By Jose Saldana
No. 2 Stanford baseball (34-6, 14-4 Pac-12) heads to the salt lakes of Utah’s campus to play a three-game series against the last-place-in-the-Pac-12 Utes (12-29, 6-12), beginning on Friday at a brisk 10:30 a.m. PT.
The Cardinal remain tied for first-place in the Pac-12 after winning their series against rival Cal this past weekend. Stanford also holds the top spot in the RPI, which uses stats like opponent records and strength of schedule to rank the best teams in college baseball.
The pitching staff has been dealing ever since faltering in the UCLA series. Their collective staff ERA of 2.57 is first in the Pac-12 and second in the nation (only behind Indiana).
The two-headed monster of juniors Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic has carried an elite staff. Beck has yielded only two runs in his last three starts (19.0 innings pitched), and Bubic has the most innings pitched on the roster and sports a 2.44 ERA.
The usual Friday and Saturday starters are supported by great bullpen. Sophomore closer Jack Little has an ERA that almost matches his last name at 0.91. His fastball command has been deadly striking batters at a rate of 12.33 per nine innings, which is elite stuff.
Utah’s offense ranks in the middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories. The Utes rank sixth in batting average, seventh in slugging, seventh in runs scored and last in walks.
The Utes are lead by junior outfielder DeShawn Keirsey Jr., who is first on the team in batting average (.392), doubles (18) and on-base percentage (.440).
If the Cardinal pitchers can work around Kiersey, then Stanford offense might not need to work hard in the high elevation.
Speaking of the offense, the bats found paydirt against the Golden Bears last weekend, scoring a season-high 10 runs in the second inning.
The offense has been an all-hands approach with many players filling the 7-8-9 spots in the batting order. Senior second baseman Beau Branton, who wasn’t the starter to begin the year, leads the team in batting average (.347), and junior shortstop Nico Hoerner has been his ever-dependable self by hitting (.321) and stealing a team-high 11 bases.
The offense is probably looking forward to playing Utah as the Utes rank last in ERA with an abysmal 6.26. Their Friday starter Tanner Thomas has a 5.40 ERA in 11 starts, which is almost double that of Beck’s.
The Cardinal also have history on their side, owning a 13-6-0 all-time record over their mountainside counterparts. However, they shouldn’t take the Utes so lightly as they have series wins against No. 3 Oregon State and Arizona.
After the three-games series against Utah, which airs on the Pac-12 Networks, Stanford will head home for a Tuesday matchup against Santa Clara before heading to the state of Oregon to play No. 3 Oregon State in a series that could decide the Pac-12 and could have College World Series implications.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.