Baseball Preview: UOP/UC Davis

Stanford concludes the regular season this week as they attempt to strengthen their resume for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday, the Cardinal travel to Stockton for a single non-conference matchup with Pacific. Then it's a two-game, home-and-home series versus the UC Davis Aggies beginning on Friday night. Here is a complete rundown of Stanford's two upcoming opponents.

The week begins on Wednesday for the Cardinal as they travel over to Stockton for a single game with the Pacific Tigers.  The Tigers are 27-24 on the year after splitting a rain-shortened two-game series with Washington last weekend and dropping a narrow 3-2 affair with California on Tuesday.  Pacific is just 6-12 in Big West play which has them tied with Cal State Northridge for seventh place in the eight-team league.

Stanford and Pacific met back on April 10th at Sunken Diamond with the Cardinal scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 2-1 victory. 

The Tigers are a solid club at home having posted a 15-11 record this year.  Pitching is definitely their strength with a 4.20 team ERA as lefty Curtis Pasma is scheduled to get the ball on Wednesday.  Pasma has made just one start compared to 22 relief appearances on the year, so it remains to be seen how deep into the contest he'll be able to go (if that's even the plan at all).  Overall, Pasma has very solid numbers with a 3.95 ERA and 40 strikeouts (compared to just 13 walks) in 41 innings.

Offensively, the Tigers hit just .265 as a team while scoring a below-average figure of 4.9 runs per contest.  There are two serious power threats in the lineup with Matt Berezay (.326, 10 HR, 33 RBI) and Justin Baum (.207, 11 HR, 41 RBI) combining for 21 home runs.  However, it is an offense that has struggled this year - especially against better competition.  If the Tigers were to come out on the winning end of this non-conference tilt, it likely will be in a low-scoring affair with both bullpens throwing well.

Pacific has struggled against top-level competition with a 1-8 combined record versus CS Fullerton, Long Beach State, and UC Irvine.

The UC Davis Aggies will be in town on Friday for the final home game of the season while Saturday sees the two clubs get together in Davis for an afternoon affair.  It's been a difficult year for the Aggies - just their second season playing a full Division I schedule.  UC Davis is in the transition phase right now and will be shortly joining the Big West Conference.  In the meantime, they've played a full complement of games against competition from that conference.

The Aggies bring a dismal 16-34 overall record into their matchup with Stanford having not won a single three-game, weekend series all year.  Very little has gone right for Davis in 2006, but the possibility certainly remains for the underdog to surprise the Cardinal.  Like Stanford, the Aggies are finishing their season this weekend, so you know they would like nothing more than to end the year on a high note.  It's also a chance to knock off one of the "big boys" which has been something UC Davis has surprisingly had little trouble doing this school year against some of the major Stanford sports.  Plus, the Aggies feature an ace starting pitcher fully capable of shutting down any team in the country.

Senior left-hander Michael Potter is the top pitcher on this club with a very solid 3.15 ERA over 11 starts.  The all-time wins leader in UC Davis school history (25-14), Potter has been a member of their starting rotation in each of his four years.  He's only 4-3 on the year thanks in large part to poor run support and a subpar bullpen, but the southpaw has come through with some of his best outings of the season against top level competition. 

Back on April 13th at #1 ranked Cal State Fullerton, Potter outdueled Titans ace Wes Roemer in a 2-1 UC Davis victory.  Potter fired 6 1/3 quality innings that night with just one run and three hits allowed.  He also struck out six with the bullpen able to nail down the final eight outs of the contest.  Meanwhile, just two weeks ago, Potter struck out a whopping 11 Cal Poly batters in a seven-inning start (3 R) against the Mustangs.  He has excellent control with just 17 walks in 65 2/3 innings and could give the Cardinal fits - presumably on Friday night at Sunken Diamond.

Outside of Potter, it's been a major struggle for the Aggies pitching staff this season.  As a team, their ERA is sitting at a lofty 6.03.  The remainder of the starting rotation has been filled out by the likes of Bryan Evans (3-10, 5.25 ERA, .330 opponents average), Brent Nichols (0-5, 7.66 ERA, .353 opponents average), and Brad Mcatee (0-4, 8.51 ERA, .309 opponents average).  The bullpen isn't any better with only closer Nik Aurora (six saves) putting up respectable numbers.  And even his ERA is at 4.84.

If the Cardinal can get to Potter, there seems to be very little else the Aggies will be able to throw at them.  Last weekend, Davis picked up a Friday victory over mediocre UC Santa Barbara before then surrendering 34 runs over the next two days (both losses).  Versus Fullerton, the Titans outscored the Aggies 19-3 in the final two games to take the series.  Meanwhile, Davis was swept away in series' versus Long Beach State and UC Irvine.

It's also been a difficult year offensively for the Aggies.  They've mustered only a .273 batting average while scoring just 4.8 runs per game.  There's very little power in the lineup (21 HR in 50 games) and they also don't draw a lot of walks.  Senior catcher Tyler LaTorre paces the club with a .366 average - normally out of the #2 spot in the batting order.  Four starters are batting above .300.

It's not any better in the field either as the Aggies have committed 91 errors this year for a horrific .953 fielding percentage.

With so much on the line for Stanford this weekend, the Cardinal should be able to get up for these two games and take care of business.  At one point earlier this season, UC Davis dropped 11 games in a row (April 14th-May 2nd) while they've been swept on four different occasions.  They've played eight weekend series' versus Big West competition losing all eight and posting just a 6-18 record (would put them in last place if they were officially in the conference).

That all said, Potter certainly poses a threat when he's on the mound.  And Davis should have a lot of positive energy in their dugout, despite their poor season, as it's their opportunity to knock off big, bad Stanford.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Daniel Descalso, 2B  (So., .281, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB)
2. Tyler LaTorre, C  (Sr., .366, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 6 SB)
3. Lukas Kirby, 1B  (Sr., .317, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 3 SB)
4. Aaron Hanke, RF  (Jr., .286, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB)
5. Michael Hernandez, CF  (Jr., .305, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 6 SB)
6. Jimmy Goetz, DH  (Sr., .304, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB)
7. Kevin James, LF  (So., .247, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB)
8. Evan Hudson, 3B  (So., .268, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB)
9. Matt Dempsey, SS  (So., .270, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB)

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