By Jose Saldana
No. 2 Stanford baseball (27-5, 9-3 Pac-12) travels to the desert land of wildcats in Tucson to battle Arizona (23-12, 6-6) in a three-game series beginning on Friday.
The Cardinal suffered a misstep when they lost their first series of the season to a top-15 UCLA squad, but the offense and defense steadied themselves in a sweep of Arizona State last weekend.
The pitching gave up 10 runs through three games against the Sun Devils, which featured tough hitters in home run leader Spencer Torkelson and one of the best overall hitters, Gage Canning.
Each Cardinal starter pitched at least five innings, and junior Tristan Beck had a gritty, solid performance despite not having his best stuff on the mound.
Through one game and seven innings, the offense was struggling to hit off Arizona State’s pitchers, scoring five runs through 16. However, the bats finally took advantage of the subpar Sun Devils bullpen for a nine-run inning in the second game of the series.
Then in the final game, the Cardinal offense had an all-around productive outing, scoring at least two runs in an inning twice for a 10-3 victory.
Sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach added to his team-leading home run total by hitting a grand slam in the second game and a two-run shot in the final game. His 10 home runs on the season tie him with Oregon State’s Trevor Larnach for third in the Pac-12.
But the real story of the final two games from the offense was the production from the bottom of the lineup. Bryce Carter, Matthew Decker, Alec Wilson and Christian Robinson all were productive from the 7-8-9 hitting positions even though none of them have been everyday starters.
This 35-man approach to any single game has helped the Cardinal maintain the No. 2 spot in RPI and in the D1 Baseball rankings.
A team that is surging in the RPI rankings is the one that Stanford will play this weekend. Arizona has won four straight series, including a series victory versus No. 7 Oregon State.
The Wildcats are doing this with a solid offense and great pitching. The Arizona batters get on base at a high rate (.405, which is first in the Pac-12) and knock them in at a high rate (second in runs scored and in RBI).
Four out of the Wildcats’ lineup are hitting at least .331, and four have an on-base percentage above .445. The consistency in the offense has been a large part of their success.
However, their pitching has really been the turning point in Arizona’s season. The Wildcats sport a 2.92 ERA, which is third in the Pac-12 (Stanford is first with a 2.75 ERA).
Arizona’s junior right-handed pitcher Cody Deason has been one of the most productive Friday starters in the conference. Deason ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in ERA (1.94), opposing batting average (.197) and fifth in strikeouts (53).
Given the Cardinal offense’s performances in the previous Friday games and with Deason on the mound for Arizona, Stanford’s Friday starter Beck might need to have a great performance to come out with a victory.
Stanford versus Arizona begins on Friday at 7 p.m. in Tucson. The entire series will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana “at” stanford.edu