With just three series remaining in the Pac-12, No. 2 Stanford (35-8, 17-4) travels across the Bay to face rival California (28-15, 13-8 Pac-12) at Evans Diamond. The Bears have won 16 of their last 20 games to rise to 37 in the RPI ratings, while the Cardinal are 15-5 over that span.
Despite sweeping four of the first five conference series, the Cardinal have dropped a game in the two most recent series and are now tied with No. 12 Oregon State (31-14-1, 17-4 Pac-12) atop the Pac-12 standings.
David Esquer, who is in his second season as Stanford head coach, spent the previous 18 seasons in Berkeley. While there, he won 525 games, produced 13 All-Americans and 81 MLB draft picks and survived an attempt from the Cal athletic department to cut the program in 2011.
Last year, Cal got the best of its former coach in Game 1 with a 4-3 win. Stanford, however, responded by outscoring the Bears 19-3 over the final two games for a series win.
Cal boasts two of the top three base stealers in the conference, Cameron Eden and Darren Baker. The latter is the son of MLB legend Dusty Baker, who had a 19 year playing career before transitioning to manager for 20 years. Eden and Darren Baker have combined for 33 stolen bases, which is 11 more than have been attempted on junior catcher Maverick Handley all season. Handley, who leads Pac-12 catchers with four pickoffs, has thrown out nine of 22 stolen base attempts.
Redshirt junior second baseman Duke Kinamon (.296/.336/.440) is the leading base stealer for the Cardinal, and his ten steals rank eighth in the Pac-12. Recently, however, the Cardinal has become fan of the long ball. In the month of April alone, Stanford hit 41 home runs. The Cardinal is now averaging 1.35 home runs per game, the 12th best rate in the country.
Despite a big month for the Cardinal, Berkeley’s 66 home runs are six more than the Stanford’s 58 and have earned the Bears the nation’s eighth spot on the leaderboards. Andrew Vaughn (.375/.532/.704) leads his team in the category with thirteen, the fifth most in the conference, while four other Bears — Korey Lee, Sam Wezniak, Cameron Eden and Quentin Selma — have hit at least six. Altogether, the Cal offense is third in the Pac-12 with a 0.294 batting average.
Vaugn, who won the Golden Spikes Award a season ago, ranks third in the conference in batting average, second in base percentage and third in slugging percentage this season. Lee, who is just behind Vaughn with 12 home runs, is pacing the Bears in run production with 59 RBIs, the fifth-greatest total in the conference.
Nevertheless, both Cal sluggers are eclipsed by senior outfielder Brandon Wulff’s (.279/.410/.646) 16 home runs, which is 15th in the entire sport. Wulff leads the team in slugging percentage and runs, and is second in RBIs, trailing only junior DH Will Matthiessen (.342/.424/.576), who also leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and hits.
A dual threat, Matthiessen has been even more impressive at the plate while starting on the mound. In his five starts, he slashed .550/.850/.591 with 11 hits, six runs, three doubles, one home run and six RBIs. A RHP, Matthiessen (5-1, 3.20 ERA) owns a 4-0 record and a 2.25 ERA in his starts while limiting opposing batters to a .176 ERA with more strikeouts (28) than innings pitched (24).
Stanford’s pitching staff ranks fifth in the nation with a 3.05 ERA. All four Cardinal starters have a sub-three ERA, paced by junior LHP Erik Miller (6-1, 2.64 ERA), who will start on Sunday.
Berkeley’s Saturday starter, Jared Horn (4-1, 2.03 ERA), carries the second best ERA in the conference, followed by Miller at sixth and sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (4-3, 2.74 ERA) in ninth place. The Bears, behind a Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week outing from Horn, stole a game from No. 1 UCLA (38-8, 16-5 Pac-12) during their series.
On Friday, LHP Arman Sabouri (2-2, 2.14 ERA) will start for Cal opposite Beck at 7:05 p.m. PT at Evans Diamond. First pitch for Saturday’s day game is at 2:05 p.m. PT, and the series concludes Sunday at 12:05 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.