College World Series Preview

It's that time of year again. In what's becoming an annual event in the Stanford Baseball program, the Cardinal are making their fourth consecutive trip to Omaha and the College World Series. As expected, the competition will be very tough as Stanford looks for their third National Championship. Here is a preview of Stanford's side of the bracket that includes Notre Dame, Rice, and Texas.


Bracket One :
Friday -
* Georgia Tech vs. #6 South Carolina, 11am
* Nebraska vs. #2 Clemson, 4pm

Bracket Two :
Saturday -
* Notre Dame vs. #8 Stanford, 10:30am
* #5 Texas vs. #4 Rice, 4pm


The Cardinal are making their fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series after sweeping the USC Trojans in Super Regional play last weekend.  Stanford appears to be peaking at just the right time with nine consecutive wins heading into the CWS which includes a perfect 5-0 record in postseason play.  The Cardinal needed a 13 inning effort from starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to get by Cal State Fullerton in their postseason opener two weeks ago and since then Stanford defeated Long Beach State twice to win the Regional and then USC twice last weekend.  The Cardinal came into the 2002 season with very high expectations as they were ranked #1 in the country by all three publications and remained as high through the first two months of the season.  A rough stretch in late April dropped Stanford out of the top five, but this recent hot streak in the postseason has certainly re-established the Card as a national title contender.

Out of the four teams on this side of the CWS, Stanford probably has the deepest lineup #1 through #9.  Center fielder Sam Fuld continues to lead the team in hitting with a .372 batting average although the All-American has struggled somewhat in the postseason after hitting above .500 over his final 24 games of the regular season.  The middle of this lineup is very dangerous as the #3 through the #6 hitters in this lineup have all reached double-digits in home runs this season.  Catcher Ryan Garko paces the club in homers with 14 and is tied for the team-lead in RBI with 53.  Jason Cooper (13 homers-52 RBI), Chris O'Riordan (10-43), and Carlos Quentin (11-53) give Stanford one of the more potent middle of the orders in the country and certainly the most dangerous in this side of the CWS.  As a team, the Card are hitting .321 with 84 homers and 73 stolen bases.  Their .516 slugging percentage is easily the highest among the four clubs.

While a weakness of this team could be their lack of pitching depth, at least at the top of the staff, there may not be anyone better in the country than Jeremy Guthrie.  The Golden Spikes Award finalist is having a fantastic season with a 12-1 record to go along with a 2.34 ERA.  He's turned it up a notch recently with just three earned runs allowed in his last 40 innings pitched while he's thrown complete games in five out of his last seven starts.  Lefty Tim Cunningham has had a solid year as the #2 starter with a 10-2 record and a 3.82 ERA while John Hudgins (9-1, 4.80) completes the rotation.  The pitching staff as a whole has stepped it up recently as Stanford has not allowed more then four runs in a game in nine consecutive contests (all wins).  If Stanford does lose one of their first two games though they could be in trouble with their lack of depth in the bullpen although it won't be as bad as it could have been in the Regionals because the CWS is more spread out in terms of when the games are played.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Ryan Garko (.311, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 2 SB)
1B - Arik VanZandt (.318, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 9 SB)
2B - Chris O'Riordan (.331, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 5 SB)
3B - Scott Dragicevich (.367, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB)
SS - Andy Topham (.298, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 9 SB)
LF - Jason Cooper (.351, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB)
CF - Sam Fuld (.372, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB)
RF - Carlos Quentin (.316, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 11 SB)
DH - Chris Carter (.281, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB)

Probable Starting Pitchers :
* Jeremy Guthrie (RHP; 12-1, 2.34 ERA, 142 1/3 IP, 32 BB, 125 SO)
* Tim Cunningham (LHP; 10-2, 3.82 ERA, 108 1/3 IP, 43 BB, 64 SO)
* John Hudgins (RHP; 9-1, 4.80 ERA, 99 1/3 IP, 34 BB, 62 SO)

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Dan Rich (2-2, 2.70 ERA, 5 SV)
* Ryan McCally (4-3, 3.89 ERA, 7 SV)
* Darin Naatjes (4-0, 2.53 ERA, 2 SV)
* Drew Ehrlich (0-2, 5.45 ERA, 2 SV)


As hot as Stanford has been recently, it probably doesn't match the Irish over the past two and a half months.  The preseason #5 team in the country suffered through a rash of injuries to key players early in the season and stumbled to a 9-10 start.  But since that start, Notre Dame has gone 40-6 which includes an impressive 5-1 mark in postseason games.  In the Regional, the Irish were given a #2 seed although they were allowed to host.  After putting away Ohio State in their postseason opener, Notre Dame crushed top seeded South Alabama 25-1 and then defeated OSU again (9-6) to win the South Bend Regional.  Last weekend, the Irish had to go down to #1 ranked Florida State and shocked the Seminoles 2-games-to-1 to advance to the CWS.  Notre Dame snapped Florida State's 25-game winning streak in Game One with a 10-4 victory and after getting beat 12-5 in the Game Two, they came back to win the series with a 3-1 win in Game Three.

