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Baseball prepares for final series of the season

Junior RHP Will Matthiessen (above) will get the start on Friday. On the mound, he is 5-2 with a 4.22 ERA. On offense, Matthiessen (.350/.399/. 528) leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits (57) and RBIs (44). (JOHN P. LOZANO/isiphotos.com)

In the final weekend of the season, No. 4 Stanford (39-10, 20-6 Pac-12) will head to Phoenix to take on Arizona State (36-15, 15-11 Pac-12) from Thursday to Saturday. Although the Cardinal is not favored to repeat as Pac-12 champions, the three games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium will be the team’s last opportunity to prove its worth for a national seed ahead of Selection Monday on May 27.

After dropping one of two over the weekend to No. 12 Oregon State (35-16-1, 20-6), the Cardinal is now a game and a half behind No. 1 UCLA (45-8, 22-5 Pac-12) and tied with the Beavers in the conference standings.

The Sun Devils won their first 21 games of the season, rising as high as fifteen in the national polls but have gone 15-15 since. This past weekend, Arizona State was in Berkeley, winning on Friday in eleven innings but falling on Saturday to split a rain-shortened series. The Sun Devils sport one of the nation’s best offenses, leading the NCAA in home runs per game (1.73) and coming in second in slugging (0.527), eighth in scoring (8.4) and tenth in batting average (0.311).

Outfielder Hunter Bishop (.356/.482/.792) and infielder Spencer Torkelson (.359/.454/.714) pace the team in home runs, with their 22 and 21 respective home runs ranking fifth and eighth nationally. Bishop, a Palo Alto native who attended Serra High School, tops the Pac-12 in slugging (.792), total bases (160) and home runs (22), while ranking second in RBIs (61).

Torkelson ranks second in the conference in home runs (21) and fourth in slugging (.714). Torkelson was on the Petaluma Valley All-Star team that defeated the Petaluma Nationals in the District tournament, but fell twice to make way for the Nationals to advance to the U.S. championship game of the Little League World Series.  

The Cardinal has its own home-run battle between senior outfielder Brandon Wulff (.272/.394/.615) and junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach (.314/.397/.646). Behind Wulff’s 17 and Daschbach’s 15, Stanford is eighth in the nation in home runs per game (1.45) and 15th in slugging percentage (0.483).

Daschbach mashed four home runs in last Tuesday’s game, the only player to do so this season, and just the second in the history of the Pac-12. For his efforts, Daschbach was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, NCBWA National Player of the Week and USA Golden Spikes National Performance of the Week.

The Arizona State defense turns the third-most double plays per game (1.14), one spot ahead of Stanford in the conference (0.98). The defense supports a pitching staff with a 4.58 ERA, led by Alec Marsh (9-3, 3.04 ERA), whose win total is twelfth in the country. Marsh will start on Thursday, and will be followed by Boyd Vander Kooi (4-4, 5.71 ERA) on Friday. The past two weekends, the Sun Devils have gone to Sam Romero (3-2, 4.40 ERA) as an opener on Saturday.

Stanford’s pitching staff ranks seventh in BB/9 (2.99), 11th in ERA (3.44) and 14th in K/BB (2.85). In 12 total appearances, freshman RHP Alex Williams (6-1, 2.53 ERA) allowed just 1.0 walk per nine innings. Williams, Stanford’s midweek starter, will now move to the bullpen after nine starts and 54.0 innings.

Stanford will also lean on sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch (3-1, 4.59 ERA), junior RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 3.28 ERA), sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller (6-0, 1.45 ERA) and All-American junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 2.76 ERA) out of the bullpen.

For the Cardinal, sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (4-3, 3.65 ERA) will start the first contest of the series on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. PT. Friday’s matchup will begin at the same time with junior RHP Will Matthiessen (5-2, 4.22 ERA) on the mound. On offense, Matthiessen (.350/.399/. 528) leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits (57) and RBIs (44). Junior LHP Erik Miller (7-2, 2.93 ERA) will start the final game of the regular season Saturday at noon PT.

“We’re going to go play a different brand of baseball in Arizona,” said Stanford head coach David Esquer. “It’s going to be warm, short and fast.”

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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