The preseason continued on Tuesday afternoon with another intrasquad game at Sunken Diamond. Two…
1/22 Baseball Practice Notes
In a 10-inning contest (extended due to higher pitch counts), the White squad took control with six runs in the bottom of the seventh while facing Nolan Gallagher. A walk and four singles led to a pair of runs before Olabisi, who struck out in his other four at-bats, stepped up and lined a triple into the right center field gap clearing the bases.
The top three hitters in the White lineup - Ratliff, Austin Yount, and Milleville - combined for seven hits. Ratliff connected for home runs to right field versus Erik Davis and Cory Bannister. Yount produced yet another multi-hit game while Milleville's blast came in the first inning against Davis.
The Cardinal Team mustered only four hits - two off the bat of freshman Toby Gerhart. Brian Juhl also homered late in the contest.
On the mound, Jeremy Bleich was the star of the afternoon firing five dominant innings with just one run and two hits allowed. Jeff Inman also recovered after allowing two runs in his first inning to fire three straight scoreless frames.
Cardinal 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 - 5 4 0
White 3 0 0 2 0 0 6 0 0 X - 11 16 1
Cardinal POS AB R H RBI BB SO AVG
Toby Gerhart CF 3 2 2 1 1 1 .417
Adam Sorgi DH 5 1 1 1 0 2 .261
Michael Taylor RF 4 0 0 1 0 1 .391
Brendan Domaracki LF 2 0 0 1 1 1 .300
Brian Juhl C 5 1 1 1 0 0 .240
Randy Molina 1B 4 0 0 0 0 3 .348
J.J. Jelmini SS 4 0 0 0 0 0 .182
Stephen Brown 3B 3 1 0 0 1 1 .143
Brian Moon 2B 3 0 0 0 0 2 .000
HR: Juhl (1st, 9th inning, 0 on, 1 out)
SB: Gerhart, Domaracki, Brown
White POS AB R H RBI BB SO AVG
Sean Ratliff CF 5 2 3 3 0 0 .435
Austin Yount 2B 3 1 2 0 2 1 .529
Brent Milleville C 5 2 2 1 0 1 .360
Joey August LF 5 1 1 1 0 2 .185
Adam Gaylord SS 4 2 3 1 1 0 .400
Cord Phelps 3B 5 0 1 1 0 2 .292
Grant Escue 1B 5 1 1 0 0 1 .208
Wande Olabisi RF 5 1 1 3 0 4 .100
Jeff Whitlow RF 4 1 2 2 0 1 .190
HR: Ratliff 2 (1st, 1st inning, 0 on, 0 out; 2nd, 4th inning, 1 on, 1 out), Milleville (1st, 1st inning, 0 on, 1 out)
IP H R ER BB SO
Jeff Inman 4.0 5 2 2 1 4
Erik Davis 3.0 5 5 5 2 4
Cory Bannister 4.0 2 2 2 2 4
Nolan Gallagher 3.1 6 6 6 1 6
Jeremy Bleich 5.0 2 1 1 0 5
* Ratliff continues to show the tremendous strides he has made as a collegiate hitter since the end of last season. Today, the sophomore outfielder belted a home run down the right field line in the first inning before a two-run blast in the fourth. Ratliff also singled and played excellent defense in center field. While Ratliff was more of a contributor as a pitcher last season, that may change in year #2. The Colorado native didn't pitch at all during Fall Ball because of an injury and while he's now returned to the mound during intrasquads, it appears that he's being brought along slowly.
From a hitting (and fielding) perspective, Ratliff is ready to make a contribution, without a doubt. He's now batting leadoff for his team during intrasquads while also seeing a substantial amount of playing time in center field (which is especially noteworthy with the current injury to Ryan Seawell). Ratliff has some of the best raw power on the club and can more than hold his own at any of the three outfield positions. Back in high school, Ratliff was the Colorado High School Player of the Year as a senior, earned First Team All-American honors while also garnering national Top 100 mention (#75 overall, #13 outfielder).
* The 2007 outfield picture has become cloudy with the emergence of Ratliff starting in the Fall, the injury to Seawell, and the recent play of freshman Toby Gerhart. It was more of the same for Gerhart on Monday as the standout frosh reached base three times (two singles and a walk) in four plate appearances while hitting leadoff. Of note, Gerhart is now playing center field as he held down that position during the entire game this afternoon making a number of fine running catches.
Meanwhile, you can also put junior Brendan Domaracki and sophomore Joey August into the conversation for starting outfield spots. Obviously, Preseason All-American Michael Taylor will hold down one outfield position (most likely right field, but potentially center if Seawell isn't ready by opening day). Seawell had an excellent Fall Ball with the bat (when he played), is an above-average defensive center fielder, was a very capable leadoff hitter last spring (hit .313 for the year), and is the only senior on the club. If his leg injury heals, Seawell will again get the call in center field. That would leave just one remaining spot in the outfield between the foursome of Ratliff, Gerhart, Domaracki, and August - a nice problem to have for the coaching staff.
Based on January performances, Ratliff and Gerhart are the definite front-runners. Those two players also look to have the higher ceilings and better pro potentials of the remaining outfielders. However, Domaracki (in 2005) and August (in 2006) both have seen substantial amounts of time in the starting lineup during real games - something neither Ratliff nor Gerhart have yet experienced. It will be very interesting to see how Marquess handles the outfield situation starting on February 2nd.
