Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oregon State Beavers 1 at Stanford Cardinal 0 (NCAA Baseball) - April 15, 2011


After a wonderful 2 days in Sactown, I headed back to the Bay Area for a weekend of baseball. I had planned to see the second round of the Nationwide Tour tournament in Hayward, but realized that the unusual start time of the Stanford baseball game (5:30) would force me to leave the golf rather early, so I decided to skip it. After a brief stop at my hotel in Oakland, I got right back on the 880 south, heading for Palo Alto and the Stanford campus, where the Cardinal baseball team was hosting Oregon State in the first of a 3-game weekend set.

Sunken Diamond


The Cardinal play at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, located on the east side of campus next to the football stadium. When the football stadium was built back in 1921, they excavated dirt from the area which created a sunken field on which the diamond was built in 1931. Hence, the name Sunken Diamond. In 2008, it was renamed Klein Field at Sunken Diamond in honour of Bud D. Klein, a former Stanford baseball player who succeeded in business and helped the program by supporting many initiatives.

There is plenty of free parking at the Varsity Lot right next to the ballpark. Drive in along Nelson Avenue off Galvez to access it.


Although the facility is 80 years old, it has been renovated several times. The most obvious addition is the Kelly green seats, which are much wider than your typical stadium seating and make the stadium more comfortable than that to which I am accustomed.

There are three pricing levels for walk-up patrons: The first three rows are $20, the rest of the reserved seats go for $11, and lawn seating just past the bases is $7. There is also an unreserved section of seats above third base (section 11). There are ushers around and they seem to let you sit anywhere as long as it is not in the first three rows. Note that the seats themselves have no numbers on them - Stanford is known for having intelligent students and alumni, so I guess they can all count up to 12 (the number of seats in a typical row). Note that home fans generally sit on the first base side, while visiting fans take the third base sections, much like Japan.

Since NCAA baseball is not a business, it doesn't need to attract fans with bells and whistles as they do in the minor leagues. There is nothing but the field and a few concessions; the lack of advertising on the fences is refreshing. Do buy a $1 program as they have some game notes as well as a lucky number which is used for drawings throughout the game. I didn't try any of the food, but it looked quite tasty.


The ballpark is surrounded by beautiful trees, which in addition to providing a scenic background also stop plenty of foul balls from bouncing away. Smart kids stand under these trees, which slow down foul balls and make them easy to retrieve.


The field itself is symmetric at 335 down the lines and 400 to center. The foul area is quite large which is helpful when you are sitting close and the balls are pinging off those metal bats. Above the right field fence is the digital colour scoreboard which is quite impressive for college ball.

Overall, Sunken Diamond is a perfect place to see a ball game. I haven't seen many NCAA baseball battles, but I wonder if I will encounter a nicer park than here. If you are in the Bay Area and looking for something different to fill your sports calendar, consider a game here.


The Game

Oregon State came in to the game ranked 9th with a 24-7 record while Stanford was 17th at 15-9. (College baseball has at least 4 ranking systems, I use Baseball America's.)


Mark Appel (above) started for Stanford against Sam Gaviglio for Oregon State. The Beavers scored early when Michael Miller singled to lead off the game, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a single by Kavin Keyes. After that, the pitchers and umpires took over. Gaviglio (below) is a junior who seems rather unassuming, but is actually a crafty righthander who kept Stanford's hitters guessing all night. He pitched 8 scoreless innings with 8 Ks, giving up only 4 hits and finishing with 119 pitches, topping out at 87 mph. One Stanford fan said that "we will be lighting this guy up soon" in the 3rd inning. Um, no you won't.


On the other hand, Appel is a lanky righty with a power fastball that hit 95 on the gun as well as good breaking stuff. He went 6.2 frames, yielding only the single run on 117 pitches. Both teams just used one reliever, with the Beavers Tony Bryant striking out the side in the 9th for the save as Oregon State held on to win 1-0. With the victory Gaviglio moved to 7-1 on the year, no small feat in the powerful Pac-10, so he may be someone to watch in the 2012 draft.


With no offense to speak of, all I have is photos of batters getting out.

Brian Ragira strikes out here

Zach Jones grounds out

I mentioned the umpires - they were not very good. In particular, the home plate arbiter was inconsistent and left many batters bemused or fuming. The base umps missed a couple of calls too. From what I could see, the umpires are older and not working their way up as they are in the minors. So I guess sometimes you get games like this. Which didn't bother me, I think pitchers need all the advantages they can get.

Notes

College ball uses metal bats but this season, they have undergone a significant change in their composition which makes them just slightly more lively than wood bats. Offense is down across the board, with homers reduced by 45% this season. I don't enjoy slugfests, and college ball used to have far too many 14-9 games. Now hitters have to actually hit the ball to succeed, so good pitching will be rewarded, as happened tonight.

During the game they announced that the Stanford men's gymnastics team had won the national championship - the 100th national championship in school history.

The players stand outside the dugout to cheer on their team. I am not sure this is the safest way to watch the game, even with the reduced power in the bats.


After the game, the players have to clean the field:


If you support Oregon State, I strongly suggest that you don't announce your loyalty by loudly stating "I'm a huge Beaver fan!".

Next Up

I'm in Oakland and planning to attend another NCAA game this afternoon at St. Mary's and then the Tigers and Athletics tonight and tomorrow. Check back for updates tomorrow.

Best,

Sean

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