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A Last-Minute Look at the Stanford Cardinal

First, I posted a preview of the Hurricanes the night before the Diamond Dogs played Miami. Then, Georgia beat Miami. Next, I posted a preview of the Cardinal the night before the Red and Black faced Stanford. Then, Georgia beat Stanford.

A superstition thus having been established, it was necessary for me to post another preview of the Cardinal last night, prior to the Classic City Canines’ scheduled rematch with the squad from Palo Alto . . . but a rain delay pushed everything back by a day (evidently because the N.C.A.A. decided that they would rather give Stanford an undeserved competitive advantage against Georgia than give Georgia an undeserved competitive advantage against the other bracket winner; so much for the pro-S.E.C. bias in college baseball!), so here I am, posting another preview of a team I have previewed twice already, because a man has to do what a man has to do.

So. Stanford. Uh-huh. What haven’t we covered? Did you know that Stanford is one of the four schools to have produced both a president of the United States and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? You did? Well, O.K., then.

As Toby Ziegler told Cal Evans at the V.F.W. Hall in Nashua, "I have no new information since the last time you asked me that question."

In ten N.C.A.A. tournament games in 2008, the Cardinal have stolen eight bases in nine attempts, which is darned impressive. Surprisingly, though, nine of the 13 steals attempted against Stanford have resulted in the runner being safe, which is encouraging in light of the way Jason Castro gunned down runners in the Cardinal’s first meeting with the Red and Black.

Speaking of the Stanford catcher, Castro has been on a tear in postseason play, batting .439 in regional, super-regional, and College World Series action, tallying 32 total bases and driving in 17 runs, although Castro has hit a comparatively tepid .385 in Omaha. Sean Ratliff is not far behind him, with 14 postseason R.B.I., and the Cardinal center fielder is slightly ahead of Castro in home runs (4-3), but Ratliff’s tourney average (.343) continues to suffer from too many strikeouts (8). Hopefully, newly-named southpaw starter Nathan Moreau will be able to hold the predominantly left-handed lineup in check.

Tomorrow’s scheduled Cardinal starter, Jeremy Bleich, has contributed 15 innings’ worth of work in the N.C.A.A. tournament, making three appearances and two starts with a 1-0 record and one save. Since the start of the regional, Bleich has struck out 16, walked nine, given up 11 hits and one home run, held opposing batters to a .200 average, and allowed one earned run for an 0.60 E.R.A.

Of course, Bleich has yet to face the Diamond Dogs, who have proven damaging to the health of Stanford pitchers’ stats so far. The Cardinal hurlers Georgia has faced for more than one-third of an inning (Jeffrey Inman and Austin Yount) have Stanford’s second- and fourth-worst postseason earned run averages, respectively, so perhaps there is no reason to fear the pitcher with the Cardinal’s sixth-worst E.R.A. in N.C.A.A. play, particularly since his pretty numbers translated only to a 3-2 record over the course of the season and, in his previous start in Omaha, he allowed six hits, two walks, and an earned run in five frames in a game in which the other team hit .286 against him and left him with a no-decision.

On the plus side, Bleich may have won the Hugo Award.

Stanford boasts a serious squad, but so does Georgia. The Cardinal are 8-1 in their last nine games, but the lone loss was to the Red and Black. The Pac-10 team is 5-1 in neutral-site contests, but the lone loss was to the Classic City Canines.

The Cardinal do not make many mistakes---Stanford boasts a postseason fielding percentage of .973 as a team---but neither do they force many errors, as the opposition is fielding .975 against them in tournament action. Likewise, while Stanford has turned eight double plays in ten postseason outings, the Cardinal have hit balls that allowed the other team to turn two ten times during that same span.

In postseason outings taking place at Rosenblatt Stadium, Stanford batters have hit .302 as a team and compiled a combined .392 on-base percentage. During the Cardinal’s three previous College World Series contests, however, their opponents have batted .293 cumulatively, with a .400 on-base percentage. Since arriving in Omaha, Stanford hitters have drawn fewer walks (15) than Cardinal pitchers have issued (16). We should expect a close contest tomorrow . . . and Georgia, sporting a cumulative 19-7 ledger in one- and two-run games, faces an opponent that is 10-11 in contests settled by such slender margins.

Go ‘Dawgs!