Stanford baseball has one goal this weekend: score runs.
A simple objective, to be sure. But it’s a task that has proved frustratingly difficult in the past week for the Cardinal. With No. 9 Oregon State paying a visit to Sunken Diamond this weekend, all eyes will be on Stanford’s bats.
After scoring eight runs in a win over USC in the first game of last weekend’s series, the Cardinal lineup has been silenced. No. 17 Stanford (16-9, 3-3 Pac-10) lost the final two games against the struggling Trojans, scratching one run across in each.
Stanford got back in the win column against Pacific with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday, but that was more thanks to the Cardinal pitching than the hitting. Still, players had no problem taking away positives from the offensive performance.
“The team and coaches thought that was one of our better all-around games,” said senior outfielder Ben Clowe. “We hit a lot of balls hard and only struck out twice.
“We’ve been working on simplifying things and seeing the ball well,” he continued. “Hope the rest takes care of itself.”
It’s going to take more than hope to beat the surging Beavers (24-7, 5-1 Pac-10), winners of six straight games including a sweep over defending Pac-10 conference champion No. 5 Arizona State.
“[Oregon State] is a team that when they get hot they can beat anyone, [as proven] by their back-to-back national titles,” said senior catcher Zach Jones. “Right now, they’re really hot.”
That could prove troublesome for Stanford. The Beavers played well on both sides of the ball against the Sun Devils, winning 5-3, 7-6 and 9-6. To put Oregon State’s sweep in perspective, the last time ASU was swept in a Pac-10 series was more than a decade ago.
It’s starting to feel like it’s been a decade since the Cardinal played a series at home, too.
“It is very nice to finally play at home,” Clowe said. “We’ve traveled so much this year, but we’ve played well at home when given the chance. Hopefully there is a big crowd out there.”
The Cardinal’s last home series was over Spring Break against Long Beach State, which Stanford won two games to one. Stanford’s most recent win over Pacific improves its home record to 10-1.
Whatever mojo playing at home gives the Cardinal, it needs to be there this weekend. Stanford will send out its normal trio of pitchers: sophomore Mark Appel on Friday, junior Jordan Pries on Saturday and sophomore Dean McArdle on Sunday. Their focus will be on controlling catcher Andrew Susac. The sophomore Susac leads the Beavers with a .364 batting average and is tied for the team lead with four home runs, flashing the power that had major league scouts salivating in high school—the Phillies drafted him in the 16th round out of Jesuit High School in Sacramento.
The series could ultimately be decided on the basepaths. Oregon State likes to run, stealing 34 bags so far this season—sophomore outfielder Garrett Nash paces the Beavers with seven steals. Yet Jones is one of the best defensive catchers in college baseball and has shut down opponents’ running games before.
Despite Jones’ prowess behind the plate, the Cardinal would rather shut down the Beavers’ running game by scoring runs and forcing them to be conservative on the bases. Susac is a highly rated defensive catcher himself, so it should be a good matchup behind the dish.
As for confidence, there is no shortage. Just ask outfielder Dave Giuliani.
“I’m the leading hitter, so as long as I keep hitting we’ll be alright,” the senior said with a smile.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight.