David Esquer knew he was taking over a talented Stanford ballclub when his alma mater hired him to succeed his mentor, Mark Marquess.
He certainly didn't envision wins in 17 of the first 19 games and a ranking as high as No. 2 in the major polls.
"Oh, man, it's been great to be back home, and yeah, the start has been more than I could expect," Esquer said Monday, the day after Stanford beat Southern California 18-0 to complete a three-game sweep in which it outscored the Trojans 34-2.
Stanford, as always, is anchored by strong pitching. The Cardinal's 2.06 ERA ranks first in the nation, and they're in the top 11 in the other major pitching statistics. Tristan Beck (3-0) and Kris Bubic (4-0) are returning weekend starters, freshman left-handed relievers Austin Weiermiller (4-1) and Jacob Palisch (2-0) have pleasantly surprised Esquer, and sophomore Jack Little has six saves since taking over as closer.
All-Pac-12 shortstop Nico Hoerner leads a lineup that had to be reconfigured right before first pitch of the opener when second baseman Duke Kinamon strained a muscle in warmups. Kinamon still hasn't played.
The Cardinal prepped for the Pac-12 with nonconference series against Cal State Fullerton, Rice, Michigan at home and a trip to Texas, where they won three of four.
"We learned a lot about ourselves and we won a lot of games, which you like to see," Esquer said. "We're ready for a lot of different styles of play. I don't think there is going to be arm strength we haven't seen already, or plus-breaking balls we haven't seen already. We're prepared for whatever is out there in college baseball."
Esquer played under Marquess on Stanford's 1987 national championship team and was his assistant from 1991-96. He spent 18 seasons as head coach at California, where he was 2011 national coach of the year for leading the Bears to the College World Series.
Esquer said he talks or sees Marquess at least once a week. The Cardinal played in an NCAA regional in the last of Marquess' 41 seasons on The Farm, and Esquer said his old coach left with everything in place for him to succeed.
"The most important thing he did was give me his blessing if it were me who would be so lucky to get the job," Esquer said. "When you have so much respect for somebody and what he's done for the baseball program, you want to see him have this program continue how he would like it, not go in another direction."
A look around the country:
IN THE POLLS
Oregon State (20-2) remains the consensus No. 1. The Beavers took two of three against Washington over the weekend, with an 8-4 loss Sunday ending their 15-game Pac-12 win streak. Florida (21-5) and Stanford (17-2) are Nos. 2 and 3 by D1Baseball.com and Baseball America. Collegiate Baseball newspaper has Stanford No. 2 and Florida No. 3.
TOUGH TO STRIKE OUT
Clayton Andrews of Long Beach State has struck out just once in 86 at-bats, which might surprise no one around the 49ers program. He struck out seven times in 351 at-bats the last two seasons at Cabrillo College. His only strikeout this year was March 10, when Texas A&M's Asa Lacy caught him looking on a 2-2 pitch.
LIPUT'S GALLANT RETURN
Deacon Liput has been a major factor for Florida in the 12 games since he returned from suspension, batting .313 and driving in 11 runs. He was 6 for 13 with a home run, five RBIs and four runs in the Gators' weekend series win over Arkansas.
Liput was an offensive catalyst during the Gators' run to the national championship last year. He returned for his junior season after the Dodgers drafted him in the 29th round. He began the season suspended for an incident in the fall.
LA VIDA LOCO FOR LOBO
New Mexico's Danny Collier hit for the cycle against Air Force on Saturday, topping off his big day with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning for a 12-11 win. The home run was his first of the season and fourth of his career.
Maine junior right-hander Chris Murphy has hit a nation-high 12 batters in 16 innings. It's not out of character for him. In 73 1/3 career innings, he's plunked 32.