The School: Leland Stanford Junior University, also known as “Stansbury.”
Location: Palo Alto, California. Technically the university is located in the Census designated place of Stanford, which basically just consists of the university campus, which is 8,180 acres of Why The Bay Area Has A Housing Crisis. The city of Palo Alto has regular-ass houses on the market for $3 million, which is totally normal and not something we should do anything about.
The Mascot: The Cardinal. Not the Cardinals, like the bird, but the Cardinal, as in the color. Any time your mascot is just a generic color, you can be almost positive that the previous mascot was something extremely problematic. In Stanford’s case, they had a Native American mascot, who the Stanford American Indian Organization said in 1970 made a “mockery of Indian religious practices” and got the mascot removed two years later.
And then Stanford found a worse mascot than that.
There are goofy mascots, there are unique mascots, and then there is whatever the hell this is. It’s allegedly a tree, but I think these trees have already been turned into logs for the Oregon State Beaver’s dam.
Record: 38-15, 17-10 in the Pac-12, and this somehow got them the #9 national seed.
How’d they get here? They won the Stanford Regional by blasting North Dakota State, followed by winning two of three against UC Irvine. They then ended the federal Witness Protection Program by going to Lubbock and winning two games against Texas Tech by a combined score of 24-3.
Best win: If we’re not counting that, it’s probably taking two of three from national seed Oregon in Eugene from May 21-23. (It’s also taking two of three from fellow CWS participant Arizona earlier in May, but the one loss was by the score of 20-2, so, no.)
Most embarrassing loss: Gave up 15 runs to Pacific, a team that would finish 17-34, in a loss on April 28. If we’re not counting midweek goofiness, though, the worst it gets is dropping 2 of 4 to Cal (which went 15-15 in the Pac-12 and missed the NCAA Tournament) from May 14-17. To be clear, if you got a national seed and make the CWS, you probably don’t have too many truly embarrassing losses on your resume.
Most terrifying batter: In terms of truly terrifying, there’s sophomore OF Brock Jones, he of the .302/.452/.620 slash line, 16 homers, and 54 RBI on the season, and also has 14 stolen bases for good measure.
The Cardinal also have a couple more literal final bosses in Nick Brueser (.309/.385/.558) and Drew Bowser (.290/.351/.478.) Parlagi will understand this reference.
Most terrifying pitcher: This is a tossup between Brendan Beck, who’s made 14 starts and has 128 strikeouts in 100.1 innings and posted a 2.96 ERA, and Alex Williams, with 10 starts and 50 strikeouts in 50 innings, to go along with a 3.06 ERA, and Williams also pitched a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts in the clincher against Texas Tech. That’s a pretty good one-two punch for the Cardinal, though one of these is almost certainly going to take the mound for Stanford in the CWS opener against NC State, meaning Vanderbilt would probably only see one of them (if that.) Opponents are batting under .200 against both of the Cardinal aces.
The good news is that once you get past those two, things tail off quickly for Stanford. In spite of Beck and Williams throwing nearly a third of the team’s innings, Stanford has a 4.57 ERA as a team. Third starter Quinn Matthews has a 6.15 ERA, and while the Cardinal have a couple of reliable relievers, there just aren’t that many guys they can count on to eat innings.
Best NCAA Tournament result: They won back-to-back College World Series championships in 1987 and 1988, with Hall of Famer Mike Mussina being a freshman on the latter team. Beyond that, this is their first CWS since 2008, but it’s their 17th overall appearance, with runner-up finishes in 2000, 2001, and 2003.
Should Vanderbilt be scared? Yeah. The Cardinal can hit, and not in that “dependent on home runs” sort of way that usually runs into problems in TD Ameritrade Park. And if Vanderbilt happens to run into Beck or Williams on the mound, this could turn into a truly terrifying experience; but even barring that, this isn’t an offense that I am completely confident that Vanderbilt can shut down.