The Fighting Irish are clearly a very dangerous team at the top of their lineup.  Leading off will be center fielder Steve Stanley who boasts a .442 average.  This guy is an absolute stud when it comes to hitting and might be the best pure hitter in college baseball.  And while some players who play in weaker conferences (Big East is definitely not a great baseball conference, ND's strength of schedule is #136 in the country) have inflated numbers, I think Stanley would hit well above .400 in top conferences such as the SEC and the Pac-10.  He's that good.  Behind Stanley in the order are second baseman Steve Sollmann (.370-2-46) and left fielder Brian Stavisky (.406-8-54).  These three will all be very tough outs and if Guthrie can neutralize at least two of them on Saturday, I like Stanford's chances of winning.  Notre Dame as a team hits .324 with little power as evident by their 51 home runs.  The "big three" at the top of their lineup hit a combined .409 while the other six probable starters hit just .300 (no one above .330).

Notre Dame doesn't have a dominating starter like the other teams in this bracket, but all of their pitchers have put up solid numbers this year.   The Irish will likely throw freshman right hander Grant Johnson (9-4, 3.29) against Stanford on Saturday.  In his start in Game One versus Florida State last weekend, Johnson went six innings yielding seven hits and four runs while walking six and striking out two.  His best start of the year probably came in the Regionals though two weeks ago when he threw a complete-game one-hitter versus South Alabama (8 strikeouts).  If they don't go with Johnson on Saturday, it would probably be junior right hander Peter Ogilvie (7-4, 4.52).  Ogilvie has more experience then Johnson but was roughed up for eight runs in less than an inning against Florida State on Saturday.  The ace of the bullpen is J.P. Gagne who saved both games of the Super Regional last weekend tossing four shutout innings in the process.  This guy is hot right now and you have to figure the Irish won't hesitate to use him with a lead in the seventh or eighth inning.

This is a very good Notre Dame team who like Stanford is peaking at just the right time.  All you have to look at is winning that series at #1 Florida State last weekend to see that this is a very talented ballclub.  But, I still feel the Cardinal are a better team and with Jeremy Guthrie on the mound I would be surprised if the Irish knock off Stanford on Saturday.  The other factor here that helps the Cardinal is that this is a very experienced team that has played in the College World Series the last three seasons while none of the Notre Dame players have ever played on such a big stage (last CWS appearance for this team was back in '57) and could get rattled which the game being on national television.  Just an intangible to watch on Saturday.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Paul O'Toole (.277, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 11 SB)
1B - Joe Thaman (.284, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 2 SB)
2B - Steve Sollmann (.370, 2 HR, 46 RBI, 5 SB)
3B - Andrew Bushey (.327, 6 HR, 58 RBI, 1 SB)
SS - Javier Sanchez (.286, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB)
LF - Brian Stavisky (.406, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 2 SB)
CF - Steve Stanley (.442, 1 HR, 35 RBI, 31 SB)
RF - Kris Billmaier (.317, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB)
DH - Matt Bok (.308, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 3 SB)

Probable Starting Pitchers :
* Grant Johnson (RHP; 9-4, 3.29 ERA, 95 2/3 IP, 42 BB, 84 SO)
* Peter Ogilvie (RHP; 7-4, 4.52 ERA, 73 2/3 IP, 25 BB, 57 SO)
* Chris Niesel (RHP; 4-0, 3.43 ERA, 65 2/3 IP, 16 BB, 55 SO)

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* J.P. Gagne (8-4, 3.11 ERA, 6 SV)
* Martin Vergara (5-1, 3.79 ERA)
* Brandon Viloria (2-1, 2.45 ERA, 3 SV)
* John Axford (5-2, 4.02 ERA, 12 starts)

RICE OWLS (52-12)

The #1 ranked Rice Owls are back in the College World Series this year after sweeping the LSU Tigers last weekend in the Super Regionals.  And not only did the Owls sweep the Tigers, they did so without allowing a run (6-0 and 3-0).  Rice did have a little scare in the Regionals as they easily advanced to Sunday but then dropped a tough 7-6 decision to Washington in the first game.  But with their backs up against the wall, Rice responded with a 14-2 trouncing of the Huskies to advance.  The Owls easily won the WAC Conference this season compiling a 28-2 record and they did so with outstanding pitching.  Rice is second in the country with a 2.77 ERA and boast three very impressive starting pitchers.  But like Notre Dame (and unlike Stanford and Texas), the Owls don't play in a major baseball conference, so we'll find out this week if these starting pitchers are as good as their numbers seem to suggest.

