By Jose Saldana
What’s better than winning your first two series? Winning your first two series and starting the season perfect.
No. 8 Stanford baseball (8-0) hosts a four-game series with Michigan (2-5) starting on Friday at 6 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.
Stanford and Michigan have only competed once before in their program’s histories. In that matchup, the Wolverines eliminated the Cardinal 11-4 in the 1983 College World Series. Now, 25 years later, Michigan comes to the Farm hoping a similar result to help turnaround a terrible start to the season.
The Cardinal have been impressive through their first eight games, sweeping then-No. 17 Cal State Fullerton and Rice, which are both teams with good baseball pedigree.
Stanford’s pitching has powered the team through the Titans and Owls. Starters right-handed pitcher Tristan Beck and southpaw Kris Bubic both lead the team in innings pitched (11) and have only given up a combined five earned runs.
Third on the team in innings pitched is, surprisingly, freshman relief pitcher Jacob Palisch. The lefty out of Richardson, TX has been sensational for the Cardinal in the nine innings he has pitched. In his previous appearance against Rice, he inherited a bases-loaded, no-outs situation. He calmly struck out the first batter he saw and then got the next two outs to keep a clean inning.
Palisch has been a dependable arm in the bullpen, which is great for Stanford head coach David Esquer as he is trying to figure out the late-inning relievers.
The other two impact relievers have been sophomore Jack Little and Zach Grech. Little has been primarily used as a closer and is 4-4 on save opportunities this season. He also has not given up a single-earned run this season.
Grech, the sidearmer, leads the Pac-12 with six appearances. In those six appearances, he has pitched 6.1 innings and has not allowed a single run to score as well.
With the starting and relief pitching the Cardinal can throw out, the Wolverines are going to have a difficult time generating any runs in Sunken Diamond.
On offense, Stanford has been paced by a couple of veterans and a sophomore. Junior right fielder Brandon Wulff leads the team in batting average (.462), slugging (.692) and on-base percentage (.548). Wulff has shown power too, as he blasted an impressive grand slam over the left-field wall through the night air against Rice.
Junior shortstop Nico Hoerner has also played well. He is second on the team in batting average (.379) and first in doubles (3). He knocked in his first home run of the season against Rice and has flashed his All-Pac-12 defense at times.
Freshman third baseman/center fielder Tim Tawa has been a fan favorite already, tying Wulff for most RBIs on the team (six).
With rain in the forecast, there is a high probability games could be postponed, but if not, the Cardinal battle Michigan on Friday at 6 p.m. in Sunken Diamond. All games will be broadcast by Stanford Live Stream except for game four which will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jose Saldaña at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.