STANFORD — The Stanford baseball team landed a top seed in the NCAA tournament Monday after finishing fourth in a loaded Pac-12 Conference this season.
The top billing means that Stanford (37-16) will host one of 16 NCAA regionals to be played across the nation this weekend. The regional will be the 15th held at Stanford since coach Mark Marquess took the helm in 1977 and the first since 2008.
“It’s obviously advantageous,” Marquess said. “That’s why you play the regular season.”
As the No. 1 seed in the regional, Stanford will open the four-team double-elimination tournament against fourth-seeded Fresno State (30-26) at 6 p.m. Friday. If the Cardinal prevail, they’ll advance to face the winner of the other first-round matchup between No. 2 Pepperdine (34-21) vs. No. 3 Michigan State (37-21) on Saturday. The loser of each first-round game will be relegated to the loser’s bracket and face the challenge of winning four straight games to qualify for the super regional.
Fresno State got in with an automatic berth by winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament last weekend. The Bulldogs hold the distinction of being the only team to beat Cardinal ace Mark Appel — a projected top pick in Monday’s Major League Baseball draft — this year. In doing so, the Bulldogs also snapped Stanford’s eight-game winning streak to start the season.
“They’re very talented,” Marquess said. “Their center fielder [Aaron Judge] hit two home runs off of Appel in that one game and they’re playing well right now, obviously, so it’s a tough matchup.”
But the Cardinal hold the edge in tournament experience. The lineup features seven starters from last year’s super regional squad, including utility man Stephen Piscotty (.319, 41 runs, 52 RBIs), who is also expected to be selected in the first round of next week’s draft.
Piscotty’s most significant contribution might come on the mound this weekend. In three straight weeks, he’s picked up wins as the Sunday starter, despite never having started a college game prior to May 12. While Appel and junior lefty Brett Mooneyham have locked things down Fridays and Saturdays throughout the season, the Sunday pitching gig was a rotating door until Piscotty (5-2, 2.57 ERA) stepped in against Washington State.
“He’s filled that role well,” Marquess said. “We won’t be afraid to start him in the regional.”
Marquess said Appel will start Friday, but a decision between Mooneyham and Piscotty for Saturday has yet to be reached.
Tickets go on sale today at 9 a.m.
WHEN: Friday to Sunday (Monday, if necessary)
WHERE: Sunken Diamond, Stanford
FRIDAY SCHEDULE: Pepperdine (34-21) vs. Michigan State (37-21), 1 p.m.; Stanford (37-16) vs. Fresno State (30-26), 6 p.m.
FORMAT: Double-elimination tournament with winner advancing to super regional