California is third in the Pac-10 with a .324 team batting average and sixth in team earned run average (4.09). Their best hitter is junior first baseman Mark Canha, who is batting .400/.490/.623 overall, the fifth-best batting average in the Pac-10. According to Jason Churchill of ProspectInsider.com, the righty "profiles as first baseman in pro ball...[but] to stick his nose into the top 100, Canha will have to show more power in games." In 130 at-bats, he's hit five home runs with 16 walks and 24 strikeouts. His .490 on-base percentage is best on the team, and his next closest teammate's is 64 points worse.
Cal's best starting pitcher has been freshman left-hander Justin Jones, who has thrown a solid 72 innings in 11 appearances, nine of those being starts. He has a 2.62 earned run average and given up 61 hits, struck out 61, and walked 19. He will likely start on Sunday.
Sophomore righty Erik Johnson has been getting most of the Friday game starts and has been effective. In 44.2 innings, he's given up 48 hits, struck out 46, and walked 19 for a 3.63 earned run average.
One of Cal's top pitching prospects is sophomore righty Dixon Anderson, who will likely start on Saturday. In 49.2 innings, Anderson has given up 50 hits, struck out 34, and walked 20 for an earned run average of 3.26. Those aren't spectacular numbers for a top college arm, but Churchill described him as "an arm in the first-day conversation who [sic] has the potential to become more" and Keith Law of Scouts, Inc. listed Anderson as a top-five college arm in this year's draft and the 34th overall prospect in February.
Overall, Cal's run differential is +82. They are scoring 7.7 runs per game and tallying just under 12 hits per game. The pitching and defense are giving up 5.2 runs per game and allowing 9.75 hits per game. As a whole, the pitching staff has a 1.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is very ordinary.
Stanford (18-13, 7-4 Pac-10) has won five straight, but is still 5-5 overall in its last 10 games. After sweeping Oregon State last weekend, the Cardinal are 2-2 in Pac-10 series this season. Before that, their last conference series win came in their first conference series, versus USC in late March.
Stanford endured a winless five-game stretch, spanning from the last game against UCLA until the second game against Oregon, in which the offense scored 16 total runs (3.2 per game) and tallied 35 hits (seven per game). In their last five games, since the final game against Oregon, the offense has scored 45 runs (nine per game) while getting 69 hits (13.8 per game).
The big contributor has been first-baseman Jonathan Kaskow, who has steadily improved throughout the season to a .455/.542/.621 batting line. However, the offense has finally found a consistent top of the lineup, with outfielder Tyler Gaffney, second baseman Colin Walsh, first baseman/outfielder Stephen Piscotty, and Kaskow. Coach Marquess, insistent on batting Walsh in the two or three slot, thrust Gaffney into the leadoff role early in the season. The freshman has shown gap power with six doubles and three triples, and has only struck out 15 times in 95 at bats. Walsh, the team's leadoff batter last year, has been consistent throughout the season with a .323/.432/.516 line. His slugging percentage has spiked after hitting a few home runs, his total now at four. Piscotty has also been a consistent batter for the Cardinal at .364/.421/.479. More impressively, the freshman has only struck out nine times in 121 at-bats.
In their recent success, the Cardinal has also depended less on middle relief, as starters other than Jordan Pries have been able to go deeper into games. In three Pac-10 starts, righty Brian Busick has pitched 15.1 innings and allowed nine earned runs on 21 hits, so while not spectacular, the sophomore has been a dependable innings-eater. He's also taken some pressure off Brett Mooneyham by allowing the lefty to pitch on Sundays instead of Fridays, though Mooneyham will likely get the start this Friday.
These two teams squared off in early April in a non-conference matchup that Cal won 2-0. It was Stanford's second loss in their recent five-game losing streak. In that game, lefty Chris Petrini, who has been used as both a starter and reliever, shut down a struggling Stanford offense, while freshman starter Chris Jenkins allowed Cal's only two runs. Don't expect Stanford's offense to be held scoreless in any of the three games this weekend, but the Cal offense has been above-average all season, so they will likely be able to score often as well.
Keys to the Series
Sophomore Brett Mooneyham will likely get the start on the mound on Friday. The other two starters, Pries and Busick, has provided productive innings for the Cardinal in Pac-10 play, but Mooneyham has either been great or struggled mightily. If he limits his walks by pitching to contact more often, rather than trying to overpower the opponent, he can help Stanford take the opening game.
With the exception of freshman lefty Justin Jones, the Cal pitching staff does not strike out a ton of batters. They will need to show command of the strike zone in order to prevent Stanford's hot bats from continuing their recent success. The Cal defense must also limit its mistakes.
Stanford's recent offensive explosion can be largely attributed to the top-four batters in the lineup: Gaffney, Walsh, Piscotty, Kaskow. When they get on base, the offense seems to flourish. Will these four be able to, once again, be the catalyst for the offense?
Projected Defensive Alignment
5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond
RHP Erik Johnson (44.2 IP, 3.63 ERA) vs. LHP Brett Mooneyham (39 IPs, 44 Ks, 43 BBs)
C: Chadd Krist (So., .634 SLG, six HRs)
1B: Mark Canha (Jr., .400 AVG, six HRs)
2B: Brian Guinn (Jr., 17 BBs, 10 SBs)
3B: Mitch Delfino (Fr., .433 OBP)
SS: Marcus Semien (So., 27 Ks)
LF: Danny Oh (So., .298 AVG)
CF: Chad Bunting (So., No walks in 58 ABs)
RF: Jimmy Bosco (Fr., .345 AVG,, three HRs)
DH: Tony Renda (Fr., .362/.426/.546)
C: Zach Jones (Jr., four HRs, seven SBs)
1B: Jonathan Kaskow (Jr., .542 OBP in 66 Abs)
2B: Colin Walsh (Jr., 21 BBs, four HRs)
3B: Kenny Diekroeger (Fr., Raised AVG 15 points in two weeks)
SS: Jake Schlander (Jr., .278 AVG, three HRs)
LF: Stephen Piscotty (Fr., .364 AVG, 11 2Bs)
CF: Jake Stewart (Fr., Raised AVG 25 points in two weeks)
RF: Tyler Gaffney (Fr., .407 OBP, three 3Bs)
DH: Ben Clowe (Jr., .305 AVG in 59 ABs)
RHP Dixon Anderson (49.2 IP, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Pries (57.1 IP, 3.14 ERA)
LHP Justin Jones (72 IP, 2.62 ERA) vs. RHP Brian Busick (31.2 IP, 3.13 ERA)
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