A week and a half ago, with the home opener looming and a set of top teams ready to face the Cardinal at Sunken Diamond, Stanford baseball head coach Mark Marquess had a pretty clear mantra when it came to his team’s tough schedule.
“I’d love to be wrong, but we’re not going to be undefeated after four weeks with the teams that we’re playing,” he said.
With the harder half of the Cardinal’s 15-game nonconference stretch in the books, a weekend sweep of No. 7 Texas has made it seem like No. 2 Stanford (7-0) could very well enter the Pac-12 season with an unblemished record.
All-around dominance was again the theme for the Cardinal as it hosted another top-10 squad on the Farm this weekend, as Stanford blew out the Longhorns (2-5) by a combined score of 28-5 over the three-game set. Junior starters Mark Appel and Brett Mooneyham maintained their usual dominance, and freshman lefthander John Hochstatter earned the win in his first career start on Sunday thanks to a 13-run fourth inning from the Cardinal offense. All three pitchers moved to 2-0 on the season.
The Cardinal’s 3-4-5 hitters were predictably excellent run-producers, with sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira posting three RBI on Friday, junior second baseman Kenny Diekroeger driving in a pair on Saturday and junior third baseman Stephen Piscotty bringing home four on Sunday.
Appel stole the show in the series opener, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the second straight start. The projected number one MLB Draft pick struck out a career-high 10 batters in his seven-plus innings of work, eventually yielding to sophomore A.J. Vanegas and freshman David Schmidt, who earned his first career save to cap a strong week to open his Cardinal career.
Junior centerfielder Jake Stewart hit his first home run of the season to lead off the bottom of the first, making him the fourth Stanford slugger with a long ball through five games. Junior leftfielder Tyler Gaffney followed with a double, and Ragira brought him home with the first of two RBI doubles for the reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Stewart sparked a two-out, second-inning rally with a double down the left-field line before a Piscotty single and a Ragira double made it 5-0 in Stanford’s favor.
Junior catcher Eric Smith tacked on another run with a fifth-inning sac fly, and a Gaffney RBI single in the bottom of the eighth capped the scoring at 7-2 after Texas got two runs off sophomore reliever A.J. Vanegas.
Stanford started a bit more slowly on Saturday, jumping out to a modest 2-0 lead in the second inning behind doubles from Diekroeger and sophomore shortstop Lonnie Kauppila. But Mooneyham was unflappable on the mound, striking out seven batters to keep pace with Appel for the team lead in punch-outs with 15. Saturday was one of the best outings of Mooneyham’s career, besides a somewhat sloppy sixth inning in which the lefthander hit third baseman Erich Weiss — who became the Longhorns’ first and only run off the Cardinal starter on a single later in the inning. But Stanford had already added three runs to its lead by that point, as sophomore power-hitter Austin Wilson got his first homer of the year, and Stewart followed with his third double of the weekend to fuel the Cardinal’s biggest inning of the afternoon.
Stewart and Diekroeger each finished with three hits on Saturday, and both squads tacked on a late run to make the final score 6-2.
The Sunday matchup had none of the signs of a pitcher’s duel, with a pair of freshman hurlers on the mound in Hochstatter and Longhorn righthander John Curtiss. But that’s how things were looking through three and a half innings, with the score knotted at one apiece.
Then the floodgates truly opened for the Cardinal, in what would turn into the squad’s highest-scoring inning since May 2007. Diekroeger and redshirt junior designated hitter Christian Griffiths led off with a pair of singles, Kauppila walked, Smith was hit by a pitch, Wilson doubled, Stewart singled, Gaffney walked and Piscotty doubled — all before Texas got its first out of the inning off Ragira, with the score now 7-1. Stanford batted around a second time, adding seven more runs behind a two-out Griffiths double and a Kauppila triple. When the dust settled and Ragira struck out to end the inning, Stanford’s 18 batters had faced four Longhorn pitchers, drawn three walks, been hit three times and recorded nine base hits.
Seventh-inning doubles by Diekroeger and Smith made it 15-1, and relievers Sahil Bloom and Trevor Linney got the last eight outs while allowing only one baserunner.
Overshadowed by the offensive explosion was Hochstatter, who was solid in 6.1 innings of work and allowed only the one run. The freshman now has a highly impressive 0.71 ERA through 12.2 innings and looks set to become part of a starting rotation that — between Appel, Mooneyham and Hochstatter — has allowed an opponents’ batting average of just .129.
Stanford will host UC-Davis on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. before traveling for its first road series of the season at Fresno State next weekend.