Super Regionals: Stanford (37-22-2) at No.
5 Cal State Fullerton (40-20)
Game 1: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Audio: KZSU, 90.1 FM, or streamed live at kzsu.stanford.edu.
How Fullerton got here:
No. 5 national/No. 1 regional seed Fullerton won the last two of their three contests against No. 2 regional seed UCLA to advance to Supers, though the decisive game Monday night was not without drama. Fullerton took a 2-0 lead in the third, before the teams each scored two in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Titans would keep their 5-3 lead until a two-out UCLA single narrowed the lead to 5-4 in the seventh. But the Bruins stranded a runner in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, and lost by that 5-4 final margin.
Stanford's potential path:
With a win, Stanford would face the Florida State/Wichita State winner to open their first College World Series since a national runner-up finish to Rice in 2003. Florida State is the No. 4 seed nationally, while Wichita State is a No. 2 Regional seed, advancing after upsetting Oklahoma State.
The path wouldn't get any easier for the Cardinal, who would likely play No. 1 national seed Miami were they to win their CWS opener. All told, thirteen of the six remaining squads are No. 1 seeds, including all eight national seeds.
Thus, as the implicit No. 12 national seed, Stanford figures to be an underdog in the sizeable majority of its remaining games. Indeed, though the Cardinal's RPI is now 18, up five spots from a week ago, Stanford's opponent this weekend, Fullerton, ranks 13 in the computers.
Nationally, three Pac-10 teams are still alive, Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford – all one seeds. Add in Fullerton, Fresno State and UC-Irvine, and that's six West Coast teams in the final 16. Nationally, No. 2 seed UC-Irvine, No. 2 seed Wichita State, and No. 4 seed Fresno State are the only non-one seeds to advance, so the West Coast is slightly outperforming their seeding to-date. The ACC leads BCS conferences with four teams in the Super Regional, followed by the Pac-10 (three), the SEC (two) and the Big 12 (one).
The Titans used the same nine batters in the same order throughout their Regional. Given that Fullerton's three most-used pitchers are all righties, we can insert lefties Joey August and Brendan Domaracki into the likely Stanford batting order, and compare the lineups at each spot.
1. CF Josh Fellhauer, L: .333, .517 SLG, 7 HR, 35 K
2. SS Christian Colon, R: .335, .453 SLG
3. RF Erik Komatsu, L: .348, .576 SLG, 8 HR, 35 BB, 23 K, 18 SB, .453 OBP
4. 1B Jared Clark, R: .301, .549 SLG, 9 HR, 24 2B, 37 BB, 43 K
5. DH Brian Wilson, L: .333, .542 SLG, 14 BB, 5 K, .455 OBP
6. LF Gary Brown, R: .289, .409 SLG, 24 SB
7. 3B Joel Weeks, S: .323, .414 SLG
8. C Dustin Garneau, R: .250, .409 SLG
9. 2B Joe Scott, R: .295, .385 SLG
Team (per-game stats): 7.1 runs, .305, .452 SLG, .395 OBP, 3.7 BB, 5.3 K, 2.0 SB (71%)
1. 2B Cord Phelps, B: .352, .585 SLG, .447 OBP, 13 HR, 38 BB, 35 K
2. LF Joey August, L: .307, .393 SLG
3. C Jason Castro, L: .372, .601 SLG, .423 OBP, 12 HR
4. 1B Brent Milleville, R: .307, .546 SLG, 10 HR
5. DH Randy Molina, L: .339, .497 SLG, .411 OBP
6. CF Sean Ratliff, L: .298, .654 SLG, 20 HR, 30 BB, 76 K
7. RF Brendan Domaracki, L: .259, .374 SLG
8. 3B Zach Jones, R: .259, .386 SLG, 16 BB, 53 K
9. SS Jake Schlander, R: .232, .253 SLG
Team: 7.5 runs, .300, .478 SLG, .375 OBP, 4.1 BB, 7.3 K, 0.7 SB (75%)
I underlined which team I thought was stronger overall and at each spot in the order. Close calls tended to go in Stanford's direction because their batters produced their stats against a tougher schedule. Fullerton does a better job hitting for contact and avoiding strikeouts, but Stanford still manages to score slightly more runs per game because of its ability to hit for power.
Obviously, ranking pitchers and distinguishing between starters and relievers is somewhat arbitrary. When in doubt, I looked to how their managers used them in the Regionals. I only rank three starters because the Super Regionals are best-of-three.
