The Stanford baseball squad has a lot to be happy about going into tonight’s matchup against San Jose State.
The red-hot Cardinal has finally started to put it all together and a resurgent offense has recently compensated for uncharacteristically shaky pitching performances to keep the ball rolling. The No. 14 Cardinal (22-12, 9-6 Pac-12), victorious in each of its last three weekday games and its last three series against Pac-12 opponents, will look to carry that success into its date with San Jose State (13-26, 7-8 WAC) at Sunken Diamond.
In their previous meeting two weeks ago, the Spartans took advantage of an ineffective Stanford bullpen to pressure the Cardinal all the way through the ninth inning. Although Stanford was eventually able to squeak by San Jose State by a score of 10-8 due to late heroics from the offense, the Cardinal hopes that there will be less drama in this second and final matchup of the season against the Spartans.
The Stanford offense has recently roared to life, averaging over nine runs per game over its last 10 contests, including three games against defending national champion Arizona. After struggling mightily for the early goings of the season and having to be bailed out by effective pitching, it is the hitting that has rescued the pitchers as of late.
Junior first baseman Brian Ragira, who earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors yesterday, has been wreaking havoc from the three-hole in Stanford’s rejuvenated lineup. He collected seven hits in 13 at-bats in the Cardinal’s most recent series against Arizona while driving in six runs.
The junior from Texas has hit at an impressive .462 clip (12-for-26) with four home runs in the last six games, giving the Cardinal a potent power threat in the middle of its lineup.
The Cardinal has also been greatly boosted by the return from injury of junior right fielder Austin Wilson, who is batting .342 and driving runs in at a rate that would easily lead the team in RBI had he played the full season. The continued presence of the star slugger at the heart of Stanford’s lineup looks to pay dividends.
As the offensive firepower only gets stronger, the strong pitching that the team relied on during its extended offensive slump has become surprisingly inconsistent. The last time these two teams met, Stanford’s team ERA was sitting at a stingy 2.60 mark. Since then, however, the pitching staff has scuffled significantly.
In the seven games that the Cardinal has played since it last faced the Spartans, the Cardinal pitching staff has given up an average of almost six runs per game, an alarming statistic considering that three of those games came against the lowly Washington Huskies, who sport an 11-26 record that is good for last place in the Pac-12.
Stanford’s starting rotation was hit especially hard in its last series against Arizona. Senior Dean McArdle didn’t make it out of the fourth inning on Saturday afternoon and was charged with five earned runs. Sophomore lefty John Hochstatter was also ineffective in the series finale on Sunday, exiting in the second inning charged with five runs, albeit none earned.
Not even senior ace Mark Appel had his best stuff in his latest outing. The righty failed to pitch seven full innings for the first time since the season opener at Rice and allowed two earned runs. Although it was a strong outing nonetheless, it was a notch below what Stanford fans has become accustomed to seeing out of their seasoned ace.
San Jose State hasn’t exactly been on top of its game since it last faced Stanford, either. After its close loss to the Cardinal in their last meeting, San Jose State was promptly swept by UT-Arlington in three games before taking two of three from Texas State.
The upstart Stanford offense should again have no problem teeing off on Spartan pitching. San Jose State’s pitching staff comes into the contest with an underwhelming 5.95 ERA. In the last meeting between the two teams, Stanford’s offense had no trouble scoring 10 runs, and with the offense firing on all cylinders it would not be surprising to see another dominant performance by the Cardinal hitters.
First pitch against San Jose State will be at 5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 “at” stanford.edu.