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Previewing the Stanford Series with Matt Hodson

A few weeks ago, we brought in UW Assistant Sports Information Director Jeff Bechtold to talk about the Huskies prior to the Beavers' three game trip to Seattle-- this week, we bring in Matt Hodson of the Stanford Athletic Department to get a better idea of what the Stanford Cardinal are all about.

Jake Bertalotto, Building the Dam: From everything I've read regarding the Cardinal, it seems that the team is getting hot at just the right time, as they're 6 of their last 7 and 9 of their last 12. What's going right?

Matt Hodson, Stanford Athletic Department: We're doing a little bit of everything, and the main thing is offensively. We've been swinging the bat real well. The last eight games, the team batting average is up around .340. Of the top five guys in the linuep, four of them now have their season average up above .300, and the only one who's not is hitting .296. And even up and down the lineup guys on the lower end are starting to hit the ball real well and get some clutch RBI hits. I'd say the offense has been a big thing, and then the emergence of our two freshmen on the top end of the rotation: Jordan Pries on Friday nights and Brett Mooneyham on Saturday nights. Those two guys have been great. Last weekend Pries pitched into the ninth, at USC Mooneyham threw a complete game, seven hitter on Saturday. Those two combinations have been the real key. 

You mention the fifth guy who isn't above .300, who I believe is Toby Gerhart. I got to see him play when the Cardinal were in Omaha at the same time as the Beavers in 2007, and got to see him again when he ran all over the Beavers in football this year. I haven't checked his career stats, but talk about how his season is going so far. 

It's really been a good year for him. He started out slow. He started off slow last year as well but that was more due to injury as well. But this time... you don't play fall ball, you miss all those at-bats. Then starting out with the schedule we played, with Texas and Fullerton and those types of teams right after the bat he struggled-- he hit about .160 through our first 14 games. Ever since March 25 Stanford is 25-13 and Gerhart is hitting .330. He had something like 16 RBI in our last ten games. Once he started to get in rhythm and find his swing, he's been awesome and his average has gone up 130 points. 

Looking at the stats, it obvious that a real strength of this team is defense-- Stanford's .978 fielding percentage leads the league. Is that a staple of what Coach Marquess has been stressing this year?

Absolutely. He didn't know going into the year, losing guys like Castro and Phelps and Ratliff, and Molina -- four real good hitters-- he didn't know what the team would be like offensively.He also had some question markes pitching wise, but he knew that one thing that his team could do from Day 1 to help itself out was play defense, and he's been stressing that since the first practice on Feburary 1, and they've really taken it to heart and played good defense all year long. 

What's Stanford's outlook on post-season play with three games remaining, sitting at 12-12 in Pac-10 play?

I think Stanford has to win the series at the very least. I've looked at the national blogs like Baseball America and Rivals.com. I've seen some people say that we just need to win 2 out of 3 to get in, others say we need to sweep to get in. So, obviously if you lose the series, you're out. 2 out of 3 would should get us consideration, because obviously that means you're pretty darn hot, but it seems a sweep would get us in there. 

Right, and you look at the Beavers, and they've been on a downhill slide as of late. If it comes down to a Sunday Game 3 with the series tied, is it going to be Scott Snodgress on the mound?

Not necessarily. It would come down to a question of whether Jeff Inman can go. Last week we went Michael Marshall on Sunday and he pitched fairly well into the fifth. Unfortunately, up until the last few weekends, Inman has been our Sunday guy but he came out two weekends ago with some soreness in the shoulder, so he's still a question mark. So we'll likely go with some combination of Marshall and Max Fearnow if (Inman) can't go. Then we'll hope that Drew Storen is fresh... he's our closer who has been a constant all year long. 

The Beavers and Cardinal start their decisive three game series tomorrow night with a 6:00 p.m. first pitch from Sunken Diamond in Palo Alto. 

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)