Steven Herce (13-2, 2.82) is at the top of the rotation and will likely start versus Texas on Saturday night.  Herce is coming off a three-hit, complete-game of LSU last Friday and has walked only 22 batters in 111 2/3 innings.  The #2 starter on this staff is Justin Crowder who transfered from TCU prior to the season.  Crowder comes into the CWS with a 10-2 record and a 1.88 ERA and like Herce, is coming off a complete-game shutout (5 hits, 3 walks, 5 K's) of LSU last weekend.  Philip Humber (11-1, 2.67) rounds out the rotation.  Like Stanford, Rice doesn't have a particularly deep pitching staff as they only use seven pitchers, but all seven are quality with the highest ERA on the staff being 3.49.

The Owls are currently hitting .322 as a team and are the second most powerful team among the four with 70 home runs in 64 games this season.  First baseman Vincent Sinisi (.432-11-80) is having a fabulous year and will hit fourth in the lineup.  Sinisi along with #3 hitter Eric Arnold (.341-8-74) form a lethal 1-2 punch in the middle of this lineup.  Both have driven in well over one run per game this year and in fact, after Arnold's 74 RBI the next highest total on the team is 36 from Enrique Cruz.  But even though the run production drops off considerably after Sinisi and Arnold, this is still a good offense with great balance (six starters hitting above .300).

To throw 18 consecutive shutout innings against a quality team like LSU in the Super Regionals tells you this is one of the top pitching teams in the country.  If Rice continues to get quality starting pitching from Herce, Crowder, and Humber this is certainly a team that can win the National Championship.  But to just even win the first game of this CWS, the Owls will need to get by a Texas club who they've gone 0-2 against this season.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Justin Ruchti (.248, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB)
1B - Vincent Sinisi (.432, 11 HR, 80 RBI, 11 SB)
2B - Eric Arnold (.341, 8 HR, 74 RBI, 7 SB)
3B - Hunter Brown (.292, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 10 SB)
SS - Paul Janish (.305, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 5 SB)
LF - Chris Kolkhorst (.349, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 8 SB)
CF - A.J. Porfirio (.316, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 8 SB)
RF - Austin Davis (.359, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 1 SB)
DH - Dane Bubela (.291, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB) or Enrique Cruz (.232, 16 HR, 36 RBI, 4 SB)

Probable Starting Pitchers :
* Steven Herce (RHP; 13-2, 2.82 ERA, 111 2/3 IP, 22 BB, 96 SO)
* Justin Crowder (LHP; 10-2, 1.88 ERA, 114 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 101 SO)
* Philip Humber (RHP; 11-1, 2.67 ERA, 108 IP, 40 BB, 128 SO)

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* David Aardsma (7-1, 3.49 ERA, 5 SV)
* Philip Tribe (4-4, 3.44 ERA, 3 SV)
* Wade Townsend (2-1, 2.28 ERA, 6 SV)
* Jeff Niemann (5-1, 3.11 ERA, 13 starts)


A familiar opponent to Stanford is back in the College World Series this season as the 2nd ranked and #5 seeded Longhorns look to add another National Championship to the already storied history at Texas.  The Longhorns had to come-from-behind in their Super Regional as they dropped Game One to visiting Houston 2-0, but rebounded to take Game Two in a rout, 17-2, and then won the deciding contest 5-2 last Sunday.  Texas rolled through their own Regional two weeks ago going a perfect 3-0 including a 2-0 win over Baylor in the championship game.  This is a resiliant ball club who has the ability to come out of this half of the bracket even if they lose their first game.  They did it in the Super Regional and also in the Big 12 Tournament when they dropped their first game, but came back to win five games in four days to claim the title.

