UC-Davis @ Stanford
5 p.m. Friday, Sunken Diamond
Recent history: UC-Davis has won four of the last five, including 9-8 and 10-8 come-from-behind victories this season.
Matchups: Both offenses are lefty-dominated, with only three true right-handed hitters in each team's likely starting lineup. That's okay news for Stanford, as the staff has as much confidence in lefty Jeremy Bleich as anyone, though most of Stanford's other top throwers are righties. That's awful news for Davis, whose top starters and closer are all righties. Statistically, opponents want to make Stanford start the right-handed Jeff Whitlow and Toby Gerhart instead of lefties Joey August and Brendan Domaracki. Davis can't, and whichever righty they trot out also must face the rest of Stanford's lefty-heavy lineup. That's a big edge for Stanford.
Overview: Davis is good enough that Stanford can't do what several other one seeds will: trot out the number three or four starter and save the aces for the weekend. So facing Davis could cost Stanford against Arkansas or Pepperdine, but tomorrow, the Cardinal should be able to hit the Aggies and reach the eight runs they have in the two games earlier this season. Offensively, Davis is too balanced to be completely shut out, but they can't hit for power: a disproportionate number of their hits are singles. So unless the Aggies all get hot in the same inning, I think they'll struggle to score the 10 or so runs they figure to need.
Prediction: Stanford 9, UC-Davis 4
No. 1 Stanford (33-21-2)
Home Record: 20-10
Vs. RPI Top 50: 16-10
Last Ten: 5-5
Strength of Schedule: 12
Runs per game: 7.5
Batting average: .299
Home runs: 66
Runs allowed per game: 5.48
Opponents' batting average: .279
Home runs allowed: 46
RHP Erik Davis: 7-2, 4.22 ERA, 85.1 IP, 83 K, 32 BB
LHP Jeremy Bleich 2-2, 1.24 ERA, 29.0 IP, 22 K, 16 BB
RHP Jeffrey Inman: 7-2, 4.26 ERA, 57.0 IP, 35 K, 25 BB
RHP Austin Yount: 4-3, 3.88 ERA, 48.2 IP, 25 K, 15 BB
RHP Drew Storen: 2-3, 2.89 ERA, 43.2 IP, 41 K, 12 BB, 6 SV
1. 2B Cord Phelps, B, .344, 11 HR
2. LF Joey August, L, .315
3. C Jason Castro, L, .369, 11 HR
4. 1B Brent Milleville, R, .324, 9 HR
5. DH Randy Molina, L, .329
6. CF Sean Ratliff, L, .286, 18 HR
7. RF Brendan Domaracki, L, .259
8. 3B Zach Jones, R, .269
9. SS Jake Schlander, R, .225
RF Jeff Whitlow, R, .284
LF Toby Gerhart, R, .217
3B Colin Walsh, S, .316
The three through six hitters are as scary as anyone's, as is the pitching depth. Freshmen such as Storen, Walsh and Jones have all been pleasant surprises, and they've helped Cardinal have exceed preseason expectations. Few expected Stanford to earn a No. 1 seed and host a Regional four months ago.
However, three questions will determine how close to Omaha Stanford ultimately comes. First, how will the bottom of the order fare? It's been up-and-down this season. Second, Stanford doesn't have a ton of quality lefty pitchers or righty batters. Davis can't, but will future opponents be able to exploit the Card's imbalance? Finally, postseason baseball is traditionally the time when a hot pitcher puts his team on his shoulders and carries them to the next round by himself. Does Stanford have a pitcher who can unleash a dominant, weekend-changing performance?
Daniel's Odds of Advancing:
40 percent. Nothing against Stanford, but baseball's a fluky game. The best teams in professional baseball will lose 30 percent of their games, compared to half or a third of that in other professional sports. Stanford is the best team in this Region, and the home field will help, but don't expect Pepperdine, Arkansas or UC-Davis to go down without a fight. Literally anyone in Stanford's bracket could advance to Supers, with Davis probably the best four seed in the entire nation.
No. 4 UC-Davis (34-22)
Road Record: 17-12
Vs. RPI Top 50: 9-8
Last Ten: 5-5
Strength of Schedule: 62
Runs per game: 6.63
Batting average: .318
Home runs: 34
Runs allowed per game: 5.57
Opponents' batting average: .297
Home runs allowed: 46
RHP Eddie Gamboa: 6-3, 2.67 ERA, 91.0 IP, 59 K, 12 BB
RHP Brad McAtee: 8-4, 3.03 ERA, 95.0 IP, 62 K, 22 BB
RHP Bryan Evans: 3-3, 4.90 ERA, 75.1 IP, 68 K, 22 BB
RHP Justin Fitzgerald: 3-1, 2.76 ERA, 32.2 IP, 35 K, 5 BB, 15 SV
1. CF Ryan Royster, L, .341, 10 HR
2. 3B Ty Kelly, B, .384
3. C Jake Jefferies, L, .396
4. LF Ryan Scoma, L, .361
5. DH Kevin James, L, .303
6. RF Kyle Mihaylo, R, .291, 6 HR
7. 1B Grant Hirneise, L, .272
8. SS Matt Dempsey, R, .298
9. 2B Grant Bauer, R, .246
IF Evan Hudson, R, .284
IF Scott Heylman, R, .231
The Aggies are textbook examples of one of baseball's five tools, hitting for average. They bat .318 as a team, and should trot out eight hitters above .270. On the other hand, my good friend Borat Sagdiyev describes well their attempts at hitting for power: not so much. Only two Aggies have five homers this season.
The pitching staff could use some time in the weight room too. They display great control, with truly outstanding strikeout-to-walk numbers, but are not overpowering. UC-Davis gives up a lot of contact, a lot of runs, and a lot of homers. Part of the problem is that as much as the Aggies want for depth in their lineup, the situation on the mound is even more dire. They have only two top-notch starters, and nary a lefty to be found.
Daniel's Odds of Advancing:
15 percent. It's not hyperbole, Davis really might be the top four seed in the nation. Warren Nolan ranks them 59 and the RPI 58, but the RPI underrates West Coast teams because they don't play a lot of teams off the West Coast, so a formula can't accurately compare them to the rest of the country. The admittedly West-Coast friendly Boyd's World ranks the Aggies 18. Still, the Aggies should struggle to hit for power and with left-handed pitching, pitching depth and pitching power. Ultimately, Davis is going to need a lot of breaks, because they look too thin to win three games and potentially weather four.
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