1. R Jeff Kaplan: 11-2, 4.37 ERA, 105 IP, 89 K, 33 BB, 14 HR, .278 BA
2. R Cory Arbiso: 12-3, 4.21 ERA, 98.1 IP, 68 K, 14 BB, 9 HR, .282 BA
3. R Daniel Renken: 5-5, 4.11 ERA, 81 IP, 80 K, 22 BB, 5 HR, .294 BA
1. R Adam Jorgenson: 2-1, 5.18 ERA, 11 SV, 48.2 IP, 13 K, 14 BB, 4 HR, .247 BA
2. R Ryan Ackland: 1-1, 2.10 ERA, 25.2 IP, 14 K, 5 BB, 0 HR, .267 BA
3. L Jason Dovel: 2-3, 4.93 ERA, 45.2 IP, 45 K, 16 BB, 3 HR, .226 BA
4. R Travis Kelly: 1-1, 6.53 ERA, 41.1 IP, 24 K, 18 BB, 5 HR, .302 BA
Team: 4.52 ERA, 478 K, 176 BB, 51 HR, .275 BA, .971 FLD
1. R Erik Davis: 7-3, 4.59 ERA, 96 IP, 91 K, 34 BB, 8 HR, .252 BA
2. L Jeremy Bleich: 2-2, 1.09 ERA, 33 IP, 26 K, 21 BB, 0 HR, .197 BA
3. R Jeffrey Inman: 7-2, 4.22 ERA, 64 IP, 40 K, 26 BB, 4 HR, .299 BA
1. R Austin Yount: 5-3, 3.54 ERA, 56 IP, 31 K, 16 BB, 4 HR, .261 BA
2. R Drew Storen: 4-3, 2.90 ERA, 6 SV, 49.2 IP, 44 K, 13 BB, 2 HR, .251 BA
3. R Danny Sandbrink: 2-1, 2.85 ERA, 53.2 IP, 27 K, 18 BB, 8 HR, .262 BA
4. R Max Fearnow: 2-1, 6.09 ERA, 44.1 IP, 30 K, 24 BB, 7 HR, .284 BA
Team: 4.43 ERA, 388 K, 226 BB, 49 HR, .277 BA, .974 FLD
Arbiso gets the nod over Bleich because I'd rather have a consistently solid starter than a pitcher who has the potential to be spectacular but just came off an injury. CSF has much better strikeout and walk numbers and HR and BA numbers similar to Stanford's, yet the Cardinal get the overall nod because they somehow allowed earned fewer runs per game against better competition. I don't know how that's possible over the length of a season, given that CSF's staff won or pushed in every other listed stat. (Two leads upon further investigation. One, Stanford's opponents slug .401, CSF's .418. Second, CSF has actually allowed five fewer total runs to-date, so maybe Stanford's scorekeepers just charge more errors in key situations, accounting for the ERA difference. However, a margin of five runs is still close enough that Stanford's pitchers get the coveted overall underline with the strength of schedule tiebreaker.)
Stanford swept CSF earlier this season. Edge Stanford.
Erik Davis will have started twice within the past week when the series starts on Friday. And No. 2 pitcher Jeremy Bleich is still working his way back from injury. CSF needed five games to win its Regional too, but Stanford's one-two pitchers are in a uniquely tough situation. Edge CSF.
Both teams' pitching staffs are righty-dominated. Stanford has more lefties in the lineup, and more of its top hitters are lefties. Edge Stanford.
CSF is 41-20 to Stanford's 37-22-2. But CSF is 27-7 at home, and Stanford just 13-11-1 on the road. Teams play most of their cupcakes at home, so the discrepancy isn't as big as it seems, but that's obviously an edge for CSF.
I think Stanford's biggest key will be if Davis is rested enough to give a quality start Friday, and Bleich healthy enough to give a quality start when he's called upon (presumably Saturday). Offensively, Stanford knows it can count on the one through six hitters, so again the X-factor will be whether the bottom of the order can scratch out hits – like Jake Schlander did in Monday's Regional Final.
The two teams are incredibly evenly matched. Though I gave Stanford the nod in both overall hitting and overall pitching, those margins are George-W.-Bush-in-2000 thin, and the Fullerton faithful could just as easily argue their hitters and pitchers are stronger. Even the above intangibles seem to balance out.
So to anyone who knows with any certainty who's going to win this series, I have some land on the moon I'd love to sell you. Expect the games to be close, and in a close baseball game, one ball being hit five feet further or five feet to the left can make all the difference. And, obviously, we don't know who will catch that luck until they play the games.
But the conventions of sports
writing dictate that I make a prediction, so if for no other reason than the
school on my diploma (well, unless I truly mess up really soon), let's say Stanford in three.