There comes a time when every great player, great coach, great team starts to regress. There is also a breaking point where the great ones must choose to keep doing what they love but at an average pace or finally throw in the towel and be remembered for what they did while they were on top. Right now, Stanford baseball is living on that breaking point for numerous reasons.
Stanford baseball has been a national power for over 30 years but hasn't won a national title since 1988. Head coach Mark Marquess, who I could rattle on for days about his personal accolades and what he has done for Stanford, is coaching his 39th year at Stanford and he isn't getting any younger although he is still recruiting at a high level. The rest of the conference has caught up with Stanford on a national stage and while Stanford has had 1 conference finish above 4th place in the last 10 years, 5 different teams have won the conference title and both Washington schools have had a 2nd place finish. In those 10 years, Stanford has made 1 College World Series appearance while 3 conference teams won 4 National Titles (UCLA 2013, Arizona 2012, and Oregon State 2006/2007).
Now we look at the season at hand. Stanford is currently on the breaking point of a having its worst season in the Marquess era. In 2008, Stanford finished 28-28 with a 9-15 conference record. With 22 games remaining, Stanford is 14-20 with a 2-10 conference record which is dead last. Yes, Stanford could use all of the excuses in the world. Stanford has had injuries that have crushed them. Ace pitcher Cal Quantrill is going through what seems to be the norm for pitchers nowadays with Tommy John surgery. Dual-sport athlete Zach Hoffpauir was injured for half the season. The youth of the team mixed in with the lack of depth is tough to compete in the best conference in college baseball. Of the 20 losses, 6 have been by only 1 run and 5 have been 2-run losses. A hit here and there and Stanford could possibly be 20-14 instead of 14-20.
While this season has been the worst in a long time for Stanford, that doesn't mean that it's over. Over the next 22 games, Stanford has 3 nonconference home games, 4 if you count Cal, that are all winnable games. Stanford has a 3 game set at home versus Utah this weekend and a 3 game set with Oregon on the road in a few weeks. Utah and Oregon are tied for 10th in the conference and combined, only have 6 more wins than Stanford. You throw in the final series of the year against .500 Washington State and you are looking at 10 or more potential victories. This weekend is the most important series of the year and a sweep isn't mandatory but if Stanford can win the series, it makes the following weekend very exciting on the farm. 2nd/3rd ranked and 1st in conference UCLA Bruins will come to Palo Alto looking to continue their tear through the baseball regular season.
If the season is on the line and the players are ready to go out in a blaze of glory, Coach Marquess and company will join the party. If Stanford can steal a series from the best team out west, that adrenaline rush could have Stanford making a late season push for regionals. With a healthy and on-fire Hoffpauir leading the way, this Stanford team isn't done just yet. I'm projecting a 17-5 run to end the season to put Stanford at 31-25 and 16-14 in conference play. The sweep to end the season is just enough to put Stanford in the regionals..... OR Stanford wins 7 games the rest of the year and football season can't come soon enough.