Polling the highest it has all year, No. 6 Stanford (9-2) will welcome No. 12 Texas (11-3) to the Farm for the only four-game series of the season this Thursday. The Cardinal and the Longhorns first faced off in 1981 and have played every season since 1998.
Stanford leads the all-time series 42-35-1, but the 0.538 winning percentage is the Cardinal’s third-worst against any opponent with more than 20 games played. Most recently in 2018, then No. 7 Stanford took three straight from No. 23 Texas last season after dropping the first game. The connection runs even deeper – Cardinal assistant coach Tommy Nicholson was Texas’ team MVP in 1999 and 2000.
For Stanford, the series will be one of only three against opponents currently ranked in the Division 1 Baseball Top-25 poll, whereas Texas is in the midst of fifteen of seventeen games played against nationally ranked programs.
Texas’ streak began with a three-game sweep of No. 2 LSU. Coming off a midweek win over University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the Longhorns will enter Sunken Diamond on a four-game winning streak.
The Longhorns will also come in with red-hot outfielder Austin Todd, the reigning Big-12 Player of the Week. Todd leads the team in hits (19), RBI (20) and total bases (30). He is joined in the outfield by freshman Eric Kennedy, the conference’s Newcomer of the Week honoree, and leadoff batter, Duke Ellis, the national leader in walks (23).
Texas will also be able to count on its pitching staff, which sports a 2.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, despite its relative youth. Twelve of the eighteen listed pitchers are underclassmen, and all twelve have made appearances this season. The rotation also includes two freshmen, Ty Madden (2-0, 1.04 ERA) and Coy Cobb (0-1, 3.60 ERA) — the expected Thursday and Sunday starters. Bryce Elder (2-0, 0.44 ERA) and Blair Hendley (2-0, 6.75 ERA) will suit up for the Friday and Saturday starts.
Stanford head coach David Esquer regularly says that Stanford’s program is based on pitching and defense, and both have been there this season. The Cardinal’s 0.978 fielding percentage ranks 43rd nationally, and the 2.46 ERA is eighteenth.
Stanford’s weekend rotation will be headlined by sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (0-1, 2.37 ERA) Thursday night. Beck has pitched at least 6.0 innings in each of his three appearances and leads the team with 23 strikeouts.
Sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch (1-0, 3.52) will take the mound next coming off 5.0 innings of one-run ball against Fullerton last weekend. Moving into the third spot in the rotation, freshman RHP Alex Williams (1-0, 1.80) will start the Saturday game and then make way for junior LHP Erik Miller (1-0, 3.60) on Sunday.
Stanford relievers have fared even better than the starters with a 1.83 ERA thus far. In 16.0 innings last week, the bullpen allowed just two earned runs and sixteen total base runners. A big part of that has been junior RHP Zach Grech, who in 6.0 innings across five appearances has surrendered just four hits and two walks without allowing a run.
Junior RHP Jack Little is tied for eleventh in the nation and leads the Pac-12 with three saves. However, his numbers (3.52 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) have fallen off from his All-America campaign a season ago (0.60 ERA, 0.75 WHIP), in which he tied a Cardinal record with sixteen saves.
Junior catcher Maverick Handley has not only been an intimidating force on defense, where he threw out the one opponent who has attempted a stolen base on his watch, but also an integral part of the offense. Last week, Handley led the team with three multi-hit games, finishing with eight hits, four runs and five RBI.
He has not been at it alone. Senior outfielder Brandon Wulff hit three home runs in the four games last week, and in the first four starts of his career, redshirt junior infielder Nick Bellafronto scored and drove in three runs. Junior DH Will Matthiesen als0 leads the team in hits (14) and RBI (10) to go along with two home runs.
Opening pitch of this last series before the start of conference play is Thursday at 6:05 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.