The Stanford baseball team was picked to finish sixth by the Pac-12 coaches and Palo Alto resident Alex Blandino says that's just fine with him.
"You can't look at the preseason rankings and really know," Blandino said Monday at the Bay Area College Baseball Day at Stanford. "Ultimately the best team will come out on top. That being said, this is the first year we haven't been a contender."
Heck, the Pac-12 is so competitive that defending national champion UCLA was tabbed for third, behind Oregon State and Oregon.
"The Pac-12 is no doubt the best conference in the country," Cardinal coach Mark Marquess said. "Arizona and UCLA have won the last two national titles and I didn't think UCLA was the best team in the conference. Oregon State was. It shows that if you play well at the right time, you can win it. You just have to get to the tournament."
Blandino, named to several preseason All-American teams, is one of seven position players who started at least 20 games a year ago and who return this season, fully expects Stanford (32-22 last year) to be there.
"I think we're just as good, if not better, than we were last year," Blandino said. "We'll be more well-balanced and play a better brand of baseball."
Blandino hit .268 with seven home runs and 32 RBI last year, finishing strong. Over his final seven games, six of them Cardinal victories, he hit .444 (12 for 27) with seven runs scored and 12 RBI.
The Cardinal, which beat the Bruins two out of three at the end of the regular season, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years despite having Mark Appel as its staff ace.
Appel became last year's overall No. 1 draft pick in the Major League First-Year Player Draft, going to the Houston Astros.
"We have to replace those 105 innings and 10 wins," said Marquess, who enters his 38th season at Stanford with 1,495 wins, seventh all-time and third among active coaches.
He's yet to name a starter for Friday's 4:30 p.m. season opener against nationally ranked Rice, though left-hander John Hochstatter is the top returning pitcher and may get the nod.
Stanford ended the season winning six of its last seven. Series sweeps by UNLV, Oregon State and Oregon hurt the Cardinal's chances of postseason. Stanford went 5-11 against teams that reached the NCAA tournament.