UW v. Stanford preview

In their biggest series since facing Stanford in the 1998 Pac-10 championship, the #16 Washington Huskies return to the friendly confines of Husky Ballpark to host the top-ranked Cardinal in three games from Friday, May 7 to Sunday, May 9.

The Huskies come into the series in second place in the Pac-10 with a 10-5 record and trail Stanford (10-2) by a game and a half in the conference standings.

They have won seven of their last eight games and, in addition to their #16 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Top 25, rank #21 in the Baseball America Top 25.

They won two of three games in Atlanta against ACC power Georgia Tech before sweeping Arizona at home, capped by a comeback from eight runs down to win the finale 12-11.

They then took two of three games on the road at Oregon State. Against the Beavers, the Huskies lost the opener 7-3 and trailed going into the ninth inning of the second game 14-13 before sending 16 batters to the plate and scoring 13 runs for a wild 26-14 victory. In the 13 run outburst, the Huskies slammed four home runs, all two run shots, by Taylor Johnson, Greg Isaacson, Kyle Larsen and Tyler Mach, respectively.

In addition to setting a season high in runs scored with 26, they also set a season high in hits with 24.

The Huskies then won the finale 8-5 against the Beavers, with the decisive blow a grand slam home run by Taylor Johnson in the top of the fourth inning.

For the series, the Huskies scored 37 runs and raised their team batting average from .292 to .299. Isaacson, senior second baseman, led the attack by reaching base 13 times and going 6 for 10 with eight runs scored, a home run and six runs batted in while also stealing three bases.

Tim Lincecum, one of five pitchers named to Baseball America's midseason freshman All-America team, earned the win in the finale, going five innings and allowing two earned runs on four hits and seven walks while striking out nine. With his nine strikeouts, Lincecum increased his team and Pac-10 leading total to 112 and now needs only 20 more strikeouts to break the Husky single season record of 131 set by Jeff Heaverlo in 1999. He also ranks second in the country in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.5, behind only the 13.8 of Jered Weaver of Long Beach State.

Offensively this season the Huskies have been led in most categories by the quartet of sophomore outfielders Zach Clem and Brent Lillibridge, junior first baseman Larsen and Isaacson. Clem leads with a .387 average, 10 home runs and a .662 slugging percentage while scoring 43 runs and driving in 32. Lillibridge tops the team with 44 runs scored and 11 doubles, with a .318 average, eight home runs, 27 RBI, a .535 slugging percentage and 13 stolen bases. Larsen's 38 RBI lead the team, and he ranks second in average (.362), home runs (9) doubles (10) and slugging (.618). Isaacson leads the team with 14 stolen bases while batting .312 with 41 runs scored, nine doubles, six home runs and 33 RBI.

In Stanford, the Huskies will face a tradition-rich team that seeks to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska for the sixth consecutive season. After holding the top spot in the Baseball America Top 25 for seven weeks earlier this season, the Cardinal regained the #1 ranking after rolling to a three game sweep of Washington State at home while previously top ranked Texas dropped two of three at Missouri.

In addition to a lofty 36-6 record, the Cardinal have won all 11 of their three game series in 2004 and 15 three game series in a row dating back to the 2003 season. They have also won five in a row and 12 of their last 13 games, with the only loss coming in non-conference action, 2-1 against Sacramento State on April 24.

Senior outfielder Brian Hall led the attack in the series against the Cougars, batting .909 (10 for 11) in the series with two home runs, eight RBI and a 1.545 slugging percentage. With his fantastic series Hall garnered Louisville Slugger and Pac-10 Player of the Week and NCBWA National Co-Hitter of the Week honors.

On the mound, sophomore left hander Mark Romanczuk earned his co-Pac-10 leading ninth win of the season in a series opening 8-3 win over Washington State, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks in seven innings with three strikeouts. In addition to Romanczuk, the Cardinal boast three other players who earned midseason All-America accolades from Baseball America - sophomore first baseman John Mayberry Jr., second baseman shortstop Jed Lowrie and senior third baseman Jonny Ash.

Mayberry, a former #1 draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, comes into the series with a .348 average, 42 runs scored, 12 home runs, and 47 RBI, while Lowrie, considered the best player at midseason by Baseball America, leads the Cardinal with a .399 average, 56 runs scored, 15 home runs, 56 RBI, a .798 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage. Ash ranks fourth on the Cardinal with a .374 average.

Of the top ranked Cardinal, Washington head coach Ken Knutson had plenty to say.

"They have no weaknesses," Knutson said. "They play really sound, fundamental baseball. They lead the Pac-10 in pitching (3.91 ERA), defense (.975 fielding percentage) and hitting (.336 average). They are batting .381 in conference. With the hitters on both teams the obvious key to the series is who pitches best and who can keep the ball in the park."

The series will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, with freshman Kyle Parker (2-2, 3.98) starting on the mound for the Huskies and Romanczuk (9-1, 3.82) for the Cardinal. The second game, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, will feature a matchup of sophomore right-handers, with Matt Kasser (2-0, 7.86) starting for Washington and Jeff Gilmore (7-2,4.46) for Stanford. Lincecum will start Sunday's 1 p.m. finale for the Huskies against a Stanford starter yet to be determined.

All three games of the series will air on 1150 KKNW radio, while the second game will also be televised live on Fox Sports Northwest.

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