Whether it’s Connecticut or Washington, Huskies are the top dogs around the nation right now. This weekend, Stanford baseball (11-14, 3-6 Pac-12) travels to Seattle for a three-game series to face the No. 8 Washington Huskies (22-6-1, 10-2 Pac-12), who rather surprisingly stand atop the Pac-12.
After starting the season 3-4-1, the Huskies have gone 19-2 in their last 21 games to climb all the way to the top of the Pac-12 and into the top 10 teams in the nation. In the preseason, Pac-12 coaches projected Washington to finish 10th in the conference.
Despite starting conference play against arguably some of the Pac-12’s weaker teams so far in USC, Arizona and Arizona State, the Huskies validated their prolific start with last weekend’s series win against conference rival No. 12 Oregon. Washington was blown out in the first game of the series on Friday at home, 10-3, before recovering to win the series with a 1-0 victory on Saturday and a 5-4 walk-off victory in ten innings on Sunday.
The surge in play has seen the Huskies’ offense average 6.3 runs per game over their past 21 games, which greatly contrasts the Cardinal’s 3.4 runs per game over their last 16 games. The Huskies boast six regular starters who hit above .300 and their .289 team average ranks third in the conference. The team’s 14 home runs are good for first in the Pac-12.
Junior second baseman Andrew Ely leads Washington with a .373 batting average, which is fifth in the Pac-12, and enters the series on a 16-game hitting streak. Similarly, senior outfielder Brian Wolfe leads the team with four home runs and 22 RBIs, despite only having started in 22 of the team’s 29 games. Wolfe’s emergence as the cleanup hitter for the Huskies has come after he only hit .233 in 20 starts last season. He’s currently hitting .370 this year for Washington.
On the mound, Washington has seen moderate success so far this season, as the team’s 3.42 ERA places it fifth in the Pac-12, right behind Stanford. The team has allowed 3.5 runs per game in its 12 Pac-12 contests so far.
Junior weekend starters Tyler Davis and Jeff Brigham have dominated on the mound for Washington after up-and-down freshman and sophomore years. Davis, who went 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA last season, has gone 6-1 with a 1.16 ERA in seven starts this season. In similarly surprising fashion, Brigham has started the season 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in eight starts after missing last season completely due to injury.
However, the pitcher expected to be the Huskies’ ace, junior Jared Fisher, has disappointed so far. Fisher finished last season with a 2-2 record and a 3.20 ERA in 10 starts and began the season as the Friday night starter, where he has still pitched for most of the season. This year, though, Fisher has only posted a 2-3 record with a 5.73 ERA in eight starts.
For the Cardinal, their streak of 25 straight games to start the season with a freshman on the mound could come to an end this weekend. Freshman pitcher Chris Viall struggled in his last two outings, surrendering six earned runs in 2.2 combined innings pitched after a promising start to the season. At the same time, junior southpaw John Hochstatter impressed with 6.2 scoreless innings pitched in relief of Viall against Oregon State. Hochstatter also served as the Saturday starter for much of last season.
The other two starting spots on the weekend for Stanford will go to freshmen Brett Hanewich and Cal Quantrill. Both pitchers have exceeded expectations this season, as Hanewich enters the series with a 1-2 record and a 2.75 ERA and Quantrill enters with a 3-2 record and a 2.60 ERA. Quantrill has shined as of late — he had a streak of 17.1 innings pitched without an earned run snapped against USC on March 22nd and a streak of 26.1 innings pitched without allowing a walk snapped last weekend against Oregon State. Over his last six starts, Quantrill has thrown 38.1 innings while allowing only three earned runs and picking up 31 strikeouts.
At the plate, junior third baseman Alex Blandino continues to lead the Cardinal after hitting a home run against UC-Davis on Tuesday and begins the series leading the team with a .318 average and three home runs. The team scored seven runs against UC-Davis, the most runs it had scored since it put up 11 runs against Cal on March 4, a stretch that spanned 13 games. In order to beat the Huskies, Stanford must score more than the two runs it did in all three games against Oregon State last weekend.
The Cardinal will look to earn all-important conference wins this weekend after losing their last four Pac-12 games. All three games between Stanford and Washington in Seattle will be night contests, with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, 6 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Contact Michael Peterson at [email protected].