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College World Series Opponent Preview: Stanford

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Meet the Cardinal... A storied program and a really good team

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 03 Div 1 Championship Stanford Regional - Fresno State v Stanford Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Stanford

Mascot: The Fightin’ Charlie Kelly's | School Location: Palo Alto, CA | Conference: PAC-12

2021 Record: 38-15 (17-10, 3rd) | 2021 RPI Rank: 7

2020 Record: 5-11 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: 240

2019 Record: 45-14 (22-7, 2nd) | 2018 RPI Rank: 10


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, NE)

Game Time(s): Sat, Jun 19 @ 2:00pm

TV: ESPN

Radio: TuneIn | GoPack

Live Stats: NCAA Scoreboard


Tell me about this team

Stanford has quite the rich baseball tradition. The program was solid through the 1950’s and 1960’s, with a few very good seasons sprinkled in - and one great season (the 36-6-1 team of 1967 that made it to the College World Series), under the guidance of head coaches Everett Dean (yes, the same guy that also coached their basketball team to the 1942 National Championship), Dutch Fehring (who was also an assistant football coach at Stanford at the same time), and Ray Young (really letting us down here by being just a one-sport coach, bud).

Then stepped in Mark Marquess in 1977. Coming on the heels of the program’s first 40-win season in Young’s final go-round, Marquess would eclipse that mark 21 times over the next 41 seasons, including crossing the 50-win threshold six times. His teams made 14 appearances at the College World Series, winning it twice (1987, 1988) and finishing as the runner-up on three occasions.

Marquess retired following the 2017 season, and Stanford went with an interesting choice for his replacement. Well, in some ways.

University of California head coach David Esquer was selected to succeed Marquess. So if you know anything about the Cal-Stanford rivalry, you’ll understand why that’s an interesting choice. Then again, maybe it was the fact that Esquer is a Stanford alum (Young started that tradition - this is the 54th consecutive season with an alum at the helm of the baseball program) and former player under Marquess. Then again, Esquer was only 525-467-2 in 18 seasons at Cal with just 5 NCAA Tournament appearances, although one of those postseason trips ended up with the team in Omaha.

Either way, nobody is questioning the hire now. In each of his three full seasons as head coach of the Cardinal (2020? I wouldn’t worry about that little guy), Esquer has guided his team to the NCAA Tournament, with each team getting one step further than the last.

This Cardinal team has reached Omaha on a combination of really good hitting, an ace and solid #2 starter, a dependable and decently deep bullpen, and hitting their peak at just the right time. In the Super Regional round, Stanford hit the road and emphatically took out a Texas Tech squad that had made it to 4 of the previous 6 College World Series. Not only did they win the series, not only did they sweep the Red Raiders, but Stanford embarrassed Techy Tex by a combined score of 24-3. That’s some vintage Jim Harbaugh Stanford football stuff right there.

This team hits the ball incredibly well. Six of nine starters have an OPS north of .800, and they’ve been scoring runs at a prolific rate in their run to Omaha (10.0 runs/game, held below 9 runs in a game only once). The pitching has been solid, but was otherworldly in the super regional, with starters Brendan Beck and Alex Williams combining to toss 16.1 IP of 2-run ball, allowing just 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 23.

This is a hot team right now. Add “talented” and “confident” to that, and you’ve got a recipe for a team that could make some noise in Omaha.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Saturday: RHP Brendan Beck (SR) or RHP Alex Williams (JR)


Key Players:

Offense

CF Brock Jones (SO) - .302/.452/.620, 11 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 53 R, 54 RBI, 48 BB, 56 K, 14-19 SB. 1st Team All-PAC-12. Three-hole hitter. Absolutely crushed it versus Texas Tech in the Super Regional, going 4-for-9 overall, including a 3 HR, 6 RBI game in the series clincher.

1B Nick Brueser (SR) - .309/.385/.558, 10 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 28 R, 34 RBI, 19 BB, 53 K, 2-2 SB. 1st Team All-PAC-12. Never hit over .235 in a year until this one, his 4th year on campus. Had just 2 HR in his first 180 career AB before cranking 11 in 181 AB this year. Plus defender at 1B.

