Chip on Their Shoulders, Baseball Hosts Cats

Stanford baseball's memories of last season's debacle in the desert are not pleasant. The club had been rolling at 16-3 entering its late March set at Arizona. It had not yet lost a single series all season. Game one was going exactly as planned, as the Cardinal led the Wildcats 7-4 entering the bottom half of the ninth inning.





A Chance for Payback
Then, the wheels came off.

Arizona pounded ball after ball through its dry, rock-hard infield. Stanford closer David Schmidt only recorded one out, and the Wildcats plated four runs to stun the Cardinal in an 8-7 victory. The Wildcats were 4-2 victors the next night, and by the time April Fools' Day came around, the Farm Boys were hoping it was all just a bad joke. It wasn't; the Wildcats finished off a three-game sweep that afternoon with a 6-2 Sunday win. They never looked back again on their way to both the Pac-12 and College World Series championships.

Now comes the rematch. And this time, the two teams meet at Stanford's Sunken Diamond.

"We remember last year's series," Stanford catcher-turned-centerfielder Wayne Taylor told me Sunday. "We'll be playing with a chip on our shoulder."

Two Hot Ballclubs
Both teams are playing excellent baseball. After opening the Pac-12 season 0-6, the Wildcats (24-12, 8-7 Pac-12) have ripped off nine wins in their past 10 games. The Cardinal (20-11, 7-5 Pac-12), meanwhile, have won nine of 12. Mark Marquess' squad is averaging seven runs per game over the course of its past six conference contests. The past three series, in fact, have accounted for Stanford's best offensive output of the entire season. The Cardinal took two of three from Washington (7-5, 3-11, 12-2) and racked up 22 runs in the process.

"We're hitting a bunch of balls hard on a line, hard on the ground up the middle. That's where you're going to find most of your hits," third baseman Alex Blandino said. "The team has been picking it up and swinging it a lot better. Our pitchers were really carrying this team earlier in the year. The offense was giving them nothing."

Now, Stanford is mashing the ball out of the park after starting the season on a record-low home run pace. Blandino hit a three-run moon shot in a 9-2 Tuesday victory over Pacific on Tuesday, while Ragira's first-inning smash gave him four taters over his past six games. He entered last weekend hitting only .261 on the season, but certainly has found his stride along with the rest of the Cardinal's offense.

"I just kept putting my work in, and I knew things would come around eventually," Ragira said. "Hitting is contagious."

Indeed, Stanford's team batting average has climbed to .271 just three weeks after it was stuck at a conference-worst .244. Catcher Brant Whiting continues his phenomenal breakout campaign at a .418 clip, though he tells me that he remains blissfully unaware, as he avoids looking at his numbers on the scoreboard when he hits. (I guess he doesn't read The Bootleg, either.) Justin Ringo continues to scorch the baseball (.336, 18 RBI), Danny Diekroeger's hits keep racking up (.298, 18 RBI), and Austin Wilson's comeback (10-for-24 since his return) has fortified the 3-4 core of the lineup.

Austin Slater, the team offensive leader throughout the doldrums, has missed the past two games for undisclosed reasons, but Brian Guymon has filled in nicely by pushing four hits to all parts of the field. Marquess has penciled in 31 different lineups in the Cardinal's 31 contests so far this year, and the combinations are finally producing the desired results.

Pitching's Turn to Deliver
Now, Stanford needs elusive mound consistency against the Pac-12's most productive offense. The Wildcats again lead the league by wide margins in run production (6.9/game), average (.310), on-base percentage (.410), and stolen bases (78). Beyond Mark Appel, the Cardinal's starting pitching has been shaky at best, but John Hochstatter's complete game in last Sunday's 12-2 victory over Washington was certainly encouraging.

The bad news: That Hochstatter effort and Saturday's 11-3 implosion at the hands of the Huskies both came against the Pac-12's worst offense. It becomes significantly harder from this point forward. In fact, the Cardinal have played only the worst teams in the conference. The record of Stanford's league opponents so far is 56-80 (.412), while the record of the Farm Boys' remaining adversaries is 131-67 (.662). That's a back-loaded schedule if there ever were one.

