Stanford Slugs Its Way To Omaha
Hitting Records Fall as '97 Cardinal Capitalizes on Hearty Offensive Output
Nineteen ninety-seven was the year of the offense for the Stanford Cardinal.
Cardinal hitters rewrote Stanford's single season record book en route to the school's 10th College World Series appearance and seventh Pacific-10 Conference Southern Division title. Mark Marquess's squad set new Stanford marks in hits (802), runs (582) and homers (102), while also posting the second highest batting average (.334) in Cardinal history to record its best national finish since 1988.
"It was a great achievement for last year's team to win the Southern Division, considering the strength of UCLA," Marquess, the 1997 Six-Pac Coach of the Year, said. "We also continued to play well through the regional and the World Series."
Ironically, Stanford brought a young starting lineup and experienced pitching staff into the 1997 campaign along with a No. 1 preseason ranking by Baseball America. The pitching staff, led by All-American Kyle Peterson, performed as expected in holding opposing hitters to just a .257 batting average. The consistency of the veteran pitching staff and the development of a group of young sluggers enabled a new Cardinal hero to emerge every time out.
In all, eight different Stanford regulars finished the season above the .300 mark. Freshman Edmund Muth didn't break into the starting lineup until mid-February, but responded by picking up All-Six-Pac honors after hitting a team-high .388. Junior Jon Schaeffer (team-high 20 home runs) and sophomore center fielder and defensive standout Jody Gerut (.305, 63 RBI) joined Muth on the all-conference squad. Seniors Luke Quaccia (.320, 9 HR) and Chris Clark (.311, 9 HR), junior Jay Pecci (.320), sophomore Josh Hochgesang (.365, 17 HR) and freshman John Gall (.376, 59 RBI) also gave opposing pitchers trouble.
The pitching staff consistently turned to an old reliable in Peterson. The right-hander went 11-3 in 1997 to up his career mark to 35-9 and tie for second on the all-time school win list with Jack McDowell. He also set Stanford's career (363) and single season strikeout marks (156), while also tying for the top spot on the Pac-10 career strikeout list with USC's Brent Strom (1968-70). Sophomores Brent Hoard and Chad Hutchinson went 9-4 and 8-4, respectively, to round out the rotation while sophomore relievers Jeff Austin and Tony Cogan combined for 12 wins and eight saves. Cardinal hurlers also struck out a school-record 549 batters in 1997.
The fielding wasn't too bad either. Stanford committed just 83 errors in 65 games for a .967 fielding percentage, which ranks third in school history.
Stanford scored five or more runs in 27 of its first 30 contests to jump out to a 22-8 record, including a 9-2 mark in the Six-Pac. In the first half of the season, Stanford swept defending Six-Pac champion USC at Sunken Diamond and also won two of three from eventual NCAA Tournament participants Arizona State, Fresno State and Santa Clara.
The offensive firepower was put on display in a March 2nd tilt with USC at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal scored nine times in its first at-bat, and later erased a 10-9 deficit with 13 runs against five Trojan relievers in a 22-13 victory. Stanford finished the afternoon with 22 hits, including eight doubles and three homers.
The second half was no different as the Cardinal reeled off eight straight wins from April 22-May 4, including three-game sweeps over California and Arizona. The Cardinal then went to Los Angeles to tangle with UCLA for the Six-Pac title. Stanford needed one win in the three-game set to clinch the title, and got just that when junior Joe Kilburg went 5-for-5 on Sunday, May 11 in the title-clinching 9-6 win that gave Stanford a 21-9 conference mark.
Stanford dropped the Pac-10 Championship Series to Washington 2-games-to-1, but bounced right back in the West Regional at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal beat Northeastern 12-3 in the opener, and followed that up with a complete game four-hitter by Hutchinson in a 3-1 win over Texas A&M. Stanford then advanced to the final thanks to a Gall grand slam in a 9-2 win over neighborhood rival Santa Clara. Peterson, who had worked 6.0 innings in the win over Northeastern, came back to throw a complete game seven-hitter just two days later in a 5-2 win over Fresno State that sent Stanford to Omaha. Hochgesang went 8-for-16 with seven RBI to earn Regional MVP honors, and was joined by Kilburg, Pecci, Peterson and Schaeffer on the all-tourney team.
Yet another hero emerged in Omaha. Austin, who moved to the bullpen in mid-season, threw 4.0 innings of scoreless relief to lift the Cardinal to an 8-3 win over Auburn in the opening round of the CWS. After a 10-5 loss to LSU, Austin responded with 6.1 more scoreless innings in an 11-4 win that bounced Auburn from the tournament and earned him All-College World Series honors. Stanford then fell to eventual champ LSU 13-9 with the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth to end its season at 45-20. Also in the season finale, Pecci went 4-for-5 to finish the CWS 10-for-17 (.588), and record the third-highest average in tournament history.
1997 Quick Review
Overall Record 45-20
Pac-10 Record 21-9 (.700) - 1st place, Southern Division
Post-Season 4-0, NCAA West Regional at Stanford (1st); 2-2, College World Series at Omaha, Nebraska (T-3rd)
All-America Honors RHP Kyle Peterson, C Jon Schaeffer
All-Six-Pac Honors CF Jody Gerut, Mark Marquess (Coach of the Year), RF Edmund Muth, RHP Kyle Peterson (Pitcher of the Year), C Jon Schaeffer