Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 16, 2014

Stanford roundup: It's crunch time for baseball

Cardinal needs to sweep WSU to have any chance of earning NCAA berth

by Rick Eymer

Stanford has reached its weekend of no return as far as postseason baseball is concerned.

After dropping a 10-8 nonconference decision to visiting San Jose State on Tuesday night, the Cardinal has no room for error when Washington State visits Sunken Diamond to open a three-game Pac-12 series Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be followed by the annual fireworks show.

Stanford (11-13 in the Pac-12, 24-22 overall) needs to overtake the Cougars (12-12, 22-25) in the conference standings for any legitimate chance of securing a berth in the NCAA tournament.

With USC taking the weekend off, the Cardinal could move into a fifth-place tie with the Trojans should it sweep Washington State, giving the NCAA selection committee a better impression.

Stanford has yet to sweep a conference team yet this season, though it has won four series, including each of the past two.

The Cardinal looks to be in good shape entering the weekend, with a better team batting average (.264) than either of its two remaining Pac-12 opponents in Washington State (.260) and Utah (.232) and a lower ERA (3.45) as well.

Stanford ranks third in the conference with its .977 field percentage, despite early season struggles.

Austin Slater is hitting .500 (10 for 40) during his current 10-game hitting streak and has risen to seventh in the conference with a .345 batting average.

Zach Hoffpauir is right behind, raising his average to .327, among the Pac-12's top 10. He's on a career-best eight-game hitting streak, and has at least two hits in each of his past six games.

Palo Alto resident Alex Blandino ranks second in the Pac-12 with nine home runs, fourth in total bases with 90 and fourth in slugging percentage at .517.

John Hochstatter (8-1, 1.96) has pitched his way into the Pac-12's elite, boasting the fifth best ERA, fourth best win total and ranks fourth in opponents batting average (.192).

Freshman Cal Quantrill averages 7.55 strikeouts per nine innings, and, along with Hochstatter, is one of eight conference pitchers with a complete-game shutout.

The Cardinal has won 13 of its past 19 games to put itself in decent shape for a postseason run. The NCAA selection committee values how well a team performs over its last 20 games or so.

Stanford has seven games remaining on its schedule and just getting by won't be enough. Winning all seven fits the perfect scenario, though it all likelihood, winning both of the remaining series and beating Pacific in a nonconference game may fill the prescription for success.

The Cardinal brings an RPI rating of 32, thanks to a strong schedule, into the weekend. The Cougars are currently No. 122, while Pacific is at No. 139 and Utah is No. 165.

Men's golf

Stanford took the first-round lead at the NCAA West Regional after shooting 276 at the par-70 Eugene Country Club in Ore., four strokes better than Oklahoma. Cardinal junior Patrick Rodgers leads the field after firing a 4-under 66. Teammate David Boote was in sixth following a 69 while Cardinal senior Cameron Wilson shot a 71.

Stanford, in its 16th consecutive regional competition, needs to finish among the top five to advance to the NCAA Championships at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Kansas, which begins May 23.

Women's golf

Stanford will be battling history as much as the golf course when the NCAA championships get underway on Tuesday at the par-70, 6,194 yard Tulsa Country Club in Oklahoma.

The Cardinal has never won a national title, although it finished second, to Arizona, in 2000.

Stanford finished in a tie for 13th at last year's championships in Georgia. Mariah Stackhouse was the top finisher for the Cardinal, shooting a four-round score of 295. Lauren Kim and Mariko Tumangan also competed last year, as did Danielle Fraser.

Stanford won the Pac-12 tournament and advanced to the NCAA finals with a fifth-place showing at the East Regional last week.

The Cardinal is one of seven teams from the Pac-12 that qualified for the championship, a list that includes defending national champions USC and former national titlists UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. Washington and California also qualified for the 24-team field.

The Trojans won the West Regional title, with the Huskies finishing second and the Sun Devils third. The Bruins were Central Regional champs, with the Bears in fourth and Wildcats in seventh.

Pac-12 teams have won four of the past six NCAA titles, and have finished second four times in the same span. The conference owns 15 national championships since 1990.

Softball

Stanford will be on the sidelines of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years.

The Cardinal (30-25 overall) and Utah (31-24) were not chosen for regional play despite RPI's of 49 and 61 respectively. The Pac-12 Conference had five teams selected for the postseason and all five are seeded among the top 12.

Stanford played 28 games against 15 teams that were chosen to participate. The Cardinal was 2-13 against the five conference teams and 7-6 against everybody else.

It was a season of perseverance more than anything else. The Cardinal pitching staff took a big hit even before the season started when talented freshman Kelsey Stevens (15-7, 2.99 with Stanford last year) transferred to Oklahoma.

Stanford would have been able to overcome that loss had highly regarded freshman Carley Hoover and sophomore Nyree White stayed healthy.

Hoover was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in five starts and White allowed one hit in five innings, covering four appearances.

Freshman Madi Schreyer (22-14, 3.70) carried the majority of the lead, making 47 appearances, including 39 starts, for the Cardinal. She completed 24 of her starts.

Stanford turned to position players Kylie Sorenson, Tylyn Wells and Kayla Bonstrom to fill in. It was no surprise the Cardinal struggled in conference play, finishing in the bottom half.

The season was also a sign of good things to come, with the emergence of a freshmen class that made significant contributions right away. In addition to Schreyer and Sorenson, who led the team with a .363 batting average and 16 doubles, Bessie Noll started all 55 games, hitting .288 with three home runs and 24 RBI.

The 24 players who started at least one game are eligible to return next year. The two seniors, Corey Hanewick and Danielle Miller, were limited due to injury.

Nine players started at least 40 games and six started all 55. That's good news for a program used to competing in the postseason.

Sorenson was one of six Stanford players to average at least .317, score 31 or more runs, and collect at least 44 hits. Leah White, Erin Ashby, Hanna Winter, Bonstrom and Wells followed Sorenson.

Cassandra Roulund (.290) had 22 extra-base hits and Jessica Plaza (.283) tied for the team lead, with Ashby, with six home runs.

Sorenson and White were named to the All-Pac-12 second team this week, while Schreyer, Bonstrom and Plaza earned honorable mention.

Women's tennis

In a battle of freshmen, Stanford's Caroline Doyle rallied in the third set and won a tiebreaker over Cal's Maegan Manasse, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 (0) to lift the defending national champion Cardinal to an improbably 4-3 victory on Thursday in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.

Doyle had trailed 4-3, 5-4 and again at 6-5 before tying the match and breezing through the tiebreaker to keep Stanford's title hopes alive for another day.

Stanford freshman Taylor Davidson bounced back from nearly having to default due to leg cramps and posted a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Lynn Chi at No. 3 singles to deadlock the match, 3-3.

Kristie Ahn won at No. 1 singles for Stanford, 6-4, 6-2 over Denise Starr, as did Carol Zhao at No. 3, 6-2, 6-3 over Anet Schutting. The Cardinal, however, lost the doubles point and saw Krista Hardebeck lose at No. 2 and Ellen Tsay fall at No. 5.

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