The good news: Despite the poor competition, Stanford is clearly playing its best baseball of the season. The fact that its schedule is so backloaded may end up being the biggest break of 2013. Had the Cardinal been forced to play conference heavyweights during their weak-hitting rough stretch, the deficit in the standings might have grown too big to overcome. As it stands, the team is now sitting pretty in the Pac-12's third-place position. Their RPI is still lousy (112), but Stanford now has a legitimate shot to climb into picture to host an NCAA Regional, if they can find a way to hold it together on the mound this weekend.

Appel and Hochstatter will certainly get starts against Arizona, while freshman Bobby Zarubin has a great chance to re-enter the weekend rotation following five excellent innings in Stockton Tuesday. Pitching coach Rusty Filter removed him after only 45 pitches, presumably to save his arm for important work this weekend. Tall lefty Garrett Hughes is also a starting option for Stanford, but the bullpen will likely play a key role regardless against Arizona's furious attack.

This weekend is a clear defining point, one that will certainly test the Cardinal's mettle halfway through the conference sprint.

David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!


Rays Digest Top Stories


\r\n
\r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n A Chance for Payback
\r\n\r\nThen, the wheels came off.
\r\n
\r\nArizona pounded ball after ball through its dry, rock-hard infield.\r\nStanford closer David Schmidt only recorded one out, and the\r\nWildcats plated four runs to stun the Cardinal in an 8-7 victory.\r\nThe Wildcats were 4-2 victors the next night, and by the time\r\nApril Fools' Day came around, the Farm Boys were hoping it was all\r\njust a bad joke. It wasn't; the Wildcats finished off a three-game\r\nsweep that afternoon with a 6-2 Sunday win. They never looked back\r\nagain on their way to both the Pac-12 and College World Series\r\nchampionships.
\r\n
\r\nNow comes the rematch. And this time, the two teams meet at\r\nStanford's Sunken Diamond.
\r\n
\r\n\"We remember last year's series,\" Stanford catcher-turned-centerfielder Wayne Taylor told me Sunday. \"We'll be playing with a chip\r\non our shoulder.\"
\r\n
\r\nTwo Hot Ballclubs
\r\nBoth teams are playing excellent baseball. After opening the Pac-12\r\nseason 0-6, the Wildcats (24-12, 8-7 Pac-12) have ripped off nine\r\nwins in their past 10 games. The Cardinal (20-11, 7-5 Pac-12),\r\nmeanwhile, have won nine of 12. Mark Marquess' squad is averaging\r\nseven runs per game over the course of its past six conference\r\ncontests. The past three series, in fact, have accounted for\r\nStanford's best offensive output of the entire season. The Cardinal took\r\ntwo of three from Washington (7-5, 3-11, 12-2) and racked up 22 runs\r\nin the process.
\r\n
\r\n\"We're hitting a bunch of balls hard on a line, hard on the ground\r\nup the middle. That's where you're going to find most of your hits,\"\r\nthird baseman Alex Blandino said. \"The team has been picking it up\r\nand swinging it a lot better. Our pitchers were really carrying this\r\nteam earlier in the year. The offense was giving them nothing.\"
\r\n
\r\nNow, Stanford is mashing the ball\r\nout of the park after starting the season on a record-low home run\r\npace. Blandino hit a three-run moon shot in a 9-2 Tuesday victory over\r\nPacific on Tuesday, while Ragira's first-inning smash gave him four\r\ntaters over his past six games. He entered last weekend hitting only\r\n.261 on the season, but certainly has found his stride along with\r\nthe rest of the Cardinal's offense.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just kept putting my work in, and I knew things would come around\r\neventually,\" Ragira said. \"Hitting is contagious.\"
