For the first time since 2008, the Stanford baseball team will be playing in the NCAA super regionals beginning Friday, and for much of the team, it will be a new experience in North Carolina.
“I’ve always felt if you’re going to be successful in league play or postseason play or even the College World Series, you better have someone that’s been there before because it’s different,” Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. “That senior leadership is critical if you wanted to be successful when you go into something new.
“Freshmen eyes are really big, they don’t know what to expect.”
Seniors Zach Jones, Danny Sandbrink and Ben Clowe were all on the 2008 Stanford team that advanced not only to the super regionals, but to the College World Series, and their experiences should help the Cardinal mentally prepare.
“They don’t really say too much about super regionals, all they talk about is Omaha,” junior pitcher Jordan Pries said. “Hopefully we can win two games and get there.”
The Cardinal (35-20) clinched its spot in the super regionals when it crushed Illinois 14-2 on Sunday, but knows it is in for a tougher test with No. 3 North Carolina (48-14) in the best-of-three series beginning Friday.
“In postseason play, it comes down to the pitching,” Marquess said. “If you play a North Carolina team, the thing that always jumps out at you is their pitching.”
Stanford has had some strong pitching of its own recently, most notably Pries. The right-hander has only allowed one run in his previous 22 innings and was named the regional MVP last weekend.
“From the regional dating back to the last weekend of the year against Cal, it’s been the best baseball we’ve played all year,” said Pries, who was taken in the 30th round of the baseball draft Tuesday. “We experienced the regional atmosphere last year. This year was a little different because we didn’t lose two [games].”
The Cardinal have won five straight since their series with Cal that began on May 27, and with only a handful of players having advanced this far, they will be relying on their nonconference experience to guide them.
“I’m not worried about playing at North Carolina because we opened the season at Rice, at Vanderbilt, at Texas,” Marquess said. “Those are tough places to play, and it was a great experience for our freshmen players.”
But it hasn’t all been the pitching. Tyler Gaffney will go into Chapel Hill on a 20-game hit streak and Stephen Piscotty comes in hitting .370.
Pries (6-5, 3.24 ERA) will be on the mound for Game 1 on Friday.
Stanford (35-20) vs. North Carolina (48-14)
WHERE: Boshamer Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.
TV: ESPN2 (Friday), ESPN (Saturday and Sunday)
AT STAKE: Winner of the best-of-three series advances to the College World Series
Game 1, Friday, noon
Game 2, Saturday, noon
Game 3, Sunday, 1 p.m. (if necessary)