What to know about Stanford, Arkansas' first opponent at the College World Series

What to know about Stanford, Arkansas’ first opponent at the College World Series

One of Arkansas’ first opponents of the 2022 season will also be one of its last.

The Razorbacks will open play at the College World Series with a non-elimination game against Stanford on Saturday at Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb. The game will begin at 1 pm Central and will be televised by ESPN.

Arkansas lost 5-0 to the Cardinal on Feb. 27 in Round Rock, Texas, during the Round Rock Classic. Three Stanford pitchers, left hander Quinn Mathews and right handers Tommy O’Rourke and Braden Montgomery, held the Razorbacks to two hits on a blustery day when the wind was tasting in at Dell Diamond.

Stanford (47-16) was the regular-season and tournament champion in the Pac-12. The Cardinal entered the NCAA Tournament with 16 consecutive victories against mostly conference competition.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee gave Stanford the No. 2 overall seed in this year’s tournament, but the Cardinal had to win five elimination games to advance to the College World Series, the final of which was a 10-4 victory over Connecticut in Game 3 of the Stanford Super Regional on Monday.

Stanford is the highest-seeded team remaining in the tournament. Top-seeded Tennessee was eliminated Sunday with a loss to Notre Dame in the super regionals. The Cardinal have played eight games in the NCAA postseason.

Common opponents for Stanford and Arkansas include Louisiana-Lafayette and Indiana from the Round Rock Classic, and Grand Canyon, which split a pair of games with the Cardinal during the regular season.

In games against common opponents, Arkansas is 3-0 and Stanford is 3-1. The Razorbacks defeated Grand Canyon in their first NCAA Tournament game in Stillwater, Okla.

Here is more to know about the Cardinal:

Close calls

One week before Tennessee was bounced, Stanford nearly became the highest-seeded team eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinal scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally for a 4-3 victory over Texas State in the decisive game of the Stanford Regional. Drew Bowser and Tommy Troy hit solo home runs in the ninth inning to tie the game, and Stanford won when Trevor Haskins singled on a 3-2 pitch to score Eddie Park.

Texas State won 5-2 in the first meeting between the teams to snap the Cardinal’s 17-game win streak. That sent Stanford to the losers bracket, where it battled back by winning three games in two days.

The Cardinal defeated UC-Santa Barbara and Texas State by matching scores of 8-4 before the comeback against Texas State in the regional championship.

Stanford also fell behind in its super regional against UConn with a 13-12 loss in Game 1. The Cardinal won 8-2 on Sunday before Monday’s 10-5 victory.

Omaha-experience

Several Stanford players played in last year’s College World Series and came close to playing for a national championship.

The Cardinal lost 10-4 to North Carolina State and defeated Arizona 14-5 in an elimination game to set up another elimination game against Vanderbilt.

Stanford led the Commodores 5-4 with two outs and no base runners before a ninth-inning meltdown that included a walk, a throwing error and two wild pitches during the same at-bat that allowed Vanderbilt to score the tying and winning runs. The Commodores won 6-5.

Vanderbilt advanced to the College World Series championship round later in the week when North Carolina State was forced to forfeit its remaining games due to covid-19 protocols.

This is the first time Stanford has been to the College World Series in consecutive years since the Cardinal went five consecutive seasons between 1999-2003. The program is in its 18th College World Series.

David Esquer, the fifth-year Stanford coach, will lead his third team to Omaha. He was the California coach for the Golden Bears’ trip in 2011.

Powerful

Stanford is one of the nation’s top home-run-hitting teams with 117 to rank ninth nationally.

The Cardinal were especially dynamic with the long ball during the regional and super regional games at their home ballpark, Sunken Diamond. In eight postseason games, Stanford has hit 21 home runs.

Trailing 13-6, the Cardinal hit four home runs during a six-run ninth before falling short in a 13-12 loss to UConn in Game 1 of the super regional. Stanford hit eight home runs in the first game against the Huskies, the program’s most in a game in 18 years.

As a team, the Cardinal have an eye-popping .540 slugging percentage with 131 doubles and 18 triples. They don’t sacrifice contact for power and have a batting average of .310, which ranks 11th nationally.

Brock Jones is arguably Stanford’s best all-around offensive threat. His .329 batting average ranks fourth on the team, but he has an OPS of 1.134 with 20 home runs, 13 doubles, 5 triples, 56 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Jones also ranks 12th nationally with 54 walks.

Jones hit three home runs during the first game against UConn, marking the second time he has hit three homers in a super regional game.

Jones is also a great defender in center field. Baseball America ranks him the No. 29 prospect for this year’s MLB Draft.

Carter Graham is a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper with 22 home runs and 77 RBI. His .335 batting average is second on the team, as is his 1.070 OPS.

Braden Montgomery is also a power threat with 18 home runs. He was named to the Freshman All-America second team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday.

Brett Barrera leads the team with a .352 batting average. Tommy Troy beats .333.

top pitcher

Arkansas is likely to face Pac-12 pitcher of the year Alex Williams on Saturday.

Williams (6-3, 220 pounds) is a senior right hander who is 8-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 97 innings. He has 90 strikeouts and 23 walks, and his WHIP of 1.05 ranks 31st nationally.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Williams first-team All-America.

Williams throws a low-90s fastball that will hit 94 mph, according to D1Baseball.

Stanford was 11-4 during games Williams pitched during the regular season and Pac-12 Tournament, including 8-1 beginning March 25.

But the Cardinal have lost both of Williams’ postseason starts — and he has been the pitcher of record — in games against Texas State and UConn.

He pitched 4 2/3 innings against Texas State and allowed 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. He was ineffective in a 1 1/3-inning start against UConn when he allowed 6 runs on 7 hits, including 4 doubles and 1 home run.

Williams threw only 44 pitches against UConn, which means he should be rested for his first outing in Omaha.

More pitching

As the Razorbacks saw firsthand in Round Rock, Stanford has one of the nation’s best pitching staffs.

The Cardinal rank in the top 20 nationally in ERA (4.01), WHIP (1.34), fewest hits per game (8.14) and shutouts (9).

Junior left hander Quinn Mathews, who shut down Arkansas in a six-inning start in February, has transitioned into a closer role. He allows 6.68 hits per nine innings, which is one of the top clips in college baseball. He leads the team with 9 wins and 9 saves, and is second with 96 1/3 innings pitched.

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