Texas Longhorns baseball (6-3) will face off against the Stanford Cardinal (6-2) tonight at 8 PM CST in Palo Alto. The four game series will be the Longhorns’ first out-of-state road trip of the season.
Texas and Stanford boast similar resumes. Like the ‘Horns, Stanford is much improved over its 2016 campaign, when the Cardinal missed the NCAA tournament with a 31-23 record. The Cardinal are on a six game winning streak, only dropping the first two games of the season to No.8 Cal State Fullerton.
On offense, Stanford is led by a quartet of big hitters in Alex Dunlap (.419 AVG), Duke Kinamon (.407 AVG), Mikey Diekroger (.393 AVG), and Quinn Brodey (.343 AVG). The senior Dunlap in particular is an offensive threat, as the catcher was on the Johnny Bench Award watch list last season and led the Cardinal in batting average in 2016.
While Stanford’s bats have been hot to start 2017, the team hasn’t hit for power thus far. The Cardinal have only knocked three home runs, while Texas has notched nine this season. Part of this is the fairly deep dimensions of Stanford’s Klein Field at Sunken Diamond. The park’s limits are 400 feet at center field, and 335 feet in left and right field.
This isn’t ideal well for the ‘Horns, who have manufactured most of their power from home runs and pitching mistakes. The latter will also be hard to come by this weekend.
Stanford’s pitching is finding its groove, not allowing more than two runs in any of its last five games. The unit is led by lefty Kris Bubic. The sophomore starter has honed a 2.13 ERA and an absurd 21 strikeouts in only 12.2 innings pitched. In fact, half of his at bats thus far have ended in strikeouts, which should bode well for him against a K prone Texas team.
The Longhorns will turn to sophomore Nolan Kingham to start on the mound Thursday night. Kingham is usually Texas’ fourth used starting pitcher in the rotation. However, David Pierce doesn’t want to move Morgan Cooper, Kyle Johnston, and Blair Henley from their usual Friday-Saturday-Sunday roles in three games series.
A season ago, Texas and Stanford split their four game series in Austin. On paper, this match-up appears to favor Stanford more, but I believe Texas’ pitching depth will earn the Longhorns two wins this weekend.
My prediction: Texas repeats its series split with Stanford again in 2017.
You can tune in tonight on 104.9 the Horn or watch a free live stream here: http://pac-12.com/live/stanford-university.