It was only a month ago that Stanford baseball was having a down year but with a 22 games left, anything was possible. As I look back on my exact words from my original post, I cringe at my positivity.
"While this season has been the worst in a long time for Stanford, that doesn't mean that it's over... 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."
How was I supposed to project that an under .500 Santa Clara squad would win both meetings in 1-run extra-inning heartbreakers. I mean, it doesn't help if you CAN"T SCORE A RUN! The good news was that we beat Cal, which is never a bad thing. The best team in the country (sorry east coast, it's UCLA), plays in our conference and hasn't lost a weekend series all year. I can live with losing that series. And yes, Stanford won 2 of 3 from Utah but a sweep was very much needed to keep the momentum going. However, it hasn't helped that since April 25th, Stanford has gone 4-10 including 6 of those losses on the farm. I can't even pick which series wanted me to take my eyeballs out more. Stanford scored 3 runs in 27 innings against USC and just got swept by Oregon State on the last home series of the year giving up 24 runs.
The easy excuses are apparent: injuries hurt, the Pac-12 is the best conference in college baseball, or that Mark Marquess is getting too old to change things. I'm going to switch it up and actually stay positive on this one. Stanford had one of the best pitchers in baseball go down early in the year and instead of showing off his talents for MLB scouts, he was having to go through surgeries and rehab. Stanford's next great dual-sport athlete also went down with an injury that forced him to miss quality time and use games as time to get adjusted again.
Stanford not only plays a great although tough conference schedule, they design one of the toughest non-conference schedules of any team in America. Going into the last week of the season, Stanford played 9 teams currently in the top-50 RPI. The Pac-12 standings show UCLA on top, followed by Oregon State and Arizona State. Those teams have 108 victories and Stanford was unlucky to play 2 of those 3 series on the road. 2015 has been a cruel year for the program and nobody deserves this LESS than Coach Marquess. Marquess would need his team to sweep this weekend just to tie his worst conference record on the farm (1993, 10-20) and has already sealed his worst overall record as this will be only his 2nd season with an under .500 record. Age and retirement talk may factor in, but Coach Marquess has done great work under adversity before. Marquess has finished under .500 only once and had a .500 record only one time as well. The seasons that followed came with a conference title and a World Series berth.
So as I look back on the 2015 Stanford baseball year and think how this weekend really doesn't matter, it does. This team has the youth to succeed and the upperclassmen to give direction to the incoming freshman. Star pitcher Cal Quantrill might turn down the MLB like former fellow Stanford ace pitcher Mark Appel to hone his skills, especially after Tommy John surgery. Mark Marquess will enter his 40th season in what could be his final year. The only other place he would want to end his career other than Stanford would be getting carried off in Omaha. It might be getting close to football season but 2016 could have a bright future on the diamond.