Fresh off an important series win over conference rival Arizona State, Stanford baseball (15-17, 6-9 Pac-12) hopes to continue building positive momentum as it travels to face local opponent Santa Clara (17-22, 8-7 WCC) on Tuesday night.
The Cardinal have seemingly put a disappointing start to the season in the rearview mirror by winning four of its last five games, including two walk-off victories. Although the Cardinal offense still only produced seven runs over the course of the three-game series against the Sun Devils, Stanford’s pitching more than made up for it, with junior John Hochstatter especially shining in his shutout victory and near-no-hitter on Sunday.
Both walk-off victories for the Cardinal came in back-to-back games off the bat of senior first baseman Danny Diekroeger, who earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his performance. Diekroeger finished the week 7-for-17 at the plate (a .412 batting average) and added his first home run of the season in Sunday’s 1-0 victory, his third game-winning hit of the week. The Pac-12 Player of the Week award to Diekroeger was the first such honor this season for the Cardinal and the first of Diekroeger’s career.
Stanford enters as a favorite against Santa Clara, a team that has struggled to keep opponents off the board for much of the season. The Broncos have a 4.36 team ERA and have allowed eight or more runs 11 times this season. In its three games played against other Pac-12 opponents Washington and Arizona State, Santa Clara has gone 0-3 and allowed 24 total runs.
However, the Broncos are entering the series on a three-game winning streak after sweeping the University of San Diego on the road this past weekend. The normally shaky Broncos bullpen allowed only four earned runs in 14 innings of work over the series, picking up much-needed victories for the team after it lost four of its previous five.
Offensively, Santa Clara is led by senior outfielder Greg Harisis. Harisis leads the team in nearly every category, with 40 hits, 33 runs, nine doubles, three home runs and a .312 batting average, all topping the Broncos’ lineup. On-base specialist and catcher Stevie Berman complements Harisis, generally the leadoff hitter, further down the lineup. Berman hits .309 and leads the team with 19 walks and nine hit-by-pitches, combining to give him a .431 on-base percentage.
If the Cardinal hope to make the postseason, their offense will need to pick up the pace. The Cardinal no longer have a player hitting above .300 or with an on-base percentage above .400. The team’s .247 batting average ranks it ninth in the Pac-12.
Despite the team’s poor performance at the plate, junior third baseman Alex Blandino continues to lead the team with a .299 batting average and four home runs. Diekroeger and sophomore Zach Hoffpauir, who has raised his average by over 100 points since March 1 to .283, have also played impressively well recently.
The Card will likely use a stable of pitchers for the game but may use freshman Tyler Thorne as the starter on the mound. Thorne has started in all but one midweek non-conference game so far this season for the Cardinal, compiling a 2-0 record with a 3.52 ERA in 12 appearances, four of which were starts. Stanford’s pitching has dominated this season with a 3.27 team ERA. The Cardinal only surrendered six runs over the series against Arizona State.
First pitch between Stanford and Santa Clara is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Moraga, Calif., on Tuesday night.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.