Eight months after a blowout loss at eventual national
champion Oregon State in the Super Regionals, the Stanford Cardinal
return to the baseball field for a season-opening three-game series at
Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton has plenty of new faces this year,
but one major exception to that is the return of All-American starting
pitcher Wes Roemer. Regarded as one of the finest pitchers in
college baseball, Roemer gets the ball in the opening contest at
Goodwin Field and will oppose Cardinal right-hander Nolan Gallagher.
Stanford swept the Titans last year at Sunken Diamond in the opening
weekend of the season, but Fullerton certainly had the last laugh after
reaching the College World Series in June. With a veteran club
that pitched and played defense as well as any team in the country, the
Titans (50-15 overall record) won a pair of games in Omaha before
falling to North Carolina in the bracket championship.
A pitching staff that compiled a spectacular 2.73 ERA last season will
feature plenty of new arms in 2007. Gone are starting pitchers
Lauren Gagnier (14-5, 2.80 ERA) and Dustin Miller (12-1, 3.13 ERA)
along with ace late-inning relievers Vinnie Pestano (2-1, 0.97 ERA, 13
SV) and Ryan Paul (3-1, 1.01 ERA, 2 SV). But of their "big five"
pitchers from a year ago, one key hurler is back and that, of course,
Roemer made 20 starts last season as the Fullerton ace and compiled a
13-2 record to go along with a stellar 2.38 ERA. The secondary
numbers are even more impressive as the right-hander walked only seven
batters compared to 145 strikeouts in 155 innings. An
All-American, Roemer then went on to star with the US National Team
last summer. A legitimate National Player of the Year candidate,
Roemer will prove to be an incredibly tough test for the Cardinal
hitters Friday night.
With Stanford likely not to score many runs in the series-opener, it'll
be up to Gallagher to keep the Titans offense in check. Gallagher
assumes the role of Friday starter for the Cardinal after the loss of
Greg Reynolds to professional baseball. The junior right-hander
joined the starting rotation toward the end of last season and finished
the year with a 5-5 record and 3.99 ERA in 65 innings.
Two newcomers to Division I college baseball will match-up on the mound
Saturday evening in game two of the series. For Stanford, it'll
be the collegiate debut for freshman right-hander Jeff Inman.
Stanford's best pitcher during Fall Ball and preseason workouts, Inman
is also the hardest thrower on the club with a fastball that tops out
in the mid 90's. This is a big test for the rookie and is a huge
vote of confidence from the coaching staff to put the freshman in a
starting role the opening weekend against a club like Cal State
Fullerton. Inman though has all of the tools necessary to become
the next great pitcher at Stanford.
With Gagnier and Miller gone, the back-end of Fullerton's starting
rotation will have a different look this year. Opposing Inman on
the mound Saturday will be junior college transfer Jeff Kaplan. A
right-hander, Kaplan played at Irvine Valley College last spring and
went 5-5 with a 2.56 ERA (fourth in the conference) and 100 strikeouts
(second) in 84 innings. Kaplan is in the starting rotation thanks
to a standout Fall Ball on the mound, but like Inman, has yet to throw
a pitch at this level.
On Sunday, the Titans will send out redshirt freshman Sean Urena.
Urena has a big body at 6'2", 255 lbs. and did not pitch last year with
Fullerton as a redshirt. The most likely starter for Stanford in
the series finale will be sophomore left-hander Jeremy Bleich.
Bleich may be the top pitcher on the club right now and thus may be
used early in the weekend out of the bullpen if Stanford has a late
lead and the coaching staff wants to get a victory and early control of
the series. Bleich excelled as a closer during the first half of
last season picking-up seven saves before joining the starting rotation
later in the campaign. All total, Bleich went 4-4 with a 4.05 ERA
in 60 innings as a freshman. He then went on to earn Cape Cod
League All-Star honors for his efforts during the summer.
If Bleich doesn't see action out of the bullpen early in the weekend,
he'll get the ball on Sunday afternoon. Other candidates to start
for the Cardinal include junior right-hander Erik Davis (1-1, 4.91 ERA
last year) and sophomore right-hander Max Fearnow (2-0, 5.91 ERA).
These are two teams with different situations when it comes to their
weekend rotations at the start of the season. Fullerton returns
their ace (Roemer) who is an All-American and one of the top pitchers
in the country. But the rest of the rotation is gone and filled
with unproven arms. Meanwhile, Stanford lost their star
(Reynolds), but returns their other two starters (Gallagher and Bleich)
with one needed to step up and become a go-to ace. Stanford's
team ERA last season was 4.55.
The starting rotation looks very different for Cal State Fullerton at
the start of the year and the same can be said for their lineup.
From a club that hit .313 last season, the top six hitters have all
moved on (Justin Turner, Blake Davis, Danny Dorn, Brett Pill, Brandon Tripp, and David Cooper). One of the few "known" players in the
Titans lineup though is senior third baseman Evan McArthur. An
outstanding defensive player, McArthur is also a quality hitter as
evident by his .303 average, seven homers, and 36 RBI as an everyday
player a year ago. Joining McArthur on the left side of the
infield is sophomore Joe Scott. Scott only garnered 14 at-bats
last year with standouts Davis and Turner playing up the middle, but
like McArthur, he's a top-flight defensive player who should step in
nicely at the shortstop position.
