Pepperdine returns 18 players from last year and boasts three Preseason All-West Coast Conference players: OF Brian Humphries, LHP Matt Bywater, and RHP Cole Cook. While they've struggled to stay above .500 thus far, they've beaten three previously ranked teams in Cal State Fullerton, UC-Irvine and East Carolina. Recently, they lost two games to No. 2 Louisiana State, 8-1 and 3-2. Although the team currently finds itself unranked, they were picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference, behind only San Diego. Interestingly, freshman 1B Cody Yount is former Cardinal Austin Yount's younger brother, and junior reliever Keven Inman is former Stanford pitcher Jeff Inman's younger brother as well.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Cole Cook, the staff ace, is coming off a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America selection last year. This year, Cook has made four starts, accumulating 30 IP with a 2.70 ERA. He's given up 27 hits and eight walks, while recording 26 strikeouts. In his two most recent starts, he pitched seven innings, gave up three earned runs on seven hits, and recorded nine strikeouts in a team loss versus LSU. Last Thursday, Cook threw a complete game versus East Carolina, giving up two earned runs on eight hits, while throwing 111 pitches. So, the righty has definitely been on top of his game of late and will start on Saturday. Cook also has yet to give up a home run.
Pepperdine's No. 2 starter, Matt Bywater, has also looked solid to begin the season. In four starts, he's struck out more batters than innings pitched (31 to 28.1) and has posted a 1.59 ERA. He will get the nod in Friday's opener. Fifth-year lefty Robert Dickmann will likely earn Sunday's start. He's posted a 4.78 ERA in three starts and four appearances overall.
The Waves' bullpen has not been as strong as their starting pitching. Their most experienced reliever, Inman, has taken a lot of the workload, compiling a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings. Beyond him, five freshmen have ERAs above seven and the other two relievers have only made four appearances combined.
At the plate, IF Joe Sever has been the Waves' best hitter with a .333/.403/.483 batting/on-base/slugging line and seven stolen bases in eight attempts. Humphries, meanwhile, is hitting .265/.261/.338 and has yet to walk, so he is looking to break out of an early season slump.
Stanford's offense has performed very well this season, especially in crucial situations. The team is averaging 6.9 runs scored per game and has scored 10 runs four times this season, compiling a record of 3-1 in those games. Stanford has outscored its opponents 45-28 after the fifth inning.
The team's best hitter has been freshman IF Kenny Diekroeger. The young stud has an impressive .382/.447/.559 line and is leading the team with 13 hits. Starting 2B Colin Walsh, who led the team with a .320 average last year, continues to be nothing but consistent. The former walk-on is hitting .325/.471/.625, despite hitting in the third spot of the lineup for most of the year. However, he led off in two games versus UC-Santa Barbara, so we may see more of Walsh at the top of the order from here. His customarily patient approach at the plate wears down opposing pitchers, as he has eight walks and leads all Stanford regulars in on-base percentage.
Shortstop Jake Schlander has hit well to start the season, batting .278/.449/.444, all improvements from last year. More impressively, he has 10 walks to only five strikeouts, after averaging more than two strikeouts per walk last year. His performance thus far is one reason why the offense has been successful, and will be important as Pac-10 play starts.
There seems to be some concern over Stanford pitchers' ERAs, particularly the starting pitching. Although Jordan Pries' 5.00 ERA is the best among Stanford's regular starting pitchers, it is important to note that, in general, ERA is a function not only of a pitcher's performance, but of his defense's as well.
For example, let's say there is a runner on third base with two outs, and the batter hits a sharp ground ball up the middle. An above-average shortstop may make a tough play and get the out at first, thereby preventing a run from scoring and helping the pitcher's ERA. Alternatively, a weaker shortstop may not make the play, allowing the run to score and hurting the pitcher's ERA.
Of course, Stanford has one of the best infield defenses in the Pac-10, especially with Schlander and Walsh up the middle. However, keep in mind that a pitcher's ERA has some to do with his defense's performance, not to mention other environmental factors, such as the dimensions of the ballpark. Stanford has uncharacteristically made 17 errors this season, averaging more than one per game. (Admittedly, errors are not factored into a pitcher's ERA, but may frustrate or tire out a pitcher). This has resulted in nine unearned runs given up by the team. Last year, Stanford's defense committed 49 errors in 55 games.
Keys to the Series
- Who will prevail in battle of Stanford's hot offense versus Pepperdine's solid starting pitching?
- How will Stanford's starting pitching, behind Pries, perform?
- Will Pepperdine's offense be productive enough to win?
- Can Pepperdine's bullpen hold their own versus the Stanford hitters?
Projected Defensive Alignment
Friday – 6:30 p.m.
LHP Matt Bywater (28.1 IP, 1.59 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Pries (18 IP, 5.00 ERA)
C – Nate Johnson (So., .224 avg., 3 HR)
1B – Ryan Heroy (5Sr., .195/.327/.268)
2B – Joe Sever (Fr., .333 avg., 20 hits, 4 2B)
3B – Colin Rooney (Sr., .286/.406/.375, 5 2B)
SS – Miles Silverstein (RSo., .292/.370/.313)
LF – Ryan Van Amburg (So., .172/.368/.276)
CF – Brian Humphries (So., .265 avg., 18 hits, 5 2B)
RF – Harrison Kain (Jr., .333/.407/.375)
DH – Torrey Jacoby (Jr., .333/.348/.444)
C – Zach Jones (Jr., .179/.289/.385, 2 HR, 3 SB)
1B – Stephen Piscotty (Fr., .302/.380/.372, 13 hits)
2B – Colin Walsh (Jr., .325/.471/.625, 4 2B, 2 HR)
3B – Kenny Diekroeger (Fr., .382/.447/.559, 1 HR, 13 hits)
SS – Jake Schlander (Jr., .278 avg., 1 HR, 10 BB)
LF – Ben Clowe (Jr., .333/.417/.429)
CF – Jake Stewart (Fr., .204/.218/.352, 1 HR, 2 SB)
RF – Tyler Gaffney (Fr., 5 for 11, 5 RBI)
DH – Adam Gaylord (Sr., 7 for 10, 5 RBI)
Saturday – 2:00 p.m.
RHP Cole Cook (30 IP, 2.70 ERA) vs. LHP Scott Snodgress (12.1 IP, 5.11 ERA)
Sunday – 1:00 p.m.
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