Arizona vs No. 2 Stanford preview: Players to watch for and keys to the series
Arizona is playing its best baseball of the year at the right time. But the series this weekend against No. 2 Stanford will be an important measuring stick for just how good Arizona is.
Coming off a series win in Los Angeles against USC and a home win against BYU, the Wildcats are rolling. Arizona’s pitching is matching its explosive offense and that’s a recipe for success as the ‘Cats look to end the year strong.
Head coach Jay Johnson treats every game as the most important of the season, calling them all a ‘Super Bowl.’ But the three games this weekend will actually be Arizona’s ‘Super Bowl’ against a championship caliber team.
Stanford is 27-5 while 9-3 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal are coming off a home sweep against ASU and have won four in a row. The only series they’ve lost this year was at No. 21 UCLA where they lost two out of three.
Stanford’s pitching is as strong as you’ll find in the Pac-12 as it has a combined team ERA of . Brothers Tristan and Brendan Beck are two of Stanford’s starting pitchers, but Tristan Beck missed all of last season with a back injury.
According to Jay Johnson, “Stanford would’ve been a national championship caliber team.” had Tristan not gotten hurt. On , Tristan Beck is ranked No. 29 out of 100 pitchers this year.
Players to watch for Arizona:
Cal Stevenson: Recovering from a swollen hand, Johnson said that the outfielder was cleared and could have played against BYU, but the head coach decided he would rather just leave him to rest and get ready for this series. Stevenson has been Arizona’s leadoff hitter all season.
Matt Frazier: If Stevenson isn’t ready to go, watch for Matt Frazier to leadoff for Arizona. He took Stevenson’s spot in the lineup on Tuesday night and filled in nicely as he went 2-4 with two RBI’s.
Juan Aguilera: On Tuesday night, Aguilera made the longest appearance of his career. He started and went seven innings allowing only one hit and zero runs. Johnson said he expects to use Aguilera at some point later in the series if Arizona needs him.
Players to watch for Stanford:
Tristan Beck: After getting walloped by UCLA two weeks ago, Beck returned to his regular self last week and pitched seven strong innings and only allowed five hits and zero runs against ASU. Beck is almost a sure-future MLB player so this will be a good matchup for the Arizona batters who haven’t backed down from anyone lately.
Jack Little: The Stanford closer is as close to automatic as it gets. His 11 saves this season leads the Pac-12 and puts him in fourth for the entire country. He has a 0.39 ERA and has only allowed one run in 23 innings pitched.
Andrew Daschbach: The sophomore utility man has started every game this year for the Cardinal and is leading the team in home runs this year with 10. He has hit six of them in his last eight games including two during the sweep of ASU. Since Hi-Corbett field is one of the larger fields in college baseball, it’ll be interesting to see how Daschbach adapts.
Keys to the series:
For the ‘Cats to win the series, they’re going to need their big names to step up like they have been lately. Nick Quintana has been on a roll in recent weeks and Cameron Cannon has been seeing the ball well and hitting for power at the plate.
But the bullpen is going to be key in determining the outcome. Avery Weems has really struggled in recent outings, but on Tuesday was able to come in the game and end the eighth inning with BYU threatening.
The first game two games will be Friday and Saturday night both at 7 p.m. On Saturday night, Arizona will honor the late Jerry Kindall with a pregame ceremony. The series will conclude on Sunday with a noon start.
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