Sunken Diamond’s home opener will feature No. 12 Stanford (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) playing host to University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) (3-2, 0-0 MW), over Parent’s Weekend. The teams last met in 2013 — a three-game road sweep by the Rebels.
The series was initially scheduled to begin on Friday, but was postponed to a doubleheader Saturday.
Last year, the Cardinal were 32-5 at home, including an opening weekend sweep of Cal State Fullerton. That was part of a dominant run that saw Stanford win its first conference championship since 2004, before falling to Fullerton in the NCAA playoffs.
This year, with the majority of its offensive production returning, Stanford was picked to finish second in the conference behind UCLA. That includes 95 percent of the team’s home runs, 79 percent of RBIs and 74 percent of total bases. Infielder/outfielder junior Andrew Daschbach led the team in each of those categories with 17 big flies, 63 RBIs and 125 total bases.
Alongside Daschbach, Stanford will continue to lean heavily on two other players who started all 58 games a season ago: sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa and junior outfielder Kyle Stowers. Tawa, who split time between center field and third base with the shortstop position locked up by Cubs draftee Nico Hoerner, earned freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and Perfect Game. Stowers led the team in walks a season ago in addition to hitting the second-most home runs and RBI.
Through the four-game sweep in Arizona to start the season, junior RHP/DH Will Matthiesen and senior outfielder Brandon Wulff have made a significant impact. Matthiesen went 6-14 with three doubles and six RBIs while pitching four shutout innings in relief. Wulff was 4-10 with a triple, RBI and five walks.
After finishing his freshman campaign with an 8-0 record and 2.43 ERA, sophomore RHP Brendan Beck received the opening-day nod. Beck was announced as the starter for the Friday game, but will likely slot into one of the two Saturday games. Otherwise, if the rotation were to hold from last week, sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch would also pitch Saturday, and junior LHP Erik Miller’s would start the Sunday matinee. Freshman RHP Alex Williams, however, may have won himself a start with six innings of shutout baseball.
If the Cardinal can get the ball to their closer, head coach David Esquer can have faith in junior RHP Jack Little. A year ago, Little tied a program record with 16 saves and was nearly perfect in allowing just one hit over three shutout innings to save the first two games of the season.
The Cardinal pitching staff will face off against a Rebels lineup led by Bryson Stott. The junior was first on the team in batting average, runs, hits, doubles and steals. Among returners, Max Smith led in home runs with nine and has already seen two of his four hits this year leave the yard.
Nevertheless, the Rebels’ pitching has so far let them down, with a team 7.43 ERA indicative of the 10 runs by which the team has been outscored this season.
Stanford will get its chance to test UNLV pitching with a doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m. and a Sunday finale at 1:05 p.m. PST.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.