Sitting in last place in the Pac-12 with just six games to go, it’s safe to say that Stanford baseball isn’t going to the postseason this year, just one year removed from the NCAA Super Regionals.
That doesn’t mean, though, that Stanford (22-28, 7-17 Pac-12) has nothing to play for in these last two weekends, and the Cardinal will look to end their home season on a strong note this weekend against Oregon State (33-14-1, 14-9-1 Pac-12).
“We have six games left, and hopefully we can continue to pitch well and get the hitting going in the last couple of weekends,” said head coach Mark Marquess.
The team’s pitching has been particularly solid over the last several games as Stanford has seen its starting rotation finally consolidate after being in flux throughout most of the season. Junior Marc Brakeman, the team’s Saturday starter from the start of the year, has continued to pitch well in his return from injury and owns a solid 3.35 ERA.
Meanwhile, sophomore Brett Hanewich has been a serviceable Friday starter, and lefties Chris Castellanos and Andrew Summerville have been pleasant surprises in filling in at the back end of the rotation.
Stanford’s ragtag rotation has led a pitching resurgence that has allowed just 11 runs over the team’s last five games, and now it’s just up to the hitting, which has been inconsistent all year, to catch up.
“It’s kind of funny because at UCLA, we really hit the ball well,” Marquess said. “We outhit UCLA — 10 hits off of one of the better pitchers in the country. I don’t know. If I knew, I’d go back to what we were doing — we were doing something. You just don’t know.
“A lot of times, the older guys like Hoffpauir are fine but the younger guys are a little inconsistent,” he added.
That’s an issue because due to departures from last season, most of the at-bats this season have been taken by the “younger guys” — in fact, 72 percent of Cardinal plate appearances have been by freshmen and sophomores, one of the top marks in the nation. To compound the issue, Austin Barr, Zach Hoffpauir and Drew Jackson, three of the most experienced hitters in the lineup, have all been out for stints due to injury.
However, if the hitting can get its act together and show some consistency over these last six games, the team could finally play up to its considerable talent level. More so, it could pay dividends for the team’s young lineup and its confidence going into a long offseason, with even more turnover in the field expected heading into next year.
“I’m very proud of the fact that they haven’t given up,” Marquess said. “It’s hard — it’s frustrating with the expectation level, because last year we were one game away from the world series.”
That starts today against Oregon State, which will come to Sunken Diamond boasting one of the better power lineups in the conference and a pitching staff that ranks third in the Pac-12 in ERA with a 2.94 staff mark.
The Beavers’ lineup is headlined by outfielder Jeff Hendrix, who is having a monster junior season after breaking out last year as an All-Pac-12 first team selection. Hendrix is fourth in the conference with his .357 batting average and has added 6 home runs and 30 RBIs to boot.
He’s joined in the lineup by three other Beavers hitting well over .300, as Kyle Nobach, Trever Morrison and KJ Harrison, the big freshman power bat in the lineup (9 HR, 50 RBI) have all been key cogs in the order as well.
Righty Andrew Moore headlines the aforementioned strong pitching staff, and the staff ace is second in the conference with a remarkable 1.80 ERA through 100 innings pitched this year. His counterparts in the rotation, Drew Rasmussen and Travis Eckert, with respective 2.70 and 3.55 ERAs, have provided a solid supporting cast as well.
It’s a tough draw for the Cardinal to be sure, but given how strong the pitching has been, Stanford should figure to at least stay in every game against the Beavers. And if the offense can pick up the pieces, Stanford has a good shot of making noise in its home finales.
First pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.