Arms make all the difference for Stanford baseball 

click to enlarge Stanford ace Mark Appel, above, will anchor a rotation complemented by Brett Mooneyham, who missed the 2011 season with a thumb injury. - JAKE ROTH-US PRESSWIRE
  • Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
  • Stanford ace Mark Appel, above, will anchor a rotation complemented by Brett Mooneyham, who missed the 2011 season with a thumb injury.

The Stanford offense is going to be good. That much has helped them to a No. 2 preseason ranking.

The thing coach Mark Marquess says will make or break the season is the pitching.

“It’s a solid lineup,” he said. “It’s an experienced lineup. They’re very good. I think we’re going to be as good, potentially, as any team in college baseball. But it’s all about the pitching, because the hitting can come and go.”

The pitching staff for 2012 revolves around ace starter Mark Appel, a preseason All-American, and Brett Mooneyham, who missed all of last year with a thumb injury.

Appel said he is happy to have the extra ace in the rotation.

“Now that we have him back,” Appel said, “we have two guys that really know how to pitch and can really give our team a great chance of winning.”

That road to winning will be a rough one, with three Top 25 teams lined up in the preseason before the Cardinal even get to a loaded Pac-12 Conference schedule. Fortunately for Stanford, they will face perennial powerhouses Vanderbilt, who it opened the season against this weekend, Texas and Rice at home.

“We’re playing tough teams,” said shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, who was named to the All-Amercan preseason second team. “And sure, we might have more losses than teams who play easier teams, but it’s going to make us better; it’s going to help us find out where we need to improve. It can only help us.”

In addition to Diekroeger, Appel and Mooneyham, Stanford boasts three others in Baseball America’s top 100 college players, including third baseman Stephen Piscotty, a preseason first-team All-American, and outfielders Tyler Gaffney and Jake Stewart.

“We just all have a confidence,” said Diekroeger, who played his high school ball at Menlo School. “It’s a swagger you can’t measure. It’s a great feeling.”

With all of the everyday starters returning except at catcher, filling out the rest of the pitching lineup is a task Marques said he will use the preseason for.

There are a lot of questions to be answered,” he said. “But you’re going to find out a lot more when you play an opponent, especially a quality opponent.”

Players and coaches alike said they want to make sure they are hosting during the NCAA tournament after traveling to Fullerton and then North Carolina last year before being denied a trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

“When we lost to North Carolina,” Appel said, “we saw how much joy and excitement was on the Tar Heels’ faces, and that’s something that we wanted. And we realized how hard it is to go on the road in regionals and go back on the road in super regionals and still make it to Omaha.”

Cardinal corner

COACH: Mark Marquess (36th season)
LAST SEASON: 35-22 overall, 14-12 conference; lost in NCAA super regionals
PAC-12 OPENER: March 24, vs. USC, 1 p.m.
KEY PLAYERS: Right-hander Mark Appel, infielder Kenny Diekroeger, third basema
COACH: Mark Marquess (36th season)
LAST SEASON: 35-22 overall, 14-12 conference; lost in NCAA super regionals
PAC-12 OPENER: March 24, vs. USC, 1 p.m.
KEY PLAYERS: Right-hander Mark Appel, infielder Kenny Diekroeger, third basema

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