Feb. 11, 2006
by Kyle McRae
History has shown that to be able to win consistently in the Pac-10, a team needs to have that outstanding Friday night starter. This year, that may be the case more than ever with preseason All-Americans Dallas Buck (Oregon State), Ian Kennedy (USC) and Tim Lincecum (Washington) anchoring their respective pitching staffs.
On the other hand, Stanford will have to deal with the loss of not just its ace, but its top two starters (Jeff Gilmore, Mark Romanczuk) from a year ago.
But, the Cardinal may have found the solution on a wonderful Waco day last June.
Greg Reynolds had spent most of his first two collegiate seasons struggling to live up to the hype that followed him to Stanford as a highly touted freshman in the Fall of 2003, when he chose to come to The Farm rather than sign a professional baseball contact with the Philadelphia Phillies following an outstanding prep career at nearby Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.
He got a late start due to minor arm problems in his rookie collegiate campaign and ended up with just 11 appearances and without a start in the regular rotation. He did post a 4-1 record but struggled with a 6.00 ERA.
Reynolds recovered to pitch well in the Cape Cod Baseball League that summer, going 4-3 and more importantly boasting a 2.27 ERA as opponents hit just .187 against him.
With a solid summer behind him and a healthy arm, Reynolds expected a big sophomore season. He began the campaign as the team's No. 3 starter behind Romanczuk and Gilmore but rocky starts in his first two outings versus Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton knocked him out of the rotation quickly.
In fact, he never really got back in - until that day in Waco.
A loss in its first round NCAA Regional game to TCU immediately put the Cardinal on the brink of elimination. But, a doubleheader sweep of Texas-San Antonio and the same TCU team in a rematch the following day vaulted the Cardinal into the championship game against host Baylor.
The problem was that Stanford had already exhausted its regular starting rotation (Gilmore, Romanczuk and Matt Leva), as well as used four other relievers in the first three contests.
The heavy use of the staff left Reynolds as one of only two Stanford pitchers that had seen action during the regular season yet to throw in the Regional.
That's when the ace in the hole emerged.
Reynolds got the nod for the team's biggest game of the year and responded with an incredible performance, lasting an amazing 11.0 innings and striking out a career-high 10 batters before finally allowing a leadoff homer in the top of the 12th in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss.
"My confidence couldn't have been higher than after that Baylor game," noted Reynolds. "I proved to myself, my teammates and my coaches that I was up for that role. I wanted to be that pitcher that they could trust and give the ball to in those big games."
The Baylor performance did indeed turn heads, and when Gilmore and Romanczuk left for the professional ranks later that month, Reynolds stepped right into the void that was created at the top of the team's rotation.
He had another terrific summer in Cape Cod Baseball League, going 2-3 but with a 1.70 ERA and allowing just 36 hits in 53.0 innings to help lead the Bourne Braves to a second-place CCBL showing.
Reynolds came back to Stanford last fall as the team's projected ace and has never relinquished the role.
"Being the Friday starter on this staff is an honor," said Reynolds, who has posted a 2.13 ERA in his first two outings as the team's ace this season. "It means a lot to me that I'm going out there and leading this team on Friday to try to get that first win in a series. I like being that leader and now that I've earned this role, I'm going to fight my hardest not to let it go."
Stanford will definitely need him when the likes of Buck, Kennedy, Lincecum and others show up on the opposing mound.
"I've definitely got those dates on my calendar," said Reynolds about the matchups with the Pac-10's best. "I'll be up for the challenge. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Who better to beat than one of those guys."
If a Pac-10 title is in the cards, Stanford will need its ace to do just that.