In the series that will define its season, No. 3 Stanford (38-9, 19-5 Pac-12) hosts No. 11 Oregon State (34-15-1, 19-5 Pac-12) over the weekend. The Cardinal, the Beavers and No. 1 UCLA (42-8-0, 19-5-0) are in a three-way tie atop the conference standings with just six Pac-12 games left.
Oregon State won their most recent series over state rival Oregon (26-24, 9-15 Pac-12), but they dropped the series finale and have lost five of their last eight games. The Beavers won the first two games against the Cardinal a season ago, but could not complete the sweep, which which was crucial in Stanford’s Pac-12 championship.
Behind a recent power surge, Stanford ranks eighth in the nation in home runs per game (1.49), most recently propelled by junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach’s (.313/.400/.639) outburst. The SportsCenter-worthy performance consisted of 1,575 feet of home runs as Daschbach homered in all four at-bats against Cal Poly on Tuesday. After the offensive explosion, Daschbach jumped to 24th in the nation in home runs (15). He is one behind senior outfielder Brandon Wulff’s 16, which ranks 20th.
The Beavers’ catcher, Adley Rutschman (.428/.783/.581), has matched Wulff’s home run total and was deservedly added to the Golden Spikes Award list. In his junior campaign, Rutschman leads his team in runs (54), hits (71), home runs (16), RBI (53), walks (66) and total bases (130). With the fourth-best batting average, fifth-best slugging percentage and best on base percentage in the country, Rutschman is widely considered the top prospect for the upcoming MLB Draft.
In the squat, Rutschman receives from the county’s third-best pitching staff in terms of ERA (3.03) and fourth-best WHIP (1.18). The Oregon State bullpen has not allowed a run to cross the plate in its past 16.2 innings. In terms of starters, the Beavers will turn to RHP Bryce Fehmel (7-1, 3.24 ERA) on Friday, but they have used a different rotation in each of their last three series.
Stanford’s Friday night starter, as it has been all season, is sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (4-3, 3.23 ERA), who has tossed a team-high 69.2 innings. For the sixth consecutive Pac-12 series, Beck will be followed by junior RHP Will Matthiessen (5-2, 4.29 ERA). Matthiessen (.320/.402/.535) bats cleanup and DHs on days when he is not pitching. The West Linn, Oregon native leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits (55) and RBI (41).
Both Matthiessen and sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa (.247/.279/.414), the other Cardinal from West Linn, grew up a little over an hour outside of Goss Stadium, where the Beavers play their home games.
Stanford’s pitching staff carries a 3.37 ERA, which is 12th in the NCAA, and has allowed both the fewest home runs and walks in the Pac-12. A large part of that is owed to the Sunday starter, junior LHP Erik Miller (7-1, 2.40 ERA). After working on composure in the offseason, Miller now leads or co-leads the starting rotation in ERA, opposing batting average (.211), wins (7) and strikeouts (73). He is considered one of the top prospects for the upcoming MLB Draft.
Led by junior All-American RHP Jack Little’s eight saves (3-1, 2.84 ERA), the bullpen ranks second in the Pac-12 with 12. Junior RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 3.69 ERA) leads the team in appearances (23) and has allowed just one run in his last nine. With the lowest ERA on the team, sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller (6-0, 1.52 ERA) has been increasingly turned to for important outs. Sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch (2-1, 4.86 ERA) will also pitch in high leverage situations, and he maintains a 2.81 ERA in 16.0 innings out of the bullpen.
Both the Friday night lights and the stars will shine in full force for the 6:05 p.m. start in Game 1, when Mike Mussina ‘90 will be honored pregame. Mussina, who was a first round selection by the Baltimore Orioles, played 10 years with the team before finishing his career in New York in pinstripes for eight seasons. In his sixth year on the ballot, Moose became the first Cardinal to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
First pitch for Saturday’s matchup will come at 12:05 p.m. P.T. On Sunday, the Cardinal will recognize the eight graduating seniors, RHP Ben Baggett, Michael Boden, Christian Molfetta, Nick Oar, Alec Wilson, Bellafronto, Kinamon and Wulff before the 12:05 p.m. P.T. game.