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Baseball setting sights on postseason, faces Santa Clara

For the first time this season, the Stanford baseball team (21-20, 9-12 Pac-12) stands with a record above .500. After taking the final two games of the series against UCLA, the Cardinal hope to further improve their record as they prepare to face Santa Clara (22-25, 12-9 WCC) at Sunken Diamond on Tuesday evening.

The Cardinal had been no stranger to the .500 benchmark this season, having previously held records of 2-2, 4-4, 10-10, 17-17, 18-18, 19-19 and 20-20 before finally breaking through with a win to give themselves more wins than losses. While the decisive victory over UCLA that pushed them over the mark may just be another win, it represents much more to a team that has been battling to insert itself back into the postseason conversation all season long.

Junior Austin Slater hit over .600 on the weekend against UCLA, setting a career-high with four hits on Sunday. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Junior outfielder Austin Slater (above) hit over .600 on the weekend against UCLA, setting a career high with four hits on Sunday. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

After the weekend series win against UCLA, Stanford holds an RPI of 31 according to WarrenNolan.com, which provides an updated estimate of where teams stand before the official NCAA RPI rankings come out later this week. Before the UCLA series, the official RPI rankings placed Stanford at No. 34.

Stanford must continue to improve its record if it hopes to move from the postseason bubble into a more certain position. With series left against Arizona, Washington State and Utah, three of the bottom five teams in the Pac-12, the Card will have a chance to finish out the season on a high note. The Cardinal will continue that bid Tuesday against Santa Clara.

The Broncos and the Cardinal squared off only two weeks ago in a game that quickly turned into a slugfest, with Stanford narrowly eking out a 10-9 victory. Stanford rallied from a 7-6 deficit and withstood a late siege to secure victory and move to 16-17 overall in the first of back-to-back midweek contests.

Since then, Santa Clara has notched a 5-2 record, winning both of its weekend series against Loyola Marymount and the University of San Francisco. In those seven games, the Broncos have scored a total of 49 runs to compensate for their weak pitching staff. The team’s 4.29 ERA and .281 batting average against indicate their struggles to contain opponents from the mound. They have allowed eight runs or more in 12 games so far this season.

Catcher Stevie Berman has propelled the Broncos’ offense this season, leading the team with a .438 on-base percentage and four home runs to go along with a .312 batting average and 19 RBIs. Berman had a five-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday against USF after hitting 9-for-19 (.474) in that stretch.

The Cardinal finally saw the offensive production they had been lacking for most of the season in the series against UCLA. Although the team only scored two runs on Friday, they pushed 10 total runs across the plate in their final two games, the highest total in the final two games of a weekend series for Stanford since Feb. 22-23 against Texas. Junior Austin Slater’s seven hits over the weekend led the team and increased his team-leading batting average to .331.

After mixing up the weekend rotation over the past few weeks with junior John Hochstatter and sophomore Logan James earning weekend starts, several pitchers remain in the mix to start Tuesday’s game. Freshmen Brett Hanewich and Chris Viall, who have each started at least seven games and did not throw over the weekend, will likely see action at some point as head coach Mark Marquess may choose to split the starter’s innings between several pitchers as he has done in recent midweek contests.

First pitch between Stanford and Santa Clara is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening at Sunken Diamond.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.