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Series Preview - Stanford

Two years ago, the Beavers were in a slightly worse position with three games remaining in the season. Oregon State, needing to win a series UCLA to give themselves a shot at post-season play, did so at Jackie Robinson Stadium to get into the NCAA Regionals.

This year, the situation doesn't seem as desperate, but the Beavers definitely need to win the series against Stanford to ensure or at least make a berth into the post-season seem justified.

However, Stanford, who enters the weekend series at 12-12 in Pac-10 play and 29-22 overall, needs a sweep to make a legitimate case for the post-season, but they could probably sneak in as a bubble team with a series win.

Stanford has won 6 of their last 7 and 14 of their last 20, and is hitting roughly .340 in the last eight games. Oregon State, on the other hand, has lost four of their last five series', and doesn't want to make it five out of six to end the season. The Beavers do have conference series wins over Oregon, California, Arizona and Arizona. Conversely, the Cardinal have recorded series wins against Washington, Oregon, Washington State, USC, and UCLA.

The differences in the overall records between the two teams should not be overlooked-the Cardinal did battle with teams such as Texas and Cal State Fullerton earlier in the season, and was swept by Arizona State. The Cardinal played the twelfth toughest schedule in the country this season, Oregon State played the 21st toughest.

Oregon State is coming off two midweek victories over Oregon, wins that definitely have the Beavers in higher spirits than the heartbreaking weekend loss to Washington State did. The two wins, Tuesday's by the score of 2-0 and Wednesday's 14-4, move the Beavers to 33-16 on the season, and 13-11 in conference play.

Stanford's strength is it's defense, which ranks atop the Pac-10. Stanford has committed 44 errors on the season, compared to the 66 of their opponents. The Beavers are right behind the Cardinal, however, as the Beavers are fielding at a .976 clip, compared to the .978 percentage of Stanford.

The Cardinal are led offensively by Brent Milleville, who is hitting .324 on the year with a team-high 14 home runs. Second baseman Colin Walsh is clipping right along at .322 out of the two-hole, and Kelle Kiilsgaard and Joey August round out the Cardinal hitting over .300 at .316 and .311, respectively. The only one of Stanford's 1-5 hitters who isn't hitting above .300 is Toby Gerhart, the football and baseball star who ran for 146 yards on 19 carries against the Beavers while donning his football jersey last fall. His football endeavors kept him from playing fall-ball, which prevented him from getting a lot of at-bats and therefore got him off to a slow start when baseball practice officially started on February 1. However, Gerhart is hitting .330 since March 25, and has really become a threat in the middle of Stanford's lineup.

The Cardinal boast a young pitching staff that ranks in the middle of the Pac-10 in most statistics. A big reason the Cardinal have been playing their best baseball as of last has been due to the emergence of freshman starters Jordan Pries and Brett Mooneyham, who are 4-3 and 6-2 on the season, respectively. The Beavers will likely see Pries on Friday and Mooneyham on Saturday, with either Jeffrey Inman, if he's healthy, or senior Max Fearnow on Sunday. Sophomore Michael Marshall is a viable option out of the bullpen, and also has the potential to start on Sunday, like he did last week against USC.

The past week of Oregon State baseball saw Joey Wong not start in a game for the first time of the season, but his 4-for-5 performance against Oregon all but ensures that he'll be one of Coach Casey's starters on Friday. Whether he plays at shortstop or second base is the unknown at this point, as the Beaver coaches have been experimenting with Carter Bell at short and Wong at second, perhaps due to the absence of hitting from usual second baseman John Tommasini.

Rob Folsom and Michael Miller will likely remain in the starting lineup as corner outfielders, due to their hot hitting and good defense as of late. Miller, the normal right fielder, is riding a four game hitting streak after going 2-for-5 against the Ducks on Wednesday. Folsom is hitting .302 in Pac-10 play, making 9 starts so far in conference.

All three of the Beavers' starting pitchers are up in the air from our vantage point, at least. I'm sure the coaches have a plan, but with Peavey and Waldron throwing in the midweek games, that leaves Reyes and Gaviglio as the two probables, with a guy like Ryan Gorton potentially earning a start, or Tanner Robles.

This seems like the point in the post to drop my motivational pre-series pep talk, but I wouldn't want to undermine Coach Casey's message to the team before this huge series. What we know for certain is that the Beavers need to win at least two games in Palo Alto to make a bid seem justified. The Beavers could slip into the field of 64 with one win over the weekend, but that's definitely not the route these guys want to go, after having to sit through last year's Selection Monday show on ESPN without receiving an invitation.

Games 1 and 2 of the series are schedule to start at 6:00 p.m., with Sunday's regular season finale for both team starting at 12:00.

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