Stanford though may catch a break this weekend as McArthur has been
bothered recently with a sprained wrist and thus may be limited in the
series. Senior two-way player Bryan Harris, who started 24 games
last season and hit .295, would seem to be the most logical
Just two other starters, outside of McArthur, are back for Fullerton in
2007. Senior catcher John Curtis (.277, 0 HR, 23 RBI) started 46
games last season while junior center fielder Clark Hardman (.224, 0
HR, 12 RBI) found his name on the lineup card 36 times a year
ago. Hardman is a very talented player having earned Freshman
All-American honors in 2004 (.341 AVG) before missing all of '05 with a
serious arm injury and working his way back to full strength all of
Some of the new faces in the Fullerton lineup this weekend could
include outfielder Nick Mahin (JC transfer, leadoff-type hitter),
outfielder Khris Davis (freshman, future star), first baseman Jake
Vasquez (senior, transfer from Texas A&M, power bat), and second
baseman Joel Weeks (junior, JC transfer).
Stanford, meanwhile, has a more experienced offense returning although
the '06 club didn't come close to matching Fullerton's production from
a year ago. The Cardinal hit just .286 last season with 40 home
runs, but will try to build on a fantastic final month at the plate
that led to a regional victory last June in Austin.
Eight of the 12 regulars are back - although two key starters will see
little-to-no action this weekend (more on that later). Expected
to be one of the top hitters in the country this season, junior right
fielder Michael Taylor anchors the offense. Taylor hit .325 as a
sophomore with five home runs and 39 RBI - generally batting fourth in
the order behind graduated All-American shortstop Chris Minaker (.364,
11 HR, 68 RBI). With Minaker now playing professional baseball,
it's up to Taylor to now carry the load offensively for the Cardinal.
Junior Adam Sorgi also returns after missing last year because of a
shoulder injury. Sorgi led the '05 Cardinal in batting average
when he hit a .322 clip. A natural shortstop, Sorgi continues to
recover from labrum surgery and will probably be restricted to playing
third base (if in the field at all) early in the season.
Stanford expects to have a better offense this year thanks to the
emergence of Taylor, the return of Sorgi, and an up-and-coming
sophomore class. Many of the second year players received
substantial time in the starting lineup last year which resulted in
some growing pains through much of the season. The experience
should prove valuable now as many have made tremendous strides in the
As for the injured players, sophomore first baseman Jason Castro (.283,
3 HR, 19 RBI), who is expected to bat in the middle of the order, will
not play this weekend because of a broken bone in his right hand.
Castro looks to be the finest of the talented sophomore hitting
group. Meanwhile, senior center fielder Ryan Seawell (.313, 2 HR,
14 RBI) likely won't start during this series as he recovers from a
hamstring injury sustained in practice a few weeks ago. Seawell
though may be available to pinch-hit.
Cardinal (0-0) at #14 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-0)
Stanford Projected Lineup
C - Brian Juhl (Jr., .217, 1 HR, 3
1B - Brent Milleville (So., .198, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
2B - Austin Yount (So., .139, 1 HR, 7 RBI)
3B - Adam Sorgi (Jr., .322, 5 HR, 41 RBI)
SS - Cord Phelps (So., .196, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
LF - Joey August (So., .273, 1 HR, 6 RBI) or Toby Gerhart
CF - Sean Ratliff (So., .000, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
RF - Michael Taylor (Jr., .325, 5 HR, 39 RBI)
DH - Grant Escue (So., .422, 0 HR, 8 RBI) or Sorgi
State Fullerton Projected Lineup
C - John Curtis (Sr., .277, 0 HR, 23 RBI)
1B - Jake Vasquez (Sr., .276, 5 HR, 21 RBI w/Texas A&M)
2B - Joel Weeks (Jr., JC Transfer)
3B - Evan McArthur (Sr., .303, 7 HR, 36 RBI) or Bryan
Harris (Sr., .295, 0 HR, 15 RBI)
SS - Joe Scott (So., .286, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
LF - Nick Mahin (Jr., JC Transfer)
CF - Clark Hardman (Jr., .224, 0 HR, 12 RBI)
RF - Chris Jones (So.)
DH - Jon Wilhite (Jr., .000, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
Cal State Fullerton was ranked 14th in the country by Baseball America in their
preseason Top 50 poll. By contrast, Stanford checked in at
#31. Despite a younger and more inexperienced club, the Titans
are still the team to beat in the Big West Conference. And
certainly don't count this team out in the long run this year on the
national stage. The last time Fullerton fielded such an
inexperienced team with numerous preseason questions was 2003.
That Titan squad then turned out to be perhaps the best team in the
country and it took two incredible performances from Stanford in the
College World Series that June (John Hudgins complete-game in the first
contest and Jonny Ash's first career home run - coming off of Chad Cordero - in the second game) to prevent Fullerton from reaching the
championship series. Fullerton doesn't rebuild, they
Don't think games this early don't matter either. Stanford just
squeezed into the NCAA Tournament last year with a 30-25 overall record
and the chief reason was a strong non-conference mark. Going 5-1
last February over the likes of Fullerton and Texas gave the Cardinal
just enough to continue their season last June. This obviously
isn't anywhere close to make-or-break time for Stanford, but a couple
of wins this weekend could go a long way when it comes to dissecting
RPI ratings in May. Plus, Stanford will be at home in four of the
next five weekends, so a strong start against the Titans could really
set the tone for a big non-conference season.
Stanford at Cal State Fullerton
FRIDAY: 7:00 P.M.
SATURDAY: 6:00 P.M.
SUNDAY: 12:00 P.M.
The Cardinal will play their first home games of 2007 next
weekend when they host the Fresno State Bulldogs in a three-game
series. The home opener is scheduled for Friday, February 9th at