Along those lines, Stanford'S Friday 6-0 win over Utah to open the three-game series was an excellent start. Mark Appel's 13-strikeout complete game mowed down the Utes, and the Cardinal offense handled the rest against the Pac's bottom feeder. Eric Smith's two-run double in the fourth inning made him the offensive hero for the second straight game.
For Utah, though, there was little excitement. The transition from the Mountain West for Bill Kinneberg's club has been brutal. Utah's .248 team batting average entering this series was almost 20 points lower than the Pac-12's second worst team. Their staff ERA of 5.27 was also far and away the worst. To add further insult, teams haven't respected the Utes' defense, either: the opposition has stolen 58 bases. That's 21 more swipes than second place.
Step one was accomplished with ease on Friday night. The Utes, though, have stolen most of their Pac-12 wins on Saturdays, and that's where Stanford pitching will have to flex its post-Appel muscle. Mark Marquess didn't play his usual DH trickery in the opening win, electing not to pencil a pitcher into that spot in the lineup before pinch-hitting for him. That implies that the Cardinal may not yet have decided if Stephen Piscotty or Brett Mooneyham will start Saturday.
Both are more than capable, but both will have to bring their A games if and when they do take the mound this weekend. Despite their poor numbers, the Utes know how to play spoiler for one game per series. The Pac-12, even in its worst spot, is dangerous.
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.
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