Pitching depth a big reason Stanford is off to hot start to season 

click to enlarge Stanford’s Mark Appel is one of the top pitchers in all of college baseball. The projected No. 1 pick in June’s baseball draft is off to a 2-1 start this season and owns a 3.68 ERA. - US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO
  • US Presswire file photo
  • Stanford’s Mark Appel is one of the top pitchers in all of college baseball. The projected No. 1 pick in June’s baseball draft is off to a 2-1 start this season and owns a 3.68 ERA.

Coach Mark Marquess predicted his Stanford baseball team would fall from its No. 2 preseason ranking by the end the season’s fourth week. He said the Cardinal were a good team, not a great team.

But so far, he’s happily eating his words. After three weeks, Stanford (11-1) has racked up six wins against top 10 teams, scoring 35, 26 and 29 runs in its first-three weekend series while producing a team ERA of 2.81. And the only movement the team has made in the national rankings was up to No. 1 last week before a 7-4 loss to Fresno State last Friday bumped them back down to No. 2.

Heading into the season, the Cardinal skipper knew his bats had pop. The question was whether they had enough firepower on the hill behind Friday starter Mark Appel, the projected No. 1 pick in June’s Major League Baseball draft. 

“To win 11 of our first 12 games, it really comes down to pitching,” Marquess said. “[Brett] Mooneyham and [John] Hochstatter have been two pleasant surprises.”

Marquess never questioned the stuff of his No. 2 starter, Mooneyham. The 6-foot-5 left-hander is not only imposing, he’s considered the No. 31 college prospect by Baseball America. But he missed last season after slicing a tendon in his finger while opening a can of beans and Marquess wasn’t sure how long it would take him to return to form. The answer: immediately.

In three starts, Mooneyham is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 28 Ks.

“I was training hard,” Mooneyham said. “I wasn’t going to take anything for granted.”

Still, the Cardinal needed a bona fide Sunday starter to hold down that No. 2 ranking against a murderous early-season schedule. They found one when freshman John Hochstatter — who Marquess considered a middle reliever at best — pitched six no-hit innings in relief against Vanderbilt in the Cardinal’s third game of the season. A week later, he started and pitched into the seventh against Texas, allowing one run on five hits. He bumped his record up to 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA on Sunday by mowing down Fresno State.

“It’s truly unbelievable for a freshman to come in here with our schedule and be as successful as he’s been so far,” catcher Eric Smith said.

But Marquess still isn’t ready to call his team “great.” 

With No. 4 Rice visiting the Farm this weekend and four Top 25 Pac-12 teams ahead on the schedule, there’s plenty of time for the Cardinal to show mortality. 

“It’s too early to say this is a great team,” Marquess said. “I think potentially we could be a really good team — maybe a great team.”

 

WEEKEND SERIES

No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 4 Rice

WHEN: Today, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m.; Sunday, noon

WHERE: Sunken Diamond, Stanford

RECORDS: Stanford (11-1); Rice (12-2)

INFO: www.gostanford.com

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Paul Gackle

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