Baseball beats Hawaii, Arizona on deck

With jostling for postseason position in full gear, Stanford and Arizona take the diamond for three this weekend. Will the momentum from a Tuesday win over Hawai'i and a 22-game hitting streak propel the Card, or will Wilma and Wilbur Wildcat take the weekend on the strength of consistent pitching? Read on for our take!

Stanford (28-10, 11-10 Pac-10)

Tuesday
Stanford 5, Hawai'i 1

Kenny Diekroger had three hits, extending his hitting streak to 22 games, as the Cardinal scored three runs in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie, while three Stanford pitchers combined to allow only one run to the Rainbows (26-24).

"Diek" went 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI, including a go-ahead, RBI single in the sixth which gave Stanford a 2-1 lead. Though he leads the team with 13 errors committed, he made a terrific defensive play in the seventh inning when he backhanded a ball down the third base line and threw a bullet across the diamond to get Matt Roquemore.

In the sixth, after an Eric Smith double put Diekroeger on third, new pitcher Sean Montplaisir balked, then allowed a single to Jake Schlander, increasing the Stanford lead to 4-1. In the seventh inning, Colin Walsh singled in Jake Stewart on a hit to right field.

Stanford starting pitcher Danny Sandbrink provided a solid outing, going 4.1 innings and allowing three hits and one earned run, a solo home run to Kevin Fujii in third inning, while striking out one and walking two. Brian Busick relieved Sandbrink in the fifth with two runners on base and got out of the jam, keeping the game at 1-1. Mark Appel was brought on in the eighth and he allowed two hits in the final two innings.

Busick got the win, while Hawai'i's Harrison Kuroda, who allowed three earned runs on three hits after entering in the fifth inning, got the loss.

Walsh and designated hitter Eric Smith each had two hits to complement Diekroeger's three.

This Weekend

The Cardinal enter the weekend in a three-way tie for third place in the Pac-10, with California and Washington State (see Pac-10 standings as of May 19 below).

Team ConferenceOverall
Arizona State16-543-6
UCLA13-838-11
Washington State11-1028-18
California11-1027-19
Stanford11-1028-20
Oregon10-1135-18
Arizona10-1131-18
Oregon State9-1227-19
Washington9-1226-24
USC5-1625-28

Against the Cougars last weekend, Stanford came within one base hit on Saturday from tying the game and possibly winning the series. However, the Cardinal was fortunate to rally with five runs in the eighth inning of Friday, or else they would have been swept.

After splitting two close games last week, the Cardinal continues to live dangerously as the team is a combined 14-6 in one and two-run games. Uncoincidentally then, of the three third-place teams, Stanford has the worst run differential at +22.

Expected win-loss record can also be calcluated from run differential, with any variation usually attributed to luck. Here's a list of all Pac-10 teams' run differentials.

Team Run Differential
Arizona State+253
UCLA+156
Washington State+65
California+89
Stanford+22
Oregon+131
Arizona+92
Oregon State+47
Washington-41
USC-26

Only Washington and USC's run differentials are negative, which speaks to the difficulty of the conference. By comparison, the Southeastern Conference, which is always considered one of the best baseball conferences as it features baseball powerhouses like Louisiana State and Vanderbilt, also has two teams with negative run differentials, Mississippi State and Georgia.

Stanford offense

The offense is averaging just over six runs per game and has been highlighted by Kenny Diekroeger's 22-game hitting streak, dating back to April 10 against Oregon. He now has the highest average on the team at .370 and is tied with Colin Walsh and Zach Jones with a team-high five homers. Jonathan Kaskow easily leads the team with a .490 on-base percentage.

Stanford pitching

Freshman Dean McArdle was effective in his first conference start last Sunday allowing only two earned runs, but the bullpen was unable to hold the lead. He should return to the mound this Sunday, as the Cardinal will feature a rotation of Brett Mooneyham, Jordan Pries, and McArdle. Mooneyham is seventh in the conference in strikeouts with 83, though he leads the conference with 55 walks. He is also third in the conference with 3.31 FIP. Pries is 10th in the Pac-10 with 79 innings pitched and has provided two straight encouraging starts over the past two weekends after earlier inconsistency.

Danny Sandbrink may become more involved in the weekend rotation as the regular season winds down. He's lowered his earned run average to 5.20 after being close to the teens for a good portion of the season. As for the closer situation, while Coach Marquess has a tendency to have a quick trigger in terms of making changes or going to his bench, expect to see Alex Pracher as the closer for the rest of the season. There is nobody else on in the bullpen who has the combination of command and "stuff" that Pracher has. While Scott Snodgress has incredible "stuff," he hasn't instilled the confidence in his coaches to be the ninth-inning guy; he simply is too inconsistent with the walks.

After this weekend, the Cardinal has a mid-week game against UC-Davis followed by their final conference series against Arizona State.

Arizona (31-18, 10-11 Pac-10)

The Wildcats come in losers of their last four series, to UCLA, USC, Cal State Bakersfield and, most recently, Arizona State. However, according to the most recent Rivals.com predictions, they are still a good bet to make the postseason.

They come in with the second-best batting average and on-base percentage in the conference, at .330 and .405, respectively. Outfielder Steve Selsky leads the team with a .400/.476/.630 line, including six homers and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. As a team, the Wildcats are second in the Pac-10 with 84 stolen bases. Selsky is third in the Pac-10 with a 1.106 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Catcher Jett Bandy is 12th with a 1.007 OPS in the Pac-10, while he leads the team with 20 doubles.

The Wildcats rank fifth in the Pac-10 in earned run average at 4.54. Kurt Heyer, Kyle Simon, and Daniel Workman have made 38 of the team's 49 starts on the mound, so they'll likely rotate this weekend in that order. Heyer has struck out an impressive 93 batters in 82.2 innings and has only given up four home runs all year. Kyle Simon has pitched a conference-high 93 innings with a 3.68 earned run average, but he has given up 107 hits. He's also only given up four home runs all year. By all indications, the starting pitching staff has good control.

After this weekend's series versus Stanford, Arizona will play their final series of the year at Oregon State.

Friday in Tucson, Arizona at 6:00 p.m.
LHP Brett Mooneyham (2-5, 5.24 ERA) vs. Kurt Heyer (6-2, 2.83 ERA)

Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
RHP Jordan Pries (3-3, 3.53 ERA) vs. Kyle Simon (8-4, 3.68 ERA)

Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
Dean McArdle (4-0, 4.97 ERA) vs. Daniel Workman (2-2, 7.11 ERA)


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