Stanford baseball’s road to Omaha began this weekend with three intra-squad scrimmages at Sunken Diamond.
With many starters moving on to professional baseball in the 2012 draft, this weekend provided an early look at who might start in three weeks, when Stanford heads to Houston to take on the Rice Owls in its season-opening series.
The starting lineup — traditionally head coach Mark Marquess has his expected starters play against his expected backups for the intra-squads — was identical for all three of the weekend’s scrimmages, perhaps suggesting that Marquess is not thinking of changing it up.
Junior right fielder Austin Wilson, who was one of only four players to start every Stanford game in 2012, is the only returning starter in the Cardinal outfield. Wilson showed off his power, hitting three homers over the weekend, including two in his first two at-bats on Saturday. This weekend, Wilson was joined in the lineup by sophomore left fielder Dominic Jose and freshman center fielder Jonny Locher.
Locher, whose presence in the starting lineup came as a bit of a surprise to many, showed why the coaches like him with two home runs on Friday afternoon. Locher’s teammates say that the switch-hitter from Burien, Wash., is the fastest player on the team, even beating out the lefties to first base from the right-handed hitter’s batter’s box.
The infield looks to have at most one battle for a starting spot. Sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino and junior first baseman Brian Ragira are locks at the corner infield positions, and junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila looks to be close to 100 percent coming back from his season-ending ACL injury in 2012.
The one spot that has at least a legitimate possibility of changing is second base. Junior Danny Diekroeger started all three games over the weekend at second, but fellow junior Brett Michael Doran and sophomore Austin Slater could push for time.
Diekroeger is likely to at least be in the batting order for every game at either designated hitter or second base. Not only is the junior one of the better hitters on the team his .354 batting average was second on the team in 2012 but he is one of the only left-handed hitters in the lineup.
Though the lineup is starting to come into place, there are still many questions with the pitching staff. Senior Mark Appel, a top-10 pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates last year who did not sign, will be the Friday night starter, but the other weekend slots are available.
One of those spots may have been filled on Friday, when freshman Freddy Avis was lights out over two innings of action in his first pitching appearance since April. Avis, a standout at Menlo School in Atherton, Calif., is finally healthy after battling arm issues for almost a year and looked like a weekend Pac-12 starter.
The battle for that Sunday starter spot was nowhere near resolved over the weekend. Sophomore John Hochstatter, who held that Sunday starter role early in the 2012 season, struggled mightily with his control on Saturday. However, he was able to fight through two scoreless innings. Redshirt junior Garrett Hughes might be in the lead for that Sunday role after a very solid outing.
Stanford has two weekends left to fill the rest of the holes in the lineup before the Rice series kicks off the Cardinal’s season. Though the gates to Sunken Diamond are always open for the intra-squad scrimmages, fans looking for a more formal last look at Stanford before the season begins can stop by on February 9 at 1 p.m. for the annual Cardinal vs. White scrimmage.
Contact Sam Fisher at email@example.com