Baseball: Series with Washington promises plenty of fireworks

May 6, 2011, 1:54 a.m.

If ever there was a time for the Stanford baseball team to make a run, the time is now. The seventh-place Cardinal will host last-place Washington for a three-game series this weekend at Sunken Diamond, where it will have a chance to make up some serious ground in the Pac-10 standings.

Baseball: Series with Washington promises plenty of fireworks
The baseball team enters a crucial stretch in the Pac-10 race with a home series against Washington. The Huskies are struggling, but the Cardinal will take wins any way it can get them as it sits in sixth place in the conference (Ian Garcia-Doty/The Stanford Daily).

The No. 28 Cardinal (22-16, 6-9 Pac-10) comes into the series with a bit of confidence, having beaten San Jose State 3-1 on Tuesday—a nice rebound after dropping two of three to Arizona State in the desert last weekend. Stanford was propelled by a strong outing by sophomore starter Dean McArdle (6-2), who struck out four and allowed only five baserunners in five and a third innings. It was McArdle’s longest outing since he went six and two-thirds on April 3, when the Cardinal defeated Washington State for Coach Mark Marquess’ 1400th career victory—Stanford is hoping that this is a sign of things to come.

Washington (13-27, 4-11) comes into the series with a sense of urgency—the Huskies dropped two of three at archrival Washington State over the weekend and have lost seven of ten overall. They did manage to win the series finale in Pullman, scratching out a 6-5 victory behind six and two-thirds innings of strong relief by senior righthander Jacob Clem. It was a rare bright spot for coach Lindsay Meggs in what has been a tough season from the start. Washington hasn’t won a series since taking two of three from the Oregon Ducks in early April, and the Huskies have won just one other series over the course of the entire season, when they took two of three from Nevada in late March.

For the Cardinal, this season has been a tale of home and away. Stanford boasts an outstanding 12-5 record at home, but is just 10-11 on the ro0ad, perhaps a sign of the team’s youth (the Cardinal starts just one upperclassman in its everyday lineup). During its last homestand, Stanford took two of three from UCLA and then defeated Cal in a non-conference game, despite the fact that both teams currently reside ahead of the Cardinal in the Pac-10 standings. Especially noticeable in the contrast between Stanford’s home and away games this season has been the team’s success in close games—in games decided by one run this season, Stanford is 4-1 at home but just 1-4 on the road.

In order for the Cardinal to continue its success at the Sunken Diamond, it will need sophomore third baseman Stephen Piscotty and senior catcher Zach Jones to continue to produce. Piscotty leads the team in batting average (.356), slugging percentage (.470) and on-base percentage (.410), and he is third in RBI (24). Jones leads the team in home runs with four and has 25 RBI this season, which all came in the past 23 games.

In addition to Piscotty and Jones, the Cardinal will look to its vaunted sophomore class to set the table. Centerfielder Jake Stewart leads the team with fourteen doubles and seven stolen bases and is second in total bases with 62, while left-fielder Tyler Gaffney is second on the team in on-base percentage (.403). Additionally, Stanford hopes that slumping shortstop Kenny Diekroeger will find the form that made him a freshman All-American a year ago. As the Cardinal’s bats have gone this season, so has the Cardinal—Stanford is 15-3 when scoring five runs or more this year.

Looking for redemption will be the Cardinal’s pitching staff, which before McArdle’s strong start against San Jose State on Tuesday had given up 23 runs in three games against Arizona State, highlighted by a 12-10 loss last Friday and 7-1 loss on Sunday. Sophomore righthander Mark Appel (3-5, 3.58 ERA) will take the hill for Fireworks Night on Friday, where he will face Huskies senior lefthander Geoff Brown (1-5, 4.33 ERA). Appel will be followed by senior righthander Danny Sandbrink (3-0, 2.27 ERA) on Saturday and a pitcher to be announced for Sunday, which will probably be junior right-hander Jordan Pries (4-5, 3.90 ERA) or McArdle (6-2, 4.19 ERA). The Huskies will counter with right-hander Aaron West (1-8, 5.52 ERA) and righthander Austin Voth (2-4, 5.55 ERA).

Stanford opens the Washington series tonight at 6 p.m. and continues at 2 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

 

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