M. Baseball: Stanford heads to desert hoping to cool off red-hot Sun Devils

April 29, 2011, 2:03 a.m.

In the Pac-10, there are no weekends off, no easy opponents, no rollover games—there is no chance to rest. With that in mind, the No. 21 Stanford baseball team hits the road this weekend for a pivotal conference matchup against No. 7 Arizona State.

M. Baseball: Stanford heads to desert hoping to cool off red-hot Sun Devils
The No. 21 baseball team will try and cool off the streaking Arizona State Sun Devils in a Pac-10 clash this weekend. Sophomore third baseman Stephen Piscotty (above) will be a key piece in the Cardinal's attack as he leads the team with a .348 batting average (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal (20-14, 5-7 Pac-10) travels to the desert to take on the Sun Devils in Tempe for a three-game series that has plenty of postseason implications. Arizona State (29-9, 11-4 Pac-10) trails Oregon State by a half-game in the conference standings as the season nears the halfway mark, with Stanford sitting five games back in sixth place.

Stanford may be riding high after a series win over visiting No. 11 UCLA last weekend, but no team in the nation is hotter than ASU. After being swept by Oregon State in Corvallis, the Sun Devils have rattled off seven straight victories against conference foes.

The streak started against Washington State at home, where ASU dismantled the Cougars, winning two games by six runs and only allowing more than two runs just once.

The Sun Devils then traveled up to the Bay Area to take on a tough Cal squad. After the first game, it seemed like the series could be the series of the year. In the second-longest game in school history, the Sun Devils outlasted the No. 20 Golden Bears in a 17-inning marathon. ASU took one-run leads in the 10th and 13th innings, but could not stay ahead before finally finishing the game off in the 17th.

The Arizona State pitching staff blanked Cal the rest of the weekend, winning 5-0 and 6-0. Most recently, the Sun Devils traveled to Tucson on Tuesday for a midweek game against rival Arizona, outlasting the Wildcats, 4-3.

But Stanford has momentum, too. In its biggest series of the year, the Cardinal took two out of three from UCLA in dramatic fashion. Buoyed by home runs by senior catcher Zach Jones, sophomore outfielder Tyler Gaffney and sophomore third baseman Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinal took the series opener, 7-4, behind another solid performance by sophomore starter Mark Appel. Facing one of the nation’s best pitchers in Gerrit Cole, the Cardinal’s offensive explosion was a huge, if not unexpected, lift to a struggling team.

The Cardinal bats went cold again on Saturday against Trevor Bauer, another top prospect. The undersized junior threw a complete game allowing one run and striking out a career-high 17.

On Sunday, Stanford played its biggest game of the early season. A loss would have handed the Cardinal its third straight Pac-10 loss, while a win would provide a turning point in the season.

Trailing by three runs heading into the bottom of the ninth, Stanford was down to its final out. Freshman outfielder Brian Guymon singled, sophomore pinch hitter Justin Ringo walked and sophomore outfielder Jake Stewart singled to cut the lead to two. Jones then doubled down the right field line to tie the game at four. Following two straight walks to load the bases, sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger’s blooper found outfield grass to plate Jones and send Sunken Diamond into pandemonium.

Now, Stanford must build on that momentum. The Cardinal got off to the right start beating Cal 9-5 on Monday, but lost to a subpar Saint Mary’s team the next day for its first midweek loss of the season.

And Stanford certainly has its work cut out for it against the Sun Devil rotation. Brady Rodgers (5-2, 2.85 ERA) will take the mound on Friday night, followed by Kramer Champlin (6-1, 2.78 ERA) and Jake Barrett (5-3, 4.55 ERA).

The Cardinal will send out the same three starters against ASU as it did against UCLA, but in different order. Appel will once again take the Friday start, but senior Danny Sandbrink will move up for the Saturday start, with junior Jordan Pries pitching the series finale. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday night.

 

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