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Baseball: Spartan stunner

Junior centerfielder Jake Stewart (above) homered to left field in Stanford’s Tuesday afternoon loss to San Jose State. Sophomore Austin Wilson added two more home runs, but pitching woes doomed the Card. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

On Tuesday afternoon, the No. 12 Stanford baseball team traveled south to face San Jose State, looking to avenge an unexpected loss to the Spartans on April 17. However, take two was no kinder to the Card, which suffered a second defeat in as many weeks against San Jose, losing 8-5.

Unlike its previous matchup, Stanford’s (28-12, 8-5 Pac-12) bats were impressive against the Spartans (21-20, 5-4 WAC). However, the usually impressive Cardinal pitchers struggled to find a rhythm in the loss.

In the first inning, Spartan starter David Wayne Russo set down the first three batters, while Stanford starter John Hochstatter didn’t fare so well. The freshman gave up a leadoff single to centerfielder Andrew Rodriguez and walked second baseman Jacob Valdez, then allowed the first run of the game when rightfielder Nick Schulz doubled down the left field line.

But the bleeding didn’t stop there, as first baseman Matt Lopez singled to center to bring in another run for San Jose State. Hochstatter was then pulled from the game without recording a single out. Junior reliever Dean McArdle managed to give up just one more run, a sacrifice fly by leftfielder Michael Gerlach, before managing his way out of the inning.

Despite the early deficit, the Card got back into the game in the second. Sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira led off the inning with a double, and fellow sophomore Austin Wilson hit a home run to left field that brought the Cardinal within one.

In the third inning, the Spartans tacked on another run when Valdez scored on a throwing error by Stanford redshirt junior catcher Christian Griffiths. In the top half of the inning, the Cardinal loaded the bases, but freshman third baseman Alex Blandino hit a grounder to short that ended the inning.

Stanford finally evened the score with San Jose State in the fourth after Griffiths walked and centerfielder Jake Stewart homered to left field. But the success was short-lived, and the wheels came off for the Cardinal in the bottom half of the inning.

The first batter of the inning, catcher Kyle Gallegos, reached first on an infield single. Two batters later, Rodriguez hit a home run off McArdle, and the Spartans took a 6-4 lead. Redshirt sophomore Garrett Hughes came in to relieve McArdle and struck out the first batter he faced, but after a single, a walk and a wild pitch, runners were on second and third. Gerlach then singled to drive in a run, and Lopez scored on an error. Hughes struck out Caleb Natov to end the inning, but the Spartans had piled up four runs to lead 8-4.

In the fifth inning, Wilson hit another home run–this time a solo shot to center field–and the Cardinal pulled within three runs of San Jose State. In the bottom half, Hughes continued in relief. Despite having a runner on third with just one out, he escaped the inning unscathed.

The Cardinal did nothing offensively in the sixth, and freshman David Schmidt relieved Hughes on the mound. Schmidt pitched well, giving up no hits and just one walk, and recording two strikeouts in two innings.

In the bottom of the eighth Stanford head coach Mark Marquess decided to send junior designated hitter Stephen Piscotty to the mound, where Piscotty pitched a perfect inning.

The Cardinal attempted a rally in the top of the ninth but came up short. After sophomore pinch hitter Danny Diekroeger struck out, freshman Dominic Jose singled to center and junior Justin Ringo singled to left. After a fly ball by Piscotty, Stanford had runners at first and third, but a strikeout by Ragira ended the game.

Although the unhappy outcome was the same, this matchup against the Spartans had little in common with the last. Two weeks ago, Stanford lost 3-2 in a game with minimal offense aside from an early home run by Blandino. On Tuesday, the Cardinal offense was productive, but its pitching fell short, with the normally dominant Hochstatter and McArdle struggling on the mound.

The loss does not affect Stanford’s conference standing. The Cardinal, currently fourth in the Pac-12, sits behind UCLA, Arizona and Oregon with just under a month left in the regular season.

This weekend, Stanford will travel to Oregon State for a three-game series in Corvallis, Ore. Friday’s game is scheduled for 5:35 p.m., and both games on Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for 1:05 p.m.