* While all of this offense during the preseason is a welcome sight considering some of the hitting struggles Stanford has endured over the last two years, it does raise the question of how strong a pitching staff the Cardinal will feature in 2007. Perhaps the most troubling of late has been the inconsistencies of juniors Nolan Gallagher and Erik Davis. Davis has now struggled in consecutive preseason outings after allowing five runs on five hits in his three innings today. Davis' velocity is currently sitting right around 85-86 M.P.H. and while he struck out four this afternoon, he also surrendered numerous loud hits (including a pair of home runs). Meanwhile, Gallagher also had his second straight subpar outing. Monday's final pitching line is a bit deceptive though as all six of Gallagher's runs allowed were in one inning - an inning that featured a number of ground balls that found holes before Olabisi's ringing triple. In Gallagher's other three innings, he retired nine consecutive hitters in very impressive fashion (five via the strikeout). Gallagher featured a fastball between 86 and 89 M.P.H. with a knee-buckling curve ball. The curve was a dominant pitch for him today and is a huge reason why the junior from Montana could have a big 2007 and position himself as a top five round draft pick. Still, his inconsistency is a bit troubling - especially if the coaching staff sees Gallagher as the Friday starter.
* Jeremy Bleich continued his red-hot preseason on the mound with a dominant stint Monday. In his five innings, the lefty allowed just two hits - an infield single to Austin Yount and a solo home run to Brian Juhl. Bleich showcased pinpoint control (no walks) with five strikeouts with his K's coming on the likes of Gerhart, Domaracki, Adam Sorgi, and Randy Molina. Bleich sat between 87 and 89 M.P.H. and mixed speeds very well throwing both a breaking ball and a change-up for strikes. In 10 innings this preseason, Bleich has allowed three earned runs (2.70 ERA) with just one walk and a whopping 14 strikeouts.
* Ho hum, another nice performance from freshman Jeff Inman. Inman started a bit slow allowing back-to-back singles to Gerhart and Sorgi to begin his outing. Sorgi was able to take an extra 90 feet on a poor throw back into the infield and that led to a run as Taylor and Domaracki followed with consecutive sacrifice flies. But after that, it was the Inman we've become used to seeing on the practice field. The Bakersfield native didn't allow a run in his last three innings fanning four. With a fastball sitting in the low 90's and a devastating curve ball, there was very little solid contact against the rookie. Are these performances enough for the frosh to immediately join the starting rotation?
* Classmate Cory Bannister also continues to impress. With his trademark cut-fastball, Bannister allowed only two hits (a Jeff Whitlow infield single followed by a Ratliff home run) in four innings with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. While Bannister's size reminds me of Yount on the mound, his pitching style seems similar to that of Jeff Gilmore. Bannister uses a nice cut-fastball/breaking ball combination which allows him to have movement on basically everything he throws. That is able to compensate for velocity that may not catch the eyes of the scouts. Marquess likes to test his freshman pitchers in the very first series of the year and it's a given that Inman will see early innings (possibly as a starter). I wouldn't be surprised if Bannister gets a chance to show what he's got in a big late-game situation down in Fullerton next weekend.
* Seawell (hamstring) and Jason Castro (hand) are still not participating in intrasquads. Seawell was seen jogging on the side before the game. Sorgi continues to play only as a DH during games.
* The Seawell injury has opened the door for a new center fielder (as mentioned above), but the same is happening on the infield as well. With Castro out, Brent Milleville, Grant Escue, and Molina are seeing all of the action at first base. Milleville is only playing first during defensive drills as the sophomore splits time at catcher with Juhl during games. Escue and Molina split the time at first base today during the intrasquad with Molina, on the whole, owing the edge offensively and Escue defensively. Molina is also a year older and spent most of last season in the starting lineup (albeit at third base), so the odds are that either he or Milleville would get the call at first if Castro isn't ready by opening night.
If Molina is forced into duty at first base, then that opens the door at third - most likely for sophomore Cord Phelps. Phelps started 28 games last season, but hit just .196 with no extra base hits. Phelps has improved as a hitter, but is well behind Yount from an offensive standpoint concerning the starting nod at second base (notice Yount's team-leading .529 batting average this preseason). However, Phelps is an above-average defensive infielder and he put on a show during pregame drills at the hot corner. If Castro is out and Molina does move across the diamond then the Cardinal, assuming it's Phelps then at third base, would get a nice upgrade defensively at the position.
* Gerhart has more than shown he can handle the leadoff spot in these preseason games. The freshman hasn't been chasing bad pitches and makes the pitcher work during every at-bat. Combine that with excellent speed and the two-sport star has future leadoff hitter written all over him (perhaps sooner rather than later if Seawell is out?).
* Milleville continues to hit as the sophomore blasted his first home run of the preseason to go with a .350 batting average. Milleville figures to bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup - it's just a question of whether he's starting at DH, catcher, or first base.
* Overall, the sophomore hitting class is rounding into form and showing why this was a top-five nationally rated class upon their arrival to Stanford. Castro's improvement from about midseason last year to right now has been well-documented as the first baseman appears headed for an All-Conference type year in the middle of the order. Milleville should, statistically, make as big a jump as anyone on the team offensively. The Kansas native hit just .198 with a pair of home runs as a freshman, but will now receive regular playing time and should show why he was a national Top 100 player in high school. Yount also hit under .200 as a part-time player last season and is a completely different hitter now. He appears ready to take on full-time duties at second base. Ratliff's emergence was mentioned above while August and Phelps are also in-line to challenge for time in the starting lineup. This sophomore hitting class has all of the makings of becoming something really special over the next 2+ years on the Farm.
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