Extended winning streaks in baseball are hard to come by because of the dynamic and multifaceted nature of the sport. In order to win a long streak of games, a team needs lights-out pitching, timely hitting and a fair bit of luck. On its current eight-game tear, No. 9 Stanford (9-2) has gotten all three and will look to extend its torrid streak tonight at Santa Clara University (6-6).
Stanford is no stranger to early-season success. Last season, it exploded out of the gate with eight straight victories en route to a 13-1 start to a season in which it reached the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Cardinal will hope to outdo itself and claim a ninth straight victory against a shaky Broncos team after sweeping the powerful Texas Longhorns at home.
“It’s huge, man,” said third baseman Alex Blandino about Texas. “This is a good team. Every time they come in here, it’s always a good series, and we took it to them all weekend. Those were three really fun, close games; a lot of intensity.”
Lights-out pitching has been a defining constant of the young season for Stanford. Perennially-dominant senior ace Mark Appel has put on a show for spectators and scouts alike and only seems to be getting better.
Together with his fellow rotation members and a lights-out bullpen, the Cardinal pitching staff has stifled opposing batters to the tune of a .200 opponent batting average and a microscopic 1.74 staff ERA.
Stanford will be the second ranked opponent for the Broncos this year, which dropped a 5-4 decision to current No. 25 Cal Poly. Otherwise, Santa Clara’s schedule has been relatively weak, consisting of opponents like 3-9 Seattle University, 3-6 University of Illinois at Chicago and 3-4 Northern Colorado.
Stanford’s presumed starter, senior right-hander Dean McArdle, has been solid in his appearances as the weekday starter. He gave up only one run in five innings of work against Cal and Saint Mary’s and will look to pitch a few solid innings before turning it over to the bullpen.
Santa Clara, meanwhile, has struggled on the mound this season. The Broncos’ pitching staff has allowed a whopping 70 earned runs this season in 108 innings of work, posting a 5.83 team ERA. In comparison, the Cardinal hurlers have only allowed 19 earned runs in 98 innings thus far against much better offenses.
Santa Clara’s bats have been successful this year with a team tally of .314 compared to Stanford’s .266 clip. However, Santa Clara’s pitching has ruined several strong hitting performances, such as the Broncos’ 16-11 loss to Seattle University and 15-8 loss to the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Stanford’s batters will be looking to tee off against the shaky Santa Clara staff and make noise after being relatively quiet against Texas. The Card scored 11 runs during the three-game series, but seven of those came in game two and just two apiece in the other two games.
In the series finale, a 2-1 victory sealed by shortstop Lonnie Kauppila’s walk-off double in the ninth, the Cardinal pounded out 10 hits but was only able to plate two runners. Stanford has been able to regularly put runners on base but has had issues bringing them all the way home.
The offense will need to put up more consistently strong performances to ensure that the team can still emerge victorious on days in which the pitching is less dominant than it was against Texas.
The Card will also hope to be as successful on the road as it has been at home. Stanford currently owns an unblemished 7-0 record in the friendly confines of Sunken Diamond but is 2-2 on the road. As many key Pac-12 matchups over the course of the season come on the road, it is important that the Cardinal show the ability to pull out victories regardless of the venue.
Stanford and Santa Clara will square off at Schott Stadium in Santa Clara this evening. The first pitch will be at 6 p.m.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.