Stanford players say experience should make them stronger in baseball regional

For the third straight season, the Stanford baseball team won at least 40 games. The problem is, the Cardinal couldn’t get out of their own NCAA regional the last two years.

This year’s team is banking that it won’t happen again. Plus, the players have an axe to grind: They were seeded only 11th nationally after being ranked in the top five almost all season and third in the final week of the regular season.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, honestly,” pitcher-designated hitter Will Matthiessen said. “But the way we look at it is we have to beat everyone to get to where we want to go (the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.). We’re trying to look past it and control what we can control.”

“I wouldn’t say I was shocked,” first baseman Andrew Daschbach said. “The team knows how highly (the selection committee members) value RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, in which Stanford was just 10th nationally). But it’s definitely disappointing.”

Stanford (41-11) and Sacramento State (39-23) open the regional Friday at 1 p.m. at Sunken Diamond. Fresno State (38-14-1) plays UC Santa Barbara (45-9) at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Friday’s losing teams play at 1 p.m. and the winners at 7. The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday, with a Monday game if necessary.

Matthiessen and Daschbach, both juniors, think experience is the biggest difference between this year’s team and the previous two Stanford clubs. Both teams were eliminated by Cal State Fullerton, which didn’t make the field this season.

“Most of our guys have played in the regional twice,” Matthiessen said. “They’ve been in big spots the last two years. We’ve been there before, and we know what it takes to win. We’ve got a bunch of older, veteran guys. That can really carry us.”

“A lot of guys are used to playing on a stage that big,” Daschbach said. “It can be nerve-racking playing in front of a full crowd.” The previous regional experience “is going to help calm the nerves. Coach (David) Esquer says the team that plays as themselves will win.”

Both players contributed mightily in Stanford’s road to the postseason. As a pitcher, the 6-foot-7 Matthiessen posted a 6-2 record with a 3.91 ERA. He also hit .317, second on the team to Duke Kinamon’s .327.

Daschbach was third at .310 and clubbed 16 homers. Four of them came in one game, a 7-1 win over Cal Poly on May 14. The only other Pac-12 player who has hit four in one game was UCLA’s Bill Scott in 1999.

Daschbach said his father and a friend were able to chase down three of the home run balls for the trophy case. “My dad gave a kid $10 for the other one,” he said.

Cal plays at Arkansas: Cal (32-18) opens NCAA play in the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional on Friday against Texas Christian at 6 p.m. Host Arkansas plays Central Connecticut State in the other opener at 11 a.m.

TCU (32-26), considered a bubble team entering Selection Monday, features one of the country’s top starting pitchers in Nick Lodolo, a lefty ranked as the No. 8 overall draft prospect by Baseball America.

Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn, the consensus 2018 national player of the year, is listed No. 3 in the same rankings. He is hitting .387 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs, along with a .549 on-base percentage, third in the country.

Tom FitzGerald is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: tfitzgerald@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @tomgfitzgerald

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Stanford-players-say-experience-should-make-them-13907456.php.

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