In order to eclipse last year’s College World Series Semifinals performance, the squad is going to first have to make it through a vicious conference schedule this year. Five teams in the conference are ranked in the top 35 of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason Poll. Stanford is picked to finish third behind Arizona State and UCLA according to a poll of Pac-10 coaches. Also on the schedule are three non-conference opponents ranked in the top 10: Texas, Cal State-Fullerton, and San Diego.
Despite the fact that a majority of last year’s team remains, Stanford’s stats were hit hard by graduation and the draft. Four of the team’s top five most prolific hitters (using batting average as the metric) have moved on. This group of four—Jason Castro, Cord Phelps, Austin Yount, (who docked six wins as a pitcher as well) and Randy Molina—along with Sean Ratliff (who was the 8th best hitter on the team, had 71 RBI and is also gone)—were responsible for 55% of the total RBI production of the team last year. Despite losing two of its top three pitchers in Austin Yount and Erik Davis, who each had six or more wins, the starting rotation should hold up well with ace Jeffrey Inman returning. Inman turned heads during last June’s World Series when he gave up just two runs and struck out five over 5.1 innings against Georgia, who eventually lost to Fresno State in the finals.
This season, the Cardinal looks to have a good balance of veterans and youth. If the team keeps up the scrappy play it has demonstrated the past few seasons under skipper Mike Marquess (who is going to start his 33rd season on the Farm), this should shape up to be another proud season for Stanford baseball.