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Baseball: A sigh of relief

Sophomore Austin Wilson had five RBI, including one home run, for Stanford on Tuesday evening in its win over BYU. The Card carries a four-game win streak into this weekend’s series at UCLA. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

After dropping its first midweek decision of the year against San Jose State a week ago, the No. 9 Stanford baseball team bounced back at Sunken Diamond last night, piling on 10 runs against BYU and surviving a seven-spot from the Cougars in the top of the eighth to win 10-9.

The Cardinal (26-10, 8-7 Pac-12) got five RBI from sophomore rightfielder Austin Wilson and drew six walks–four of them on full counts–to score at least eight runs for the fourth straight game and dominate the Cougars (17-15, 6-3 WCC) for the first seven innings. But BYU made a game of it late, and Stanford needed a crucial defensive play by substitute first baseman Danny Diekroeger in the top of the ninth to secure the win.

“We’ve never seen BYU before, we really had no scouting report, so we kind of had to go out there, see some pitches and swing the bat,” Wilson said. “It shows our team adversity, and how you never stop battling.”

Redshirt sophomore lefthander Garrett Hughes and junior righthander Sahil Bloom combined for six three-hit innings, allowing just one run and facing just four batters over the minimum.

Stanford’s strength was in its youth on Tuesday, with sophomore second baseman Brett Michael Doran and freshman catcher Wayne Taylor making their sixth starts of the season and coming up with clutch at-bats. Diekroeger also impressed in his fourth straight game as the Cardinal’s designated hitter, getting on base often and coming around to score twice–making it six runs for the sophomore over that stretch.

“I think that’s one of the big things that’s fueled our bats lately, just the guys that are getting a chance to play who didn’t get to play earlier in the year,” Diekroeger said. “That kind of was our motto at the beginning of the year, that anyone can be the lead guy.”

Cooling down a bit was freshman third baseman Alex Blandino–named National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Player of the Week after hitting four homers and tallying 11 RBI over his last four games–who stayed off the basepaths but added what would turn out to be the winning run in the bottom of the eighth on a sac fly.

Junior third baseman Stephen Piscotty went just 1-for-4 and gave up two runs as a reliever, but he had another solid game in left field nonetheless, making an incredible sliding catch up against the bullpen in the top of the seventh.

Stanford jumped on BYU in the second after sophomore righty Aaron Miller walked the bases loaded with no outs. A Wilson single made it 2-0 and Taylor was hit by a pitch, forcing Miller from the game, before Doran singled home two more runs. Junior centerfielder Tyler Gaffney quickly tacked on another tally with a sac fly.

Meanwhile, Hughes cruised through the first three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three Cougar batters.

A line drive homer by Wilson to lead off the bottom of the fourth extended the Stanford lead to six, as the sophomore tied a career high with his fifth homer of the season.

“This weekend I was getting beat a lot with the fastball, so I made an adjustment with my hands,” Wilson said. “As you can see today, I was driving the ball very well and hit the home run.”

Taylor didn’t give Cougar righty Marc Oslund any time to collect his thoughts, launching the next pitch off the left-field wall for his first career triple. Doran brought Taylor home on a sac fly, and the Cardinal led 7-0.

Wilson singled home two more runs in the fifth before BYU could do any damage, however the Cougars quickly got two straight hits to lead off the top of the sixth and eventually brought around their first run of the evening.

“Any time you get that kind of lead, you can get too comfortable,” Diekroeger said. “We could feel them creeping up on us, and it’s just one of those things where you can’t let that happen.”

The Cougars made it 9-5 in the eighth off freshman righty David Schmidt, who yielded a leadoff double to senior shortstop Austin Hall before Hall came home on a Jaycob Brugman single. Schmidt loaded the bases and allowed a first-pitch RBI single but remained in the game, giving up two more runs on the next at-bat before being yanked in favor of Piscotty.

The one-out rally did not end, however, with sophomore second baseman Adam Law launching Piscotty’s second pitch off the glove of sophomore Brian Ragira, who had moved to left in Piscotty’s absence, to double home another run. Senior centerfielder Stephen Wells followed with a two-run single to reduce Stanford’s lead to just one, but Piscotty got out the next two batters to end the inning with the Cardinal still on top.

Stanford responded by getting its first three batters on base, and Blandino gave Stanford some breathing room with a sac fly into center, making it 10-8. But BYU threatened, leading off with a single and a triple to climb to within a run yet again. With no outs and a runner still on third, senior designated hitter Alex Wolfe chopped to Diekroeger–a late-inning defensive substitution–who snagged it with a diving play and nailed what would have been the tying run on its way to the plate. It was his first defensive assist in two years on the Farm.

“You’ve just got to be ready for anything,” Diekroeger said. “I was playing in and the runner made a break to home, so I wasn’t sure if he was going to go but he ended up going.”

Two straight strikeouts from Piscotty–who earned his first career save–and the Cardinal had escaped with the 10-9 win, carrying a four-game win streak into a crucial Pac-12 series at No. 11 UCLA this weekend.

“We’re trying to come out strong and do as best as we can against them, because we know we’re still contending in the Pac-12,” Diekroeger said. “This is one of the teams you’ve got to beat.”

Stanford trails the Bruins by one and a half games in conference play, and the teams will open the series in Los Angeles on Friday at 6 p.m.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the executive editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a junior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.