3 reasons Stanford can win the 2023 Men's College World Series
Stanford baseball is back in Omaha for its third consecutive Men’s College World Series.
The battle-tested Cardinal have won five elimination games to this point. Top-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday (11 a.m. PT, ESPN) will be another test, but Stanford has the tools to not only topple the Demon Deacons but win the whole tournament.
Here are three reasons why the Cardinal can win its third Men’s College World Series.
1. Quinn Mathews
Stanford wouldn’t be in this position without Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Quinn Mathews. The lefty was big in the regional round but his complete-game effort and 16 strikeouts against Texas kept his team’s season alive in Super Regionals and allowed Stanford to use six different arms in the Game 3 clincher.
Mathews has been uber-consistent in multiple ways this season. In his 17 starts, Mathews has pitched at least six innings in 14 of them. Opposing teams have only scored more than three runs five times in his 18 outings. He has pushed himself in his senior year after being selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 19th round of the 2022 MLB Draft.
Why? He loves to wear Stanford across his chest.
“Like I tell anyone, I’d give back every dollar to have this year back with these guys, the opportunity that I’ve had to pitch on Friday nights, to pitch in a Stanford jersey again,” Mathews told D1Baseball earlier this season. “I think kind of an ego thing, to prove to some people why I think I’m worth what I’m worth, and whatever may come down the line, whether it’s an opportunity to play or not, we’ll see.”
Whether or not Mathews gets the ball against Wake Forest or in Stanford’s second game of the World Series, he’ll be ready as he’s been waiting for this opportunity to get back to Omaha.
2. The Cardinal crushes the ball
As we’ve seen throughout the regular season and postseason, Stanford's lineup can consistently put up crooked numbers. The Cardinal averages 8.5 runs per game, the 11th-best mark in the nation, and fourth among teams in Omaha. Stanford makes you earn each out up and down the lineup.
The Cardinal scored 20 runs in three games against Texas in Supers despite the Longhorns entering with the 10th-best ERA in the country.
It’s hard to single out a player to spotlight. Pac-12 Player of the Year Alberto Rios leads the team with 18 home runs. He is one of six players with at least 14 blasts this season. The others being Tommy Troy (17), Braden Montgomery (17), Carter Graham (15), Malcolm Moore (15) and Drew Bowser (14). Rios also has a team-high 23 doubles, while four other Cardinal hitters have at least 17 or more doubles as well.
Rios and Montgomery, who is seen as a top prospect for the 2024 MLB Draft, deserve a ton of attention but everyone contributes. Troy was nearly impossible to get out during the Stanford Regional, as he was named the MVP. Meanwhile, Moore and Bowser combined to drive in 11 of Stanford’s 20 runs in the series against Texas.
It feels like Graham, an All-American in previous seasons, has quietly flown under the radar with a .312 batting average, 20 doubles and a team-high 76 RBI. Even Saborn Campbell and Temo Becerra, who have been thrusted into the lineup this postseason, have produced for the Cardinal at the bottom of the order.
3. A wealth of World Series experience
The last two visits to Omaha are invaluable for Stanford. The biggest stage in college baseball can cause teams to make uncharacteristic errors. That shouldn’t be the case for these Cardinal.
Mathews and other key arms such as Drew Dowd, Brandt Pancer and Ryan Bruno all pitched at the Men's College World Series last season. Montgomery and Graham were starters as well last season, while Troy, Bowser and Eddie Park will be starting for the third straight season in Omaha.
How does the rest of the field compare? It’s not close when it comes to experience. For instance, Stanford’s first opponent, Wake Forest, is making its first trip to Omaha since 1955. The Cardinal is the lone team from last year’s Men’s College World Series to return this season, while Tennessee and Virginia are the only teams that joined Stanford at Charles Schwab Field back in 2021.