On a December night in 2007, Stanford slugger Stephen Piscotty walked through San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter with his high school basketball coach. At one point, they passed Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres.
“I said, ‘Hey, Piscotty, you’ll be playing there some day won’t you?’” said Rob Collins, the former coach at Amador Valley High in Pleasanton.
Piscotty glanced at his coach, cracked half a smile and dropped his head without responding.
“He’s completely humble,” Collins said. “It’s rare nowadays for a kid that talented to be so grounded.”
It won’t be too long before Piscotty is taking cuts in big-league yards such as Petco Park. The Pleasanton native is projected to be a first-round pick in next month’s baseball draft and his steady production (.335, 41 runs scored, 52 RBIs) and lead-by-example demeanor are key reasons why the Cardinal are ranked No. 11 (USA Today/ESPN coaches poll) heading into this weekend’s Battle of the Bay showdown with Cal.
Growing up, Piscotty, 21, couldn’t put his glove down once he started tossing wiffle balls around his backyard. In high school, free time was an opportunity to work meticulously on his game.
“He took batting practice at lunch every day — he didn’t miss a day,” Collins said.
It showed on the diamond; Piscotty was a three-time first-team all-league selection and the MVP during his final year — all while pulling a 4.0 GPA. He contributed right away as a freshman at Stanford in 2010, batting .326 while leading the team with 45 runs scored. Last year, he was a first-team All-Pac-10 Conference selection (.364, 40 RBIs), and as a testament to his discipline, he’s struck out only 62 times (661 at-bats) in his collegiate career despite starting every game.
Even during a mini-slump this year (.268 batting average over the season’s first nine games), Piscotty found a way to contribute when it mattered, leading the Cardinal in RBIs over that stretch.
“The thing you really like about Stephen is that he’s just so darn competitive,” Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. “He’s really one of the better hitters in college baseball.”
Piscotty’s also one of the more versatile players in the college game right now. He was a shortstop in high school, but split time between left field and first base as freshmen before moving to third for all 57 games last season. On March 28, he added another color to his palette when Marquess called on him to pitch in relief.
Piscotty, who hits 93 mph on the gun, threw a scoreless inning and then returned to the mound five days later to toss 3²⁄³ shutout innings in an extra-inning win. Two weeks ago, Piscotty (4-2) was thrown into the starting rotation and he picked up a win against Washington State. Now, he’s slated to be the Cardinal’s third starter in next weekend’s NCAA regional tournament.
“I’ll be ready to go,” Piscotty said. “I’m low-maintenance — just tell me what I need to do and I’ll go do it.”