\r\n
\r\nIndeed, Stanford's team batting average has climbed to .271\r\njust three weeks after it was stuck at a conference-worst .244.\r\nCatcher Brant Whiting continues his phenomenal breakout campaign at\r\na .418 clip, though he tells me that he remains blissfully unaware, as he\r\navoids looking at his numbers on the scoreboard when he hits. (I\r\nguess he doesn't read The Bootleg, either.) Justin Ringo continues\r\nto scorch the baseball (.336, 18 RBI), Danny Diekroeger's hits keep\r\nracking up (.298, 18 RBI), and Austin Wilson's comeback (10-for-24\r\nsince his return) has fortified the 3-4 core of the lineup.
\r\n
\r\nAustin Slater, the team offensive leader throughout the doldrums,\r\nhas missed the past two games for undisclosed reasons, but Brian Guymon has filled in nicely by pushing four hits to all parts of the\r\nfield. Marquess has penciled in 31 different\r\nlineups in the Cardinal's 31 contests so far this year, and the\r\ncombinations are finally producing the desired results.
\r\n
\r\nPitching's Turn to Deliver
\r\nNow, Stanford needs elusive mound consistency against the Pac-12's\r\nmost productive offense. The Wildcats again lead the league by wide\r\nmargins in run production (6.9/game), average (.310), on-base\r\npercentage (.410), and stolen bases (78). Beyond Mark Appel, the\r\nCardinal's starting pitching has been shaky at best, but John Hochstatter's complete game in last Sunday's 12-2 victory over\r\nWashington was certainly encouraging.
\r\n
\r\nThe bad news: That Hochstatter effort and Saturday's 11-3 implosion\r\nat the hands of the Huskies both came against the Pac-12's worst\r\noffense. It becomes significantly harder from this point forward. In\r\nfact, the Cardinal have played only the worst teams in the\r\nconference. The record of Stanford's league opponents so far is\r\n56-80 (.412), while the record of the Farm Boys' remaining\r\nadversaries is 131-67 (.662). That's a back-loaded schedule if there\r\never were one.
\r\n
\r\nThe good news: Despite the poor competition, Stanford is clearly\r\nplaying its best baseball of the season. The fact that its schedule\r\nis so backloaded may end up being the biggest break of 2013. Had\r\nthe Cardinal been forced to play conference heavyweights during\r\ntheir weak-hitting rough stretch, the deficit in the standings might\r\nhave grown too big to overcome. As it stands, the team is now\r\nsitting pretty in the Pac-12's third-place position. Their RPI is\r\nstill lousy (112), but Stanford now has a legitimate shot to climb\r\ninto picture to host an NCAA Regional, if they can find a way to\r\nhold it together on the mound this weekend.
\r\n
\r\nAppel and Hochstatter will certainly get starts against Arizona,\r\nwhile freshman Bobby Zarubin has a great chance to re-enter the\r\nweekend rotation following five excellent innings in Stockton\r\nTuesday. Pitching coach Rusty Filter removed him after only 45\r\npitches, presumably to save his arm for important work this weekend.\r\nTall lefty Garrett Hughes is also a starting option for Stanford, but\r\nthe bullpen will likely play a key role regardless against Arizona's\r\nfurious attack.
\r\n
\r\nThis weekend is a clear defining point, one that will certainly\r\ntest the Cardinal's mettle halfway through the conference sprint.

\r\n\r\nDavid Lombardi is the Stanford\r\nInsider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
\r\n
\r\n

Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out on\r\nall the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our\r\naward-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in\r\nStanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com\r\n(sign-up)!

