SG Standard asked for it, so here is your abbreviated eleventh-hour preview of the very same Stanford squad with whom the Diamond Dogs will clash in Omaha on Monday evening.
The Cardinal advanced to face Georgia by virtue of an eleven-run ninth inning against Florida State on Saturday to give Stanford its 40th victory of the season. During the campaign, the West Coast squad claimed a 2-1 series win at Oregon State in April yet dropped a 2-1 series decision at Arizona in May. One of Stanford’s wins in the regional round was a 5-1 victory over Arkansas.
The pitching staff from Palo Alto is anchored by Jeremy Bleich, who boasts a 1.02 E.R.A. and who gave up one earned run while striking out seven during five frames’ worth of work in Saturday’s outing against Florida State. Erik Davis, who contributed one inning of middle relief in the win over the Seminoles, has started 16 games and gone nine innings in four of them.
Bleich and Davis, each of whom saw action this weekend, between them have drawn the starting assignment in seven of Stanford’s last ten games, dating back to May 24. The other three outings were begun by Jeffrey Inman (7-2, 4.34), Danny Sandbrink (2-1, 2.85), and Austin Yount (6-3, 3.38).
Baseball America credits the Cardinal with having "the deepest lineup in the field." While not having either the strongest pitching staff in the tournament or its greatest penchant for stolen bases and sacrifice bunts, Stanford boasts stout defense up the middle, a capable bench, and four regulars who hit at least .375 in regional and super-regional action out of a leftward-leaning lineup. (I’m referring to the side of the plate from which they bat, not their political bent, although, come on, they’re from Stanford.)
Speaking of liberal political perspectives, the Cardinal’s leading hitter is a Castro . . . no, not Fidel, not even Raul, but Jason, who has started all 64 of Stanford’s games this season and hit .376 in the process. While Castro has tallied a team-best 70 R.B.I., he has managed only 13 home runs and 25 walks while striking out 38 times. Defensively, the Cardinal catcher has committed a pair of errors in 467 chances for a .996 fielding percentage.
Narrowly trailing Castro in runs batted in is fellow 64-game starter Sean Ratliff, whose team-high 21 homers have helped him to drive in 69 runs. The Stanford center fielder’s .297 average is, however, hurt by his 80 strikeouts. Baseball America calls right-handed first baseman Brent Milleville "the most important hitter in the Cardinal lineup"; although the Stanford cleanup hitter arrived in Omaha batting only .167 for the postseason, Milleville’s infrequent hits have carried consequences, as he launched the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in an elimination game in the regional and batted in a quartet of runs against Florida State despite going one for four.
Although the Cardinal are 4-0 at neutral sites, Stanford is a middling club in close contests, having gone 5-5 in one-run games and 5-5 in two-run games. The Pac-10 squad is just 6-16-2 when being out-hit by the opposition and the Cardinal’s current seven-game winning streak is the team’s longest victory run of the season.