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Fresh off sweep, Baseball welcomes Pacific to Sunken Diamond

Junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila (8)

The Cardinal is still alive.

A week ago, the season looked incredibly bleak for Stanford baseball. After a postseason berth seemed easily within its reach following a 26-15 start to the season, the Cardinal crashed into the brick wall known as the Oregon State Beavers and endured a six-game tailspin as a result. On the tail end of that skid, it seemed like the Cardinal’s once-strong postseason hopes had vanished.

Junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila (8)
Junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila (8) picked up six hits in 11 at bats in Stanford’s sweep of Cal over the weekend. (AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

But Stanford showed renewed signs of life over the weekend in its series sweep of cross-Bay rival Cal, keeping its hopes for a playoff berth alive and showing its unwillingness to go down without a fight.

Likely needing to win out in order to have a shot at the postseason, Stanford (29-21, 14-13 Pac-12) will aim for one final push to the finish line in its season-closing four-game homestand, starting with a rematch against Pacific (14-36, 6-18 Big West) tonight.

In its previous meeting with Pacific last month, the Cardinal handily tamed the Tigers to the tune of a 9-2 victory that was never in doubt over the course of the entire game. Stanford can only hope that this rematch will bring more of the same.

Stanford looks to grab a victory today in order to propel itself into its critical regular season finale against No. 11 UCLA. The Tigers’ battered pitching staff will give the resurgent Cardinal hitters a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Pacific’s pitchers combine for an unsightly ERA of 5.45, a statistic that the Cardinal will look to exploit. Stanford’s offense, which has been inconsistent at times this season, has picked up its production as of late. The Cardinal scored 25 runs in its three-game sweep of Cal.

However, the Cardinal hitters learned an incredibly sobering lesson last Tuesday against Santa Clara righty Tommy Nance: come game time, statistics can go out the window. Nance, who had been struggling through a mediocre season as part of a weak Broncos pitching staff, twirled a complete-game shutout against Stanford.

And with Stanford’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance, there is no more room for another fluke loss.

Although the heart of the batting order has continued to produce, it was junior nine-hitter Lonnie Kauppila, the normally light-hitting shortstop, who led the charge against the Bears with six hits in 11 at-bats.

Junior first baseman Brian Ragira has also shown absolutely no signs of regression to the mean since he caught fire at the plate in the middle of April. Ragira went 7-for-16 in the series against Cal to up his batting average to .325 as he continues to lead the Cardinal in most offensive categories.

With the Major League Baseball Draft fast approaching, Ragira’s tear could be a big boost to his draft stock.

While Pacific may seem like an appetizer compared to the entrée that is UCLA approaching this weekend, the Cardinal learned last week that it cannot afford to treat these midweek opponents lightly. In the end, Stanford needs wins to close out this season. First pitch today against Pacific is set for 5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is now the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily. He's also a Bay Area-based freelance sportswriter. He previously covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season. He covered the 2016 Minnesota Twins for MLB.com and has also contributed to The Bootleg and SI's (now defunct) Campus Rush. Hire him at dpark0027 'at' gmail.com or send him snarky Tweets @dohyoungpark.