Stanford back in middle of Pac-12 baseball race

A quick glance at the Pac-12 Conference standings following a wild weekend of baseball action might lead to a double take or the mere scratching of one's head. No team is necessarily out of the running and there is plenty of time to make a run at this thing.

Stanford did its part to tighten the race by completing a sweep of visiting Arizona State, 9-5, Sunday afternoon.

The 10th-ranked Cardinal (8-7, 25-10) is tied for fourth place, with Oregon State, 2 1/2 games behind leader Arizona, but only one game behind the Wildcats in the loss column.

Sixth-place Washington State, which took two of three from Oregon, is three games back of the Wildcats and California, after sweeping Utah, is four games behind at, sort of, the midway point of conference play.

There are five teams that have completed six of the 10 scheduled conference series, and six teams that are five series into Pac-12 play. USC and Washington State have a rained out game to make up.

Arizona has six losses, while UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State each has seven losses. Only the Utes have more than nine conference losses, and, yes, it does seem that close as 10 teams are within five games of first place.

The Cardinal had been against the ropes after taking multiple punches from the Wildcats and Ducks but, after winning its fourth straight, Stanford returned to the middle of the ring and finds itself positioned for a serious move up with a three-game series at UCLA looming this weekend.

Stanford hosts BYU at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in a nonconference affair before heading off on the hunt for blue-and-gold Bruins.

While Alex Blandino continued his week long assault on hero status, new players are coming forward to lend a hand to the recent success. A.J. Vanegas, for example, added a save to his win on Saturday while Austin Wilson gave the Cardinal the lead Sunday and then made a late defensive gem to assure it would maintain the lead.

Blandino collected two more hits and another RBI as the freshman completed a week in which he hit .563 (9x16) with four home runs and 11 RBI.

His week's production led to Blandino being named the national player of the week by Collegiate Baseball on Monday.

Blandino's week pushed him into the team lead in homers, with six. As he has driven in 22 over 19 games this season. He is batting .350. He started for the first time on March 26, primarily at designated hitter, until this past week, where he started all four games at third base. He has started 16 games overall.

The Cardinal moved up in the national polls as well, ranking No. 9 in the USA Today-Coaches Poll and No. 13 in Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.

The Sun Devils took a 4-2 lead against Stanford starter Josh Hochstatter in the top of the fifth but Brian Ragira tied the score with a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth and Wilson followed with an RBI single.

The Cardinal clung to a one-run edge in the top of the eighth when Wilson made a sliding catch deep in the outfield to save at least one run and stop a Sun Devils' rally.

Stanford added three runs in the bottom of the eighth just to be sure, though Vanegas, on the mound for Wilson's highlight-reel catch, was in control to record his first career save.

Dean McArdle (3-0) got out of the fifth and pitched into the seventh for the victory. Stephen Piscotty also drove in two runs.

— Palo Alto Online Sports


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2012 at 2:22 pm

The addition of the PAC12 won/loss standings in table form would have made this story far easier to understand.

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