On multiple occasions, Mark Appel has talked about the
importance of ignoring external influences and focusing on
the task at hand, a lesson he took to heart after Stanford wilted in
the humidity of last year's Florida State Super Regional. MLB
Draft stress, final exam worries, oppressive weather, and an
excellent Seminole team all converged to end the flamethrower's
season on a grisly 17-1 note.
"It doesn't matter what your situation is," he said. "You're still
going to have to go out and compete. You're still going to have to
make the pitches."
That tunnel-vision mentality should come in especially handy this
Friday at Berkeley, when Appel shoots to deliver a pristine
performance and capture the Stanford strikeout record, all while his
team around him goes up in flames. The Cardinal (26-21, 11-13
Pac-12), losers of six straight, have been virtually eliminated from
postseason play after opening the season as Pac-12 title favorites.
The Farm Boys were ranked in the preseason top 10, but their most
recent setback, a 3-0 home shutout loss at the hands of RPI no. 280
Santa Clara (0-21 in WCC play), was simply embarrassing.
Anytime a team's trajectory parallels that of 2012
USC football, it's safe to say that things aren't going well.
It's hard to believe that Omaha is now pipe dream for Appel and the
fellow members of his supremely touted 2009 recruiting class (many
of whom are already playing at the professional level), but that's
the hard truth. Still, the flamethrower has a chance to break Stanford's all-time
strikeout record this weekend, etching
his name into the program's annals before he likely becomes the No.
1 pick in this season's MLB Draft. ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson
(1995-97) and Justin Wayne (1998-2000), the current kings, both
struck out 363 batters in their Cardinal careers. At 352 punchouts,
Appel is 11 shy of that record with two starts remaining in his
senior season, the first of which comes 7 p.m. this Friday at
Appel has averaged just over nine strikeouts per 2013 start,
so it would take quite the effort for him to break the record
at Evans Diamond this weekend. Still, Appel has struck out 15 in a game this year, so a 12-punchout
total is certainly within reach.
The Bears are also especially prone to the strikeout, whiffing 329
times in 50 games this season.
A Faster Strikeout Pace Than Peterson
Many may point to the fact that Appel is in his fourth season
pitching for Stanford, while Peterson and Wayne both accumulated
their record 363 strikeouts in just three years on The Farm. But
Appel's strikeout-per-inning pace is comparable to both of his
predecessors. Having thrown 362.2 innings thus far, Appel’s pace is ahead of
Peterson’s 398.1-innings haul. Wayne, a Hawaii native who attended high
school at the prestigious Punahou Academy, like Barack Obama and Stanford football tight end Luke Kaumatule, struck batters out at the most
impressive clip of the trio. He notched his 363 in only 342.1
innings of work.
Appel struck out only 26 batters coming on in relief during his 2010
freshman season. He then became Stanford's Friday ace in 2011,
adding velocity to his fastball (which now sits in the mid-90s) and
developing a nasty slider in mid-to-upper 80s. Appel
struck out 86 batters as a sophomore and then 130 as a junior in 2012. He
then perfected a third plus pitch, a back-breaking change-up,
heading into this 2013 senior season. He locates his entire arsenal brilliantly and so far, he's at 110 punchouts
on the year, still very much alive to break last
season's total -- without the benefit of extra tournament play this
A multitude of factors outside of Appel's control have contributed to his team's disappointing season. For one,
over a third of the runs that he's given up have been unearned. Defensive struggles have cost him multiple wins. Still, Appel hasn't let those external negatives sully his senior campaign.
Not anymore. Because now, he has learned to block out the
distractions and zero in on the task at hand through the storm. His excellent 1.97 ERA attests to that.
"It doesn't matter what your situation is," he said, as he has repeatedly of facing
adversity. "You're still going to have to go out and compete.
You're still going to have to make the pitches."
Those pitches are close to propelling him into a special place in
school history, all while they give Cardinal fans one more bright
spot before the curtain closes on 2013 and Mark Appel's spectacular
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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