Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 3, 2013

Stanford teams continue preparations for championships

Milestones ahead for softball, baseball takes on ASU, track teams head to Pac-12 Championships while women's water polo and tennis teams prep for NCAAs

by Rick Eymer

Call it the athletic dead week. The Stanford baseball and softball teams are in Pac-12 Conference action on the road this weekend, the women's lacrosse team is at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and the Cardinal hosts the Big Row this weekend, though not on campus.

Several teams are still in action, most notably the two-time defending national champion women's water polo team, the women's tennis and men's tennis teams, both the men's and women's golf teams and both the men's and women's track and field team, all entering the championship part of their seasons.

Water polo, tennis and golf will open NCAA competition next weekend. The women's lacrosse team hopes to join them and track and field will be involved in the Pac-12 Championships in Los Angeles.

It may be quiet around campus athletically, though there are still a number of interesting things to follow. Senior right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, just named to the midseason Golden Spikes Award list, will take the ball for a starting assignment Friday night against Arizona State in Tempe.

Senior shortstop Jenna Rich needs two RBI to become Stanford's all-time leader in that category, a milestone that could occur as soon as Friday when the Cardinal opens a three-game series at California.

Rich already has an even 200 RBI for her career. Sarah Beeson drove in 201 during her All-American career at Stanford.

Senior softball pitcher Teagan Gerhart also has a chance to join the 100-victory plateau. She needs two more victories to become the third Cardinal to achieve the lofty number, joining Missy Penna and Dana Sorensen. Gerhart is already No. 3 on the all-time win list with 98.

Whether on land or in the water, there is always the added rivalry component when Stanford and California meet in any type of competition, and it will be no different when the schools take to the waters of Redwood Shores for The Big Row on Saturday morning.

Cardinal baseball is far from being a lock to qualify for an NCAA Regional berth. Stanford (9-9 in the Pac-12, 24-15 overall) ranks 97th on the NCAA RPI list. A little hard to believe considering Stanford's strength of schedule just in conference play. There are 36 teams ranked ahead of the Cardinal with more overall losses.

Stanford is in a fifth-place tie with Arizona, which the Cardinal beat two of three in a home series. The Wildcats, though, are 45th in the RPI rankings.

Arizona State (14th RPI) sits in a third-place tie, with UCLA, two games ahead of Stanford and three games back of Pac-12 leader Oregon State.

The Cardinal has four conference series remaining. Following its trip to Sun Devil Stadium, Stanford returns home to host current conference leader Oregon State and also will play UCLA and California.

The Stanford softball team is in much better shape with the NCAA RPI rankings, sitting at No. 20 entering its series with the Bears, who are 14th.

The Cardinal (9-9, 32-17) and California are tied for fourth in the Pac-12 standings, three games behind Washington, with six conference contests remaining.

Stanford completes its regular season with four home games next week, a nonconference tilt with Santa Clara on Tuesday and three games against Arizona.

Men's golf

Cameron Wilson played the best overall tournament for Stanford, finishing ninth at the Pac-12 Championships completed Wednesday at the Los Angeles Country Club.

Steven Kearney shot a 2-under 68 in the final round as the Cardinal finished fourth as a team.

Stanford jumped ahead of Arizona State in the final round and will await Monday's news on where it plays next. NCAA regional play is scheduled to begin May 16.

California won the conference title with a 6-over 1,406, while UCLA finished second with as 1,415 and Washington was third. The No. 8-ranked Cardinal shot a total of 1,454, with consistent rounds of 366-361-365-362.

"We were happy with today's round," Stanford coach Conrad Ray said. "We made a little comeback and secured fourth in the team competition. Obviously the Pac-12 is stacked in terms of talent and rankings, so considering where we started today fourth isn't all bad, but we wanted to win."

Wilson shot a final round of 3-over 73 and managed a 283, helped by solid efforts in the first three rounds.

"I was impressed with Cameron's play this week and finishing ninth overall on a very strong field," Ray said. "He played solid and was in control of his game. I think he would've felt that if a few more putts would have dropped he would have been right there in contention."

First-round co-leader Patrick Rodgers of Stanford (68-72-73-74) tied for 11th with 287. Through the front nine Wednesday, the sophomore was even after pairing a bogey on the fourth with a birdie on the sixth. But in the back nine Rodgers let four shots go.

Tennis

The No. 12 Stanford women's team (16-4) will be making its 32nd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance when first-round competition gets underway at campus sites next weekend. The Cardinal will host Miami of Ohio on May 10 and likely the Rice-Pepperdine winner the following day.

Stanford has been ranked just outside the top-10 since peaking at No. 5 during the season's opening week. Checking in at No. 12 in the latest edition of the national ITA rankings, the Cardinal was awarded the No. 12 overall seed in the postseason draw.

Stanford is coming off a 4-3 loss to California in its most recent matchup, snapping a string of eight consecutive wins over the Golden Bears.

Stanford owns a 123-16 record in the postseason since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1982. During that time, Stanford has won 16 NCAA team titles, most recently capturing the 2010 crown with a 4-3 victory over Florida in Athens, Ga.

The Stanford men (12-11) will makes their 35th NCAA tournament appearance next weekend. The Cardinal will meet No. 20 LSU in Malibu. This is the first time since 2008 that Stanford will open NCAA Tournament play on the road.

Stanford earned an at-large bid after navigating through a brutal schedule featuring eight opponents ranked among the top 20.

The Cardinal finished fourth in one of the nation's most difficult conferences, boasting top-five clubs in UCLA and USC.

Quality wins over opponents such as Texas Tech, BYU and Washington (twice) built a strong case for the postseason for Stanford, which won four of its final six matches overall. The Cardinal opened the year ranked No. 10, but has hovered around the No. 40 mark for the majority of the season.

Stanford's singles lineup, which features three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, has improved greatly from the start of the season. Three of the Cardinal's last four losses have resulted in competitive 4-3 nail-biters against No. 44 Oregon, No. 7 Pepperdine and No. 18 California.

Stanford owns a 103-18 record in the postseason since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1977, participating in all but four tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Stanford women will have five individuals at the NCAA singles and doubles tournament, which begins May 22 in Urbana, Ill.

Kristie Ahn, Nicole Gibbs and Krista Hardebeck will play singles, while Ahn and Gibbs will play doubles along with Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay.

John Morrissey was selected as an at-large pick for the men's singles tournament.

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