The Bootleg's baseball writer David Lombardi checks in from muggy Tallahassee with some insight, observations, and advice before Stanford Baseball kicks off its Super Regional at Florida State at 7 p.m. EST Friday (KZSU 90.1 FM, kzsulive.stanford.edu).
Hello from Tallahassee! Even if you’re plan on watching Stanford’s
monumental Super Regional clash with Florida State on ESPN, be sure
to get the full Stanford experience by muting your TV and listening
to KZSU radio’s exclusive audio broadcast, which will be brought to
you from Dick Howser Stadium in pristine stereo quality (4 p.m. PST
KZSU’s stream is available free worldwide by clicking here.
In the Bay Area, listeners can tune into
90.1 FM. KZSU promises the most in-depth, colorful look at both the
Stanford and Florida State teams during the series. We’ve put our hearts and souls into making the Cardinal listener experience an
MLB-caliber one, striving to offer the best in all of NCAA baseball this
season. We invite fans to have a listen and enjoy. Our free online database of Stanford baseball highlights can be found here.
With that being said, the Stanford Baseball team will try to do its part to make KZSU’s broadcasts at Florida State this weekend as valuable as possible. Here are five keys for Mark Marquess’ club against
Attack Florida State’s Freshmen Pitchers
A pair of Freshmen All-Americans kick things off
for the Seminoles, and the series can be over for Stanford by time the two are done with their scheduled starts if the Cardinal come
into Tallahassee with the wrong approach. Lefty Brandon Leibrandt and righty Mike Compton have combined for only 51 walks in over 169
innings of work. Couple this with the fact that the strike zone is typically unfriendly in the Deep South so far away from home, and
any team not ready to swing has themselves a recipe for disaster
against Florida State.
Stanford’s bats like to attack, and they’ll have to keep up the aggressiveness against the Seminoles. Leibrandt
doesn’t throw too many balls to begin with. Once the lefty establishes a rhythm, though, he’s a threat to keep the Cardinal off
balance indefinitely. The Farm Boys must prevent that from happening. Leibrandt and Compton are good, but there’s definitely
some inner freshman deep down in them that Stanford can rattle with early runs.
Attack Florida State’s Lineup
Aggressiveness must carry over to the mound for
Stanford. While their pitching staff doesn’t issue many walks, the Seminoles’ lineup feasts on free passes. As a team, Florida State
has walked 346 times on the season, only one less than nation-leading New Mexico State and a whopping 134 more times than
the Cardinal. The garnet and gold’s formula is simple: patience sweats wild pitchers to death in the Southern humidity.
So, the Cardinal must continue to pound the strike zone this weekend. They’ve done a fairly good job of that so
far this season: Mark Appel has issued only 26 free passes in 119
innings of work, but a couple members of the Stanford staff have been susceptible to control issues. Brett Mooneyham and A.J. Vanegas,
in particular, must bring sharp performances to the hill. The two have combined to walk 70 batters in just over 140 innings of work,
but have been nearly untouchable when in control.
Of course, the Seminoles have hitters that can get on base via hits, too. James Ramsey and Jayce Boyd are two of the finest bats in the nation. But there are outs to be found in the
bottom of the club’s order. No. 5 hitter Stephen McGee’s average has sagged under .240, and a trio of freshman - Josh Delph, Jose Brizuela, and John Holland - haven’t exactly been lighting it up at
Attack on the Bases
If you’re beginning to notice a trend throughout
these keys, it’s not a coincidence. Further aggressiveness on the
bases is vital for Stanford success in this series. The Seminoles have a very athletic quartet of infielders who have turned 56 double
plays already this season. Sherman Johnson (3B), Justin Gonzalez
(SS), Devon Travis (2B), and Boyd (1B) have all been nifty in the
field. It’s the first time in school history that the entire Florida State infield has been drafted. Travis’ defense, in particular, has
drawn rave reviews.
Stanford has attempted to steal only 47 bases,
but they’ve picked their spots well, succeeding 36 times. Sending baserunners, executing hit-and-runs, and successfully laying down
bunts - those are all good ways to manufacture runs against a formidable infield. The Cardinal must execute with vigor in those
facets of the game.
Set the Tempo Early
Again, this goes with the theme of
aggressiveness. Despite their good numbers, Florida State’s starters
are young, and - unlike Appel - they haven’t gone particularly deep into games on a consistent basis. It’s important that Stanford
pounces on Florida State early to not only expose the inexperience of the Seminole arms, but also to dodge perhaps Mike Martin’s biggest weapon: closer Robert Benincasa, who gave up only one earned
run during the entire ACC regular season.
Realize that Mistakes will Multiply in Humidity
Finally, it’s time to get defensive. Stanford
played fairly clean baseball in the Regional. As a result, they were
on the positive end of a few weird plays, including a rare three-run wild
pitch. It’s imperative that the Cardinal end up on the right side of the mistake battle again. It’s hot and muggy here in Tallahassee.
They are bugs everywhere. It’s not hard to lose focus. That makes it especially important for Stanford to maintain their composure in the challenging climate.
Updates will pour in throughout the weekend. Tune into KZSU to see how it all turns out!
LSJU alumnus David Lombardi is a Stanford baseball radio broadcaster. You can check him out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com.