Although the highlight of the upcoming weekend may be senior outfielder Brandon Wulff playing the national anthem on the piano before Saturday’s game, there will be plenty of fireworks when No. 3 Stanford (29-6, 13-2 Pac-12) hosts Arizona (18-20, 6-12 Pac-12).
Despite a higher conference standing, Stanford remains behind No. 1 UCLA (31-7, 11-4 Pac-12) and No. 2 Oregon State (28-10-1, 14-4 Pac-12) in the national poll.
Arizona is riding a four-game losing streak after suffering a sweep at the hands of the Beavers and a midweek loss to Grand Canyon University (21-18, 8-7 WAC), who Stanford beat in the fourth game of the season. The Cardinal are 112-74 all time against the Wildcats and have won the last seven matchups.
The team leader in home runs, Wulff ranks sixteenth in the nation with thirteen, and his 0.678 slugging percentage is 29th. Wulff has hit six home runs in as many games while the Stanford offense heats up with the weather.
Over the past 15 games, Stanford’s offense has produced 126 runs while slashing .312/.580/.396. In the last 11 games, the Cardinal have cleared the fences on 29 occasions. With the recent surge, Stanford’s 1.29 home runs per game is fifteenth in the sport, while its 0.469 slugging percentage is 21st.
In Arizona, where temperatures have been high all season, the Wildcats have remained hot. They rank second in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, and hits behind their in-state rivals, Arizona State (31-8, 12-6 Pac-12).
Arizona’s strength is clearly in the batter’s box, where they are slashing .301/.484/.416. The team’s offense comes from Nick Quintana’s nine home runs and 43 RBIs. Matthew Dyer leads the team in hits, and his 0.396 batting average is nineteenth in the country, while Cameron Cannon paces the team in runs, doubles and total bases. The Wildcats’ pitching, on the other hand, is weighed down by a 6.37 ERA, with no pitcher falling under 3.00.
Stanford will hope to tame the Wildcats with a pitching staff whose 0.829 WHIP ranks second nationally, and ERA of 3.05 and 2.85 BB/9 both rank eighth. Friday night’s starter, sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (3-2, 2.29 ERA), holds a 1.15 BB/9 that is tenth in the country. A season ago, he earned the only save of his career against Arizona. Entering with runners on first and second and no outs, Beck shut the door on the Wildcats after Stanford had rallied with a five-run inning in the top of the frame.
Normally, Stanford head coach David Esquer turns to All-American junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 1.80 ERA) in save situations. Little has eight saves on the season, and with a career total of 24, he is just three away from claiming the Cardinal’s all-time record for career saves (26, Steve Chitren, 1986-89).
Junior RHP Will Matthiessen (3-1, 3.62 ERA) will pitch on Saturday after throwing a career-high 5.0 innings his last outing. On Sunday, junior LHP Erik Miller (5-0, 2.12 ERA) will start as he comes off a career-high 11 strikeouts in 6.0 shutout innings in his last performance.
The series commences Friday at 6:05 p.m. PST, followed by Saturday’s 5:05 p.m PT opening pitch and Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. PST finale.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.