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Baseball: Talking shop with Stewart and Kauppila


Sophomore Lonnie Kauppila, who played second base last year, will be making the transition back to shortstop, where he has played for his entire life. Kauppila and the No. 2 baseball team will kick off their season at home against Vanderbilt. (Stanford Daily File Photo)


The Stanford Daily (TSD): First of all, what was the team’s reaction to being ranked the country’s preseason No. 2 team by Baseball America?


Lonnie Kauppila (LK): We were stoked; we didn’t really expect to be that high. We expected to be pretty high, but being up at No. 2 is kind of a statement. Honestly, being No. 2 and seeing that makes each and every one of us work just as hard, if not harder, just to maintain that spot.


Jake Stewart (JS): When that ranking first came out, we were surprised. We expected to be up there just because of our situation last year, where we made it to regionals and we had a lot of guys coming back, but I didn’t think that we expected to be as high as No. 2. I don’t think that’s really changed our work ethic coming to the field every day, though. Our goal is to outwork every team in the country, our coaches say it every day, and even if we had been ranked sixth, seventh, 10th, 12th or 15th, that still would have been our goal.


TSD: With so many returning starters from a quality team last season, what’s the mood been like so far for the team this year?


LK: Personally, I feel that this is the closest team I’ve ever been on. We’re all on the same page; we all work hard, not only for the team but also for ourselves individually, because we want to be the best that we can be. When we do that as a team, we can ultimately come together and try and achieve that one goal of going to Omaha and ultimately winning either a Pac-12 championship or a national championship.


JS: Personally, this is the coolest team I’ve ever been on because of the fact that everybody’s so close and works so hard together… It’s cool for me because it’s not just the fact that everybody’s such great teammates, it goes beyond that. Everybody on the team is the biggest fans of everybody else on the team. We love watching each other play as much as we love playing beside each other. I’ve never been on a team that’s like that.


TSD: After losing a couple critical parts of the bullpen last season, like Los Angeles Dodgers’ first-round pick Chris Reed, how do you expect the pitching staff to do this season?


LK: To be honest, I think that our pitching staff is just as good as it was last year. I mean we did lose Chris, which was a big hit to our team, and [White Sox draft pick Scott] Snodgress too, but I think the key this year is just throwing strikes and letting the other teams beat us. I feel that with our quick outfield and with our almost stellar infield, we can beat anyone as long as our pitchers just get it over the plate and as long as we hit, because we do have probably one of the best lineups in the country.


TSD: With seven of the team’s best hitters returning, what are some of the team’s offensive goals for this season?


LK: We’ve talked about it, and we think we should honestly be putting up six to seven runs a game. One through eight, one through nine, we don’t know who some of the hitters are going to be, but one through seven or eight is just going to be brutal for the other pitchers. I kind of feel bad for them, knowing that after you face Stewart, Gaffney and Piscotty you still have to deal with Ragira, Wilson and Kenny, so there’s no one that you can really look to to get an out.


JS: We feel as if Piscotty and Ragira are the two best pure hitters in the country, so having those two guys back-to-back…we feel like every single time they come up, they can get a hit. If we get on base, we know one of those two is going to drive us in. It’s hard to get past those two and get them both out. It’s pretty much impossible. They’re about as good as it gets in college baseball.


TSD: Even with all the returning starters, there are still some open spots left in the starting lineup–who do you expect to have a breakout season this year?


LK: I think [redshirt junior] Christian Griffiths is going to make a comeback; he hurt himself last year, redshirted last year, so I think he could make a big impact on our team, especially being a switch hitter. As for freshmen, we expect some of the pitchers to really step up because they have a good opportunity to make it in the rotation and give the team the depth that we need. We expect [freshmen pitchers] David Schmidt, Spenser Linney and John Hochstatter to do some things that are kind of unexpected of them in their first year.


TSD: Lonnie, you’ve switched from second base last season to shortstop this year. How has that transition been for you, and do you expect to stay at short this entire season?


LK: I’ve played shortstop all my life, so actually last year transferring to second base was kind of a big transition for me. I kind of didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’ve been more on the left side of the infield this year, it’s been awesome. I can’t explain how comfortable and how at home I feel at shortstop. I’m hoping I can get the playing time I want, but overall, as long as we’re winning I don’t have a problem with playing either shortstop or second base.


TSD: Finally, how nice is it to start with four of the first five series of the season at home, especially after going on the road for the first three series of the year last season?


LK: It’s nice being at home; last year was kind of hectic, especially being a freshman. Traveling three weekends in a row is a little rattling, especially dealing with crowds and umpires and all that, so it’s kind of comforting to have them come to our place this year and to be in our home environment. I think it’s going to do a lot more good than bad.


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