With postseason unlikely, Card primes for rivalry showdown at Cal

May 16, 2013, 10:12 p.m.

There is no way to sugarcoat Stanford baseball’s season, no way to describe it as anything other than a resounding disappointment for a roster overflowing with highly touted professional prospects. Neither the return of senior ace Mark Appel, who is on the cusp of setting the school’s strikeout record, nor the rehab of junior slugger Austin Wilson, another near-certain first-round pick, has made the Cardinal a contender in 2013, and with two weeks to play Stanford (26-20, 11-13 Pac-12) has been all but eliminated from consideration for a postseason berth.

Ace righty Mark Appel needs just 11 strikeouts to break a school career record, and he has two starts left to do it, beginning with this Friday's tilt at Cal.
Ace righty Mark Appel (above) needs just 11 strikeouts to break a school career record, and he has two starts left to do it, beginning with tonight’s tilt at Cal. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

There’s only one thing left for the Cardinal to do.

“I think at this point, we’re just trying to finish strong,” said senior Justin Ringo, whose days playing college baseball are numbered. “Hopefully, we can turn it around this weekend.”

When Stanford travels across the Bay to face Cal (22-28, 10-17), it will carry a six-game losing streak into Berkeley. That stint has included consecutive losses to midweek opponents San Francisco and Santa Clara and a sweep at the hands of conference-leading Oregon State that effectively ended Stanford’s bid for a regional spot.

“Oregon State’s a really good team,” Ringo said. “I think they’re better than us. I think they played better than us. But I think we battled for the most part and it’s just been a tough stretch.”

The Bears are just two weeks removed from being swept by the Beavers themselves and have won just four series all season.

At the very least, this has the potential to be an entertaining rivalry matchup between two teams that have nothing else left to play for. When these two squads met at Sunken Diamond last season, Cal won a 5-4 classic on Friday night that was at once both a thriller — Stanford had a walk-off home run called back — and a snoozefest — the contest lasted 18 innings, six hours and 569 pitches. The Bears then came out to dominate the Saturday matchup 15-5 to clinch the series against the demoralized Cardinal, which did bounce back with a 5-3 win in the finale.

Stanford is once again the favorite in this series, but that says more about Cal’s struggles this season than anything else. The Bears are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the Pac-12, with just 4.6 runs per game, while their 4.55 team ERA is second worst in the conference.

In contrast to the Cardinal’s seasoned lineup, which includes veterans such as Ringo, Wilson and junior first baseman Brian Ragira, Cal is often forced to start five freshmen in the field. Junior catcher Andrew Knapp is by far the Bears’ most prolific hitter, leading his team in batting average (.353), RBI (39) and extra-base hits (22), while centerfielder Devin Pearson has also impressed by hitting .327 as a freshman.

Cal is also inexperienced on the mound, with freshman righty Ryan Mason (5-3) taking the ball on Friday night. The Bears have not named a Sunday starter, a telling similarity with a Cardinal pitching staff that, besides Appel, has been incredibly inconsistent this season.

Appel will try to shake off his worst start of the year, a 7-3 loss to the Beavers, in tonight’s 7 p.m. series opener. He needs 11 strikeouts to become Stanford’s career leader in that category.

The series will conclude with a 6 p.m. start on Saturday and a 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday. After this weekend, Stanford will host four straight games to end the season: a Tuesday matchup with Pacific and a three-game series against No. 10 UCLA.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next seven games,” Ringo said, “but I hope at the very least we’ll have fun and battle and compete.”

Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda “at” stanford.edu.

Joseph Beyda is the editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the executive editor, webmaster, football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.

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