While one may have thought that Rice's 2.77 team ERA would be the lowest in the CWS, it is actually the Texas Longhorns who have the lowest earned run average with a national leading 2.73 mark.  There are some questions though at the top of this rotation as #1 starter Brad Halsey (7-2, 2.74) was pulled after just two innings last Friday with a back injury and #2 starter Justin Simmons (14-1, 2.52) has struggled lately.  Simmons, who threw a ten-inning complete-game against Stanford eariler this season, has given up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in his two postseason starts this year.  Right hander Alan Bomer (10-3, 3.72) completes this outstanding starting rotation.  Depth is not an issue at Texas as the Longhorns may have the deepest bullpen in the country led by closer Huston Street (0.89 ERA, 10 Saves).

This is not an offense that really scares you as the Longhorns are hitting .306 as a team with 63 home runs, but when you have maybe the best pitching staff in the country, you usually don't need to score a lot of runs.  Three players do stand out on this club in terms of hitting in left fielder Dustin Majewski (.403-9-45), second baseman Tim Moss (.373, 39 stolen bases), and first baseman Jeff Ontiveros (18 homers, most among any player on this side of the CWS).  The Longhorns would certainly like nothing better then to beat the Cardinal who elminated them in the Regionals last year and then also took 2-of-3 games from them back in late March.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Ryan Hubele (.295, 5 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB)
1B - Jeff Ontiveros (.303, 18 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB)
2B - Tim Moss (.373, 1 HR, 39 RBI, 39 SB)
3B - Omar Quintanilla (.317, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB)
SS - Brandon Fahey (.305, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 8 SB)
LF - Dustin Majewski (.403, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 4 SB)
CF - Kalani Napoleon (.261, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 6 SB)
RF - Matt Rosenberg (.232, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB)
DH - J.D. Reininger (.330, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 3 SB)

Probable Starting Pitchers :
* Brad Halsey (LHP; 7-2, 2.74 ERA, 98 2/3 IP, 26 BB, 82 SO)
* Justin Simmons (LHP; 14-1, 2.52 ERA, 114 1/3 IP, 35 BB, 73 SO)
* Alan Bomer (RHP; 10-3, 3.72 ERA, 87 IP, 19 BB, 78 SO)

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Huston Street (4-1, 0.89 ERA, 10 SV)
* Jesen Merle (2-3, 2.22 ERA, 2 SV)
* Eugene Espineli (5-0, 2.08 ERA, 1 SV)
* Ray Clark (6-4, 3.16 ERA, 10 starts)


                                  Stan.    ND     Rice    Texas

Record                            45-16   49-16   52-12   53-15
National Ranking                    5       6       1       2

Batting Average                   .321    .324    .322    .306
Opponents Batting Average         .257    .254    .237    .233

Runs Per Game                      8.0     7.4     7.5     7.1
Opponents Runs Per Game            4.7     4.3     3.6     3.2

Doubles Per Game                   2.3     1.9     2.3     2.3
Home Runs                           84      51      70      63
Home Runs Per Game                 1.4     0.8     1.1     0.9
Slugging Percentage               .516    .473    .491    .477
On-Base Percentage                .388    .399    .394    .379
Stolen Bases-Attempts             73-93   61-90   59-78   98-123

Earned Run Average                3.95    3.55    2.77    2.73
Walks Per 9 Innings                3.3     3.6     3.0     2.3
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings           7.0     7.6     8.6     7.5
Home Runs Allowed                   45      26      31      28

Errors                              70      98      72      69
Fielding Percentage               .971    .960    .971    .974


** All times are Pacific **

Friday, June 14
Game 1 - Georgia Tech vs. South Carolina, 11am (ESPN2)
Game 2 - Nebraska vs. Clemson, 4pm (ESPN2)

Saturday, June 15
Game 3 - Notre Dame vs. Stanford, 10:30am (CBS)
Game 4 - Texas vs. Rice, 4pm (ESPN)

Sunday, June 16
Game 5 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10am (ESPN)
Game 6 - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30pm (ESPN2)

Monday, June 17
Game 7 - Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30pm (ESPN2)
Game 8 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5pm (ESPN2)

Tuesday June 18
Game 9 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 11am (ESPN)
Game 10 - Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 4pm (ESPN2)

Wednesday June 19
Game 11 - Game 9 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4pm (ESPN2)

Thursday June 20
Game 12 - Game 10 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 4pm (ESPN)

Friday June 21
Game 13 - Game 9 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11am (ESPN2) - if necessary
Game 14 - Game 10 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 4pm (ESPN2) - if necessary
* note - if only one game is needed on this day, it will be played at 11am

Saturday June 22
Championship Game - Bracket One Winner vs. Bracket Two Winner, 10:30am (CBS)

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