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Baseball: San Jose State gets the best of the Card

After dropping two of three in last weekend’s series against No. 8 Oregon, the No. 14 Stanford baseball team lost again to San Jose State (18-14, 2-0 WAC) on Tuesday by a score of 3-2. The Cardinal (22-10, 5-7 Pac-12) has now lost three of its last four games and is struggling to score runs–in its last four contests, the Cardinal has crossed home plate just eight times.

The game started off well for the Card. Through the first three innings, freshman starter John Hochstatter gave up just one hit–a bloop single that went past the outstretched arms of junior shortstop Kenny Diekroeger and barely reached the outfield grass. But immediately after that hit, San Jose State’s Tyler Christian hit a grounder into a 5-4-3 double play.

The bottom of the third continued to go in the Cardinal’s favor. Sophomore second baseman Brett Michael Doran started the rally with a double off the left-field wall, and the next batter, freshman Alex Blandino, launched a home run into the trees over the left-field fence.

“I was just looking to react,” Blandino said. “I got a fastball up and in, turned on it and put good wood on it.”

Blandino, who has been playing extremely well of late, has seen his playing time increase in recent matchups.

“It’s been a lot of hard work…coming out and working every day,” Blandino said. “The goal of any player is to get in the lineup. It’s really about taking advantage of every opportunity you get.”

After the promising start, things went south for the Card. In the top of the fifth, Hochstatter allowed two hard hits that put San Jose State base runners on second and third with no outs. Junior Dean McArdle came in to relieve Hochstatter, and the first batter he faced hit a fly ball to deep right field. Sophomore rightfielder Austin Wilson recorded the out and sent a strong throw to home plate in an attempt to get the double play. But the runner was called safe on a questionable call by the home-plate umpire.

The next batter, Kyle Gallegos, was attempting to lay down a bunt but was instead hit by a pitch. With runners on first and third, the Spartans’ Tyler Christian hit a grounder through a gap into shallow left field, tying up the game. McArdle escaped the inning without giving up any more damage.

But in the top of the sixth, McArdle was hit with a hard line drive by San Jose State rightfielder Nick Schulz. McArdle grabbed his arm and immediately ran to the dugout. Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said that he did not know the severity of the injury but did state that he did not believe McArdle was hit on the elbow.

After pitching a spectacular one-two-three seventh inning, the Card’s redshirt sophomore reliever Garrett Hughes looked completely on his game, throwing a solid fastball and confusing batters with a nasty changeup. But in the eighth inning Hughes threw eight straight balls, putting two men on base with no outs. Later in the inning, Michael Gerlach drove in a run with an RBI single, putting San Jose State up 3-2.

In the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings, San Jose State pitcher Zack Jones was almost unhittable. He was throwing heat and his breaking balls were painting the corners.

The Cardinal offense managed just five hits against the Spartans, whose pitching was excellent Tuesday evening.

“All their guys did a good job tonight,” Marquess said. “They only gave up a couple of walks. Their batters came up with a couple of clutch hits.”

Stanford’s bats have been quiet for a while, which makes this weekend’s series against Arizona State that much tougher. If the Cardinal hopes to break out of its Pac-12 struggles, it will have to find a way to awaken its bats against potent pitching.

“Their pitching is really good–one of the best pitching staffs in the conference,” Marquess said.

Stanford will host Arizona State at Sunken Diamond for a weekend series. Friday’s game will be at 5:30 p.m., with Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 1 p.m.