Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 11, 2010

Things looking up for Cardinal despite its NCAA tourney finish

by Rick Eymer

Perhaps it was more of a testament to the dogged pursuit of a common goal and not the overwhelming presence of physical talent that lead the Stanford baseball team into the postseason this year.

The Cardinal players returned home after a brief encounter in the NCAA tournament. They were able to prepare for their remaining academic finals without having to worry about preparing for more baseball. Somehow you get the feeling they would have loved to have had that problem.

As it was, Stanford juggled finals and two losses (9-5 to New Mexico and 6-5 to host Cal State Fullerton) last weekend at the Fullerton Regional, its quickest exit from the postseason since going 0-2 in 1994. The Cardinal has bowed out without winning a game in any postseason tournament just twice in its illustrious history.

Stanford (31-25) wasn't blessed with overwhelming talent in the junior and senior classes this year, so it was no surprise that hard-working junior infielder Colin Walsh was drafted in the 13th round, the 409th overall pick, by the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday in the First-Year Player Draft.

Drew Storen, who made his major-league debut with the Washington Nationals in May, would have been a junior with Stanford this season. Toby Gerhart would have been a senior on the team but choose to pursue a professional football career.

Junior outfielder Kellen Kiilsgaard, who accumulated solid power numbers as a sophomore, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 30th round, the 904th overall pick.

Kiilsgaard, a first team All-Pac-10 pick as a sophomore after batting .328 with 28 RBI, missed most of the 2010 season with an elbow injury, appearing in just 14 games.

The draft continued Wednesday, with another 20 rounds for a total of 50. Senior Adam Gaylord went in the 31st round to the Baltimore Orioles, Jake Schlander was taken by the Seattle Mariners in the 31st round, and Jonathan Kaskow went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 41st round.

Senior Cory Bannister and juniors Zach Jones, Dave Guiliani, Danny Sandbrink, Ben Clowe, Kellen McColl, and Alex Pracher (and any 21-year-old sophomores) also were eligible for the draft.

Walsh hit .319 over 143 career games with 107 runs and 74 RBI. He led the Cardinal with seven home runs, 45 runs and 41 RBI this season. As a sophomore, he led Stanford with a .320 average.

"I had an awesome time in my three years at Stanford. It means a lot to go to Omaha and start the last two years," Walsh said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity and I am excited to play for a quality organization like the Cardinals."

The freshman class produced 37 percent of the home runs and 68 percent of the RBI. Menlo School grad Kenny Diekroeger became the first freshman to lead the Cardinal in hitting since Edmond Muth in 1997. He also finished tied for the lead in RBI with 41 (with Walsh).

On Wednesday, Diekroeger was named one of 11 third basemen selected to Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-America team. Diekroeger was the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-Pac-10 selection.

The freshman hit .304 as a group, slightly better than the overall team mark of .289. Diekroeger (.356), Tyler Gaffney (.328) and Stephen Piscotty (.326) were among the team's top five hitters.

"Just looking at the freshmen I could tell we'd be a pretty talented group," Piscotty said. "I guess we were ranked the second best recruiting class (by Baseball America) in the nation. There was a little bit of a buzz."

Diekroeger will be joined at Stanford by younger brother Danny Diekroeger, an infielder who can play short or second base and also a Menlo School grad.

The bulk of the pitching staff also returns. Sophomores Jordan Pries and Brett Mooneyham are at the top of the rotation, while Brian Busick, Chris Reed and Scott Snodgress were all important members. With freshmen Sahil Bloom, Dean McArdle, Mark Appel, Chris Jenkins and Garrett Hughes also returning, well, there's a lot of talent returning.

"Facing that kind of pitching all the time was helpful," Piscotty said. "Those guys have nasty stuff and they get you prepared. Chris and Garrett battled injuries but you they are going to be good."

Harvard-Westlake High senior Austin Wilson, if he doesn't sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, will give Stanford a power presence in the middle of the lineup next year. The Cardinal recruit, drafted in the 10th round, was rated the 14th-best high school prospect in the nation by MaxPreps.

"Wilson not only has tremendous tools, his raw power being the best of them, he has the work ethic and character to maximize those tools," according to the MLB.com scouting report. "Still a little bit raw, he does need to improve his overall hitting skills so he'll be able to consistently tap into that power at the next level. He's a sponge who soaks up information, so most feel he'll do just fine down the road."

Martin High senior Brian Ragira, also a Stanford recruit, was drafted in the 30th round by the Texas Rangers. The outfielder/right-handed pitcher was rated No. 56 by MaxPreps.

"Most agree that Ragira can hit," the MLB.com report said. "He has the raw arm strength for right, he's up to 90 mph off the mound, but his mechanics have kept him from throwing as well as expected from the outfield."

Redwood Christian right-hander AJ Vanegas, another Stanford recruit, was drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Padres.

Troy senior Brant Whiting, who made news as a 10-year-old schoolboy in 2001, will also attend Stanford.

Whiting, and a group of fifth and sixth grade students at Hermosa Drive Elementary School in Fullerton, founded 'Read All Over,' which promotes peace and literacy through organizing book drives, and is dedicated to the memory of 20-year-old Deora Bodley, a victim of 9/11 who attended Santa Clara University.

Other incoming freshmen include Brian Guyman of Colorado, shortstop Lonnie Kauppila (drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 44th round), catcher Wayne Taylor of SB Memorial, right-hander Sam Lindquist of Eastside Catholic in Washington, Brett Michael Doran of Milford, CT, and Austin Slater of Bolles, FL.

Clowe finished the season on an 11-game hitting streak, getting a chance to catch on a regular basis when Jones was injured and unable to play the final two weekends.

Mooneyham fell one strikeout shy of the century mark (99) on the season. Sandbrink retired the first seven batters he faced, and threw 2 2/3 shutout innings in what could have been his final appearance.

Perhaps it was only fitting that in the loss to the Titans; six of Stanford's nine hits and all five of its RBI were produced by the highly-regarded freshman class. In other words, there's plenty more where that came from.

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