Florida (3-0)
3. Georgia Tech (2-0)
4. North Carolina (0-0)
5. Rice (4-1)
6. Oregon State (2-1)
7. Texas (3-4)
8. Tennessee (4-1)
9. CS Fullerton (3-3)
10. Tulane (2-1)

Opponents Update:
Cal State Fullerton rebounded nicely from getting swept by the Cardinal.  The Titans returned home and promptly took three straight UNLV last weekend by the scores of 9-1, 13-4, and 3-1 to get their record back to .500.

Texas, after getting swept by San Diego to open the season, had a solid 3-1 week.  After a convincing midweek win over UT-Pan American, the Longhorns posted victories over #5 Rice and Houston at a round-robin tournament played at Minute Maid Park (home of the Houston Astros).  Texas' lone loss came on Sunday to the 10th ranked Tulane Green Wave.

Fresno State quickly fell out of the top 25 after getting swept on the road by Cal Poly three weeks ago.  But the Bulldogs, the preseason pick to win the WAC championship (doesn't mean quite as much anymore with Rice now in Conference USA), have come back with a two-of-three road series win over UCLA.  And then last weekend, Fresno opened their home schedule by taking two-of-three from nationally ranked Pepperdine.  The Bulldogs host Utah Valley State for three games this week before taking on Stanford at Beiden Field, February 24-26.

Stanford Update:
* The primary reason the Cardinal have a winning record through two series' is their pitching.  And in particular, the ability of this pitching staff to throw strikes.  Through six games (and 55 innings), Stanford pitchers have walked just ten batters.  That's a remarkable rate of 1.64 walks per nine innings.  Greg Reynolds, Matt Manship, Nolan Gallagher, and Jeremy Bleich have combined to walk no batters over 32 innings.  As a staff, Stanford has a 5.1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

* Bleich and Gallagher were the only two relievers to see action over both weekends.  Bleich has yet to allow a run over 7 1/3 innings (three hits, six strike outs) while Gallagher has compiled a 1.59 ERA over 5 2/3 innings pitched (three hits, one run, eight strike outs).  Those two pitchers plus the trio of starters - Reynolds, Manship, and Matt Leva - seem to be the early favorites to pitch the bulk of the innings for Stanford this year.  It certainly remains to be seen if they'll remain in their current roles though as the season progresses.

* All total, 12 pitchers have seen action for the Cardinal through six games.  Only nine hurlers saw time on the mound during the entire 2005 season.  Freshmen Sean Ratliff, Austin Yount, and Bleich have combined for no runs allowed over 13 innings (five hits, two walks, 13 strike outs).

* Manship has excelled in the first three innings of his starts so far (no earned runs).  However, the senior right-hander has been tagged for seven runs with just one out recorded in the top of the fourth - both times not getting out of the inning.  Manship's ERA through two starts because of this is a lofty 9.95 (7 ER/6.1 IP).

* Offensively, it's largely been a struggle for the Cardinal hitters.  The highest average for a regular is Yount at .286 (4-for-14).  As a team, Stanford is hitting just .222 which makes it all the more remarkable (and a testament to their strong pitching and defense) that they're currently sporting a winning record.

* Yount is also leading the team in extra base hits (four), RBI (seven), and slugging percentage (.786).

* The three senior hitters have all gotten off to slow starts.  Chris Minaker is leading the group with just a .208 average (5-for-24) while John Hester (.182, 4-for-22) and Chris Lewis (.105, 2-for-19) are both hitting under the Mendoza Line.  Lewis (two) and Minaker (one) have combined to hit three of Stanford's six home runs.

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