STANFORD — The Stanford baseball team was good enough to take the regular-season finale series against the eventual national champions last year, but they weren’t good enough to crack the postseason tournament.
“Last year was obviously a disappointment,” said third baseman and preseason All-American Alex Blandino, whose fellow Cardinal bested UCLA in a two-out-of-three series in May. “These guys won the national title, and I felt we absolutely could’ve swept them. Talent has never been an issue for us.”
And despite the absence of pitching ace Mark Appel — who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Astros — talent still doesn’t seem to be the concern marching forward this season.
“I don’t think anybody is void of talent,” said coach Mark Marquess, who entering his 38th season as Stanford’s skipper. “We’re not void of talent, we’re very good. But you better pitch well.”
And that will fall on a diverse group of arms — some experienced and some not.
Among those charged with taking up the Appel slack is junior left-hander John Hochstatter, who started 13 games for the Cardinal last season, and senior right-hander A.J. Vanegas.
Vanegas, despite going 4-0 in 2012 while posting a 2.62 ERA, missed most of last season due to disk problems in his back that required surgery.
“He’s back, but coming back slowly,” said Marquess, who added he’ll try his senior first in the bullpen before assigning him back to his starting role. “I don’t think he’ll be ready this weekend, but he’ll probably be ready for when we go to Texas.”
The remainder of Stanford’s arms include power closer senior Sam Lindquist, and sophomore southpaw reliever Logan James, and a cast of four freshmen — right-handers Cal Quantrill, Brett Hanewich, 6-foot-9, 230-pounder Chris Viall and Tyler Thorne.
“I’m not sure what roles they will fill,” Marquess said. “But their arms are good enough to compete at the level that we need to compete at.”
The Cardinal open their 2014 season hosting No. 15-ranked Rice on Friday before traveling to No. 10 Vanderbilt on Feb. 28 through March 2.
“If [the schedule] doesn’t kill us, we’ll be pretty good,” Marquess said.
But for Stanford to make a push for the postseason, it will have to rely on its returning position players.
Juniors Wayne Taylor, Brant Whiting, Austin Slater, Blandino and senior Danny Diekroeger make up the heart of Cardinal lineup.
“We don’t have necessarily the highly touted pro prospects in our lineup this year,” infielder Diekroeger said. “Our fate is gonna come down to how well we can execute the little things.”