2B Tim Tawa (SR) - .281/.354/.508, 12 2B, 11 HR, 43 R, 38 RBI, 18 BB, 38 K, 13-16 SB. Two-hole hitter. Was the Stanford Regional MVP after going 10-for-19 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 4 games. Incredibly sure-handed defender with just 1 error and a .995 fielding percentage on the year.

RF Christian Robinson (SR) - .315/401/.489, 11 2B, 7 HR, 34 R, 44 RBI, 26 BB, 43 K, 8-8 SB. Lefty hitter who, like Brueser, has found his stroke this year. 7 HR in 184 AB this year after having 0 in 232 career AB entering this season. Has an 8-game hitting streak going.

3B Drew Bowser (FR) - .290/.351/.478, 14 2B, 7 HR, 27 R, 39 RBI, 17 BB, 34 K, 1-3 SB. Big bodied freshman who competed for the Team USA U18 squad in 2019. Was expected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick last year, but the combination of his commitment to Stanford and the abbreviated 5-round draft meant he made it to campus. Likely 1st rounder for the 2023 draft if he can stick at 3B defensively.

Pitching

RHP Brendan Beck (SR) - 9-1, 2.96 ERA, 100.1 IP, 72 H, 23 BB, 128 K. PAC-12 Pitcher of the Year in 2021 and 2nd Team All-American. 6’2 righty who had a big jump in velocity this year, which has put him higher on draft boards. Four pitch mix (fastball, change, curve, slider), but his ability to locate all four of those pitches and mix them throughout various counts makes him so effective. His line over his last five starts: 4-1, 1.83 ERA, 39.1 IP, 23 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 53 K.

RHP Alex Williams (JR) - 4-2, 3.06 ERA, 50.0 IP, 34 H, 14 BB, 50 K. Stanford’s #2 starter. Has been electric in the NCAA Tournament, notching wins in both starts with a total line of 16.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 19 K.

LHP Quinn Mathews (SO) - 5-2, 6.15 ERA, 60.0 IP, 58 H, 30 BB, 54 K. The Cardinal’s #3 starter, but really more of an opener at this point. Has also been used in relief this postseason, and with NC State’s lefty-heavy lineup, we very well could see him.

RHP Zach Grech (rSR) - 5-5, 13 SV, 3.17 ERA, 48.1 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 34 K. 2021 1st Team All-PAC-12. The team’s closer, if you couldn’t tell. Ol’ Spec Reckington is a true sidearmer, getting some serious arm-side run and drop on his pitches.

RHP Joey Dixon (FR) - 2-1, 2 SV, 3.28 ERA, 35.2 IP, 23 H, 17 BB, 16 K. Pitches to contact very effectively. Earlier this year, had a string of 8 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run.

LHP Austin Weiermiller (SR) - 2-0, 0 SV, 6.46 ERA, 23.2 IP, 29 H, 12 BB, 23 K. The ERA this year is rough, but he’s a career 3.84 ERA guy over 96.0 IP and has appeared in three games this postseason. Throws out of a low arm slot that’s just a hair over a sidearm delivery, giving his pitches nice arm-side run. We’ll definitely see this guy.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Stanford plays their home games at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, which is a cool name and a cool ballpark, even though it has about an equal amount of grass in foul and fair territory.

This is just the 3rd all-time meeting between NC State and Stanford, and every single meeting has occurred in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams faced off at the Austin Regional in 2006, with 3-seed Stanford beating 2-seed NC State 7-2 in the opener, before the Cardinal topped the Pack 17-7 to advance to the Corvallis Super Regional.

Stanford has had 34 MLB 1st Round picks in their history, with 19 of those coming since 2000.

This is the 17th College World Series appearance for the Cardinal, but their first since 2008. The won the CWS in 1987 and 1988, and had a run of five consecutive years making the CWS from 1999-2003.


Prediction

Beck is a great pitcher having an even better year. If you had to assign Stanford a weakness, it’s likely the bullpen. Unfortunately, Beck has gone at least 7.0 IP in each of his last five starts, meaning the bullpen may not even be much of a factor in this one. Maybe Stanford decides to roll the dice as Alabama did and save their ace for a potential next game versus the highest seed in the bracket.

Reid Johnston will likely head to the mound for State and will need a bulldog effort.

Outcome: Every single team in Omaha is there for a reason. There’s no telling what’s going to happen.