After a small stumble at Rice to begin the season, the Cardinal baseball team seems to have hit its stride. No. 14 Stanford (5-2) will look to extend its current four-game winning streak as it travels to Saint Mary’s University (4-3) for a non-conference game on Tuesday afternoon.
“A sweep is huge, especially against Fresno State, who has a lot of really great players on that team,” said second baseman Danny Diekroeger, whose timely home run Sunday night sealed the win for the Card. “Each game was so close and could have gone either way. It was huge for us to win a few close games, really get that confidence, and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
This will be the first of two non-conference meetings between Stanford and Saint Mary’s, which went head-to-head three times last season. The Cardinal outscored the Gaels 24-12 overall to earn victories in all three 2012 games.
During the season-opening three-game series at Rice, Stanford suffered from a chronic inability to come up with timely hits. In the friendly confines of Sunken Diamond, an improved Stanford offense propelled the team to wins by posting 22 runs over the four-game homestand.
Stanford will need to continue to string together hits in order to build off recent victories and muscle past a scrappy Saint Mary’s team.
Sophomore Austin Slater figures to be a huge factor in the continued success of the offense. Starting in the outfield in place of injured starter Austin Wilson, Slater has been nothing less than a sparkplug in the heart of Stanford’s lineup.
After recording his first career hits in a two-for-three effort against Cal on Wednesday, Slater stayed hot through the three games against Fresno State. The sophomore banged out six hits over the weekend, including two doubles and a home run. He has now collected multiple hits in each of his last four games.
This strong showing has likely earned a more consistent role in a crowded lineup for Slater, who is playing in the outfield despite being an infielder by trade. Slater’s .421 batting average and .684 slugging percentage currently pace the team on this young season.
Saint Mary’s is also coming off of a strong weekend in which it rolled to a sweep of visiting Chicago State. Its offense exploded for 25 runs over the three games, including an eight-run outburst in the first inning on Sunday that led to a 15-run victory.
Despite its explosiveness, the Gaels’ offense can be inconsistent and has yet to be challenged by a pitching staff as strong as that of the Cardinal—the Saint Mary’s hitters have put up big numbers in games against Cal State Northridge and Chicago State, which are combined 4-9 this season.
The Saint Mary’s pitching staff has been as inconsistent as the offense. The unit is coming off of its most impressive pitching performance in recent memory, a masterful no-hitter by Ryan Brockett, who only walked two and plunked one batter. However, in its season-opening series against Cal State Northridge, the pitching staff gave up at least five runs in each of the four games. With a team ERA of 4.50 against weaker offenses, the Gaels’ pitchers will face their first true challenge against a Stanford lineup that has begun to find its stride.
Stanford pitchers have been rock solid this year, dishing out strong performances day in and day out from both proven veterans like Mark Appel and also from its younger, less experienced faces.
The pitching corps boasts an overall ERA of 2.03 and has recorded 57 strikeouts against only 15 walks so far this season. They have yet to allow more than five runs in a single game and have done an impressive job of limiting the damage done by opposing teams when they are able to get runners on base.
Senior right-hander Dean McArdle is next in the rotation and is expected to take the mound again after hurling two strong innings against Cal during his last outing. The Cardinal and Gaels meet in Moraga, Calif., at 2 p.m. today.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.