","mobileBody":"Follow @DavidMLombardi Then, the wheels came off. Arizona pounded ball after ball through its dry, rock-hard infield. Stanford closer David Schmidt only recorded one out, and the Wildcats plated four runs to stun the Cardinal in an 8-7 victory. The Wildcats were 4-2 victors the next night, and by the time April Fools' Day came around, the Farm Boys were hoping it was all just a bad joke. It wasn't; the Wildcats finished off a three-game sweep that afternoon with a 6-2 Sunday win. They never looked back again on their way to both the Pac-12 and College World Series championships. Now comes the rematch. And this time, the two teams meet at Stanford's Sunken Diamond. \"We remember last year's series,\" Stanford catcher-turned-centerfielder Wayne Taylor told me Sunday. \"We'll be playing with a chip on our shoulder.\" Both teams are playing excellent baseball. After opening the Pac-12 season 0-6, the Wildcats (24-12, 8-7 Pac-12) have ripped off nine wins in their past 10 games. The Cardinal (20-11, 7-5 Pac-12), meanwhile, have won nine of 12. Mark Marquess' squad is averaging seven runs per game over the course of its past six conference contests. The past three series, in fact, have accounted for Stanford's best offensive output of the entire season. The Cardinal took two of three from Washington (7-5, 3-11, 12-2) and racked up 22 runs in the process. \"We're hitting a bunch of balls hard on a line, hard on the ground up the middle. That's where you're going to find most of your hits,\" third baseman Alex Blandino said. \"The team has been picking it up and swinging it a lot better. Our pitchers were really carrying this team earlier in the year. The offense was giving them nothing.\" Now, Stanford is mashing the ball out of the park after starting the season on a record-low home run pace. Blandino hit a three-run moon shot in a 9-2 Tuesday victory over Pacific on Tuesday, while Ragira's first-inning smash gave him four taters over his past six games. He entered last weekend hitting only .261 on the season, but certainly has found his stride along with the rest of the Cardinal's offense. \"I just kept putting my work in, and I knew things would come around eventually,\" Ragira said. \"Hitting is contagious.\" Indeed, Stanford's team batting average has climbed to .271 just three weeks after it was stuck at a conference-worst .244. Catcher Brant Whiting continues his phenomenal breakout campaign at a .418 clip, though he tells me that he remains blissfully unaware, as he avoids looking at his numbers on the scoreboard when he hits. (I guess he doesn't read The Bootleg, either.) Justin Ringo continues to scorch the baseball (.336, 18 RBI), Danny Diekroeger's hits keep racking up (.298, 18 RBI), and Austin Wilson's comeback (10-for-24 since his return) has fortified the 3-4 core of the lineup. Austin Slater, the team offensive leader throughout the doldrums, has missed the past two games for undisclosed reasons, but Brian Guymon has filled in nicely by pushing four hits to all parts of the field. Marquess has penciled in 31 different lineups in the Cardinal's 31 contests so far this year, and the combinations are finally producing the desired results. Now, Stanford needs elusive mound consistency against the Pac-12's most productive offense. The Wildcats again lead the league by wide margins in run production (6.9/game), average (.310), on-base percentage (.410), and stolen bases (78). Beyond Mark Appel, the Cardinal's starting pitching has been shaky at best, but John Hochstatter's complete game in last Sunday's 12-2 victory over Washington was certainly encouraging. The bad news: That Hochstatter effort and Saturday's 11-3 implosion at the hands of the Huskies both came against the Pac-12's worst offense. It becomes significantly harder from this point forward. In fact, the Cardinal have played only the worst teams in the conference. The record of Stanford's league opponents so far is 56-80 (.412), while the record of the Farm Boys' remaining adversaries is 131-67 (.662). That's a back-loaded schedule if there ever were one. The good news: Despite the poor competition, Stanford is clearly playing its best baseball of the season. The fact that its schedule is so backloaded may end up being the biggest break of 2013. Had the Cardinal been forced to play conference heavyweights during their weak-hitting rough stretch, the deficit in the standings might have grown too big to overcome. As it stands, the team is now sitting pretty in the Pac-12's third-place position. Their RPI is still lousy (112), but Stanford now has a legitimate shot to climb into picture to host an NCAA Regional, if they can find a way to hold it together on the mound this weekend. Appel and Hochstatter will certainly get starts against Arizona, while freshman Bobby Zarubin has a great chance to re-enter the weekend rotation following five excellent innings in Stockton Tuesday. Pitching coach Rusty Filter removed him after only 45 pitches, presumably to save his arm for important work this weekend. Tall lefty Garrett Hughes is also a starting option for Stanford, but the bullpen will likely play a key role regardless against Arizona's furious attack. This weekend is a clear defining point, one that will certainly test the Cardinal's mettle halfway through the conference sprint.

Are you fully subscribed to ? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with (sign-up)!

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