In two very different ballgames, a nail-biter Friday night and a blowout Saturday, the UNLV Rebels beat Stanford in the first two games of a three-game set to clinch the upset series victory at Sunken Diamond.
On Friday, Stanford wasted a career night from senior starting pitcher Mark Appel with a few untimely errors and strikeouts. Appel (2-2) struck out 15 Rebels—a new career high—in seven innings of work, allowing just one earned run on four hits and a walk.
“That’s a big league pitcher out there on that mound,” said junior catcher Brant Whiting. “It’s always a joy to watch him pitch and do his thing.”
However, Stanford committed three errors in the second inning to allow UNLV to score two runs on just one hit, eventually dooming Appel to a 3-2 loss for one of the better outings of his career.
This has happened to the senior before: Appel has allowed only four earned runs over his four starts in thirty overall innings of work, yet has picked up two losses. Additionally, five of the nine unearned runs allowed by Stanford through Friday night’s contest came with Appel on the mound.
Stanford’s bats had a chance to make up for the errors but couldn’t get the job done with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs. The last good chance for the Cardinal came in the seventh inning, down 3-2, when junior first baseman Brian Ragira came to the plate with runners on second and third and only one out.
Ragira worked the count to 2-0, but UNLV relief pitcher Brady Zuniga evened the count at 2-2 with a few good sliders. On the 2-2 pitch, Ragira chased a nasty slider that ended up close to a foot outside to strike out swinging. Then, senior designated hitter Justin Ringo followed with another swinging strikeout to end the threat.
On a brighter note, sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino broke out of a slump in a big way. Blandino, who had only six hits on the season coming into the weekend series with UNLV, went 3-for-4 with a towering home run over the trees down the left field line. Junior relief pitcher Sam Lindquist had a good outing as well, pitching two scoreless innings in relief of Appel to finish out the game.
But on Saturday, UNLV had the momentum from the start and never let go, winning 12-2. Sophomore starting pitcher John Hochstatter (0-1) lasted only two innings, allowing two runs and eventually taking the loss, before giving way to freshman pitcher Daniel Starwalt. Starwalt struggled as well, giving up five runs—four earned—in two innings of work.
There was one Cardinal hitter who looked great on the afternoon: Junior catcher Brant Whiting, who earned the start while sophomore Wayne Taylor started at designated hitter, went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Whiting is hitting .556 with four RBI in nine at bats on the season.
“I’m just trying to sit on a good pitch,” Whiting said. “First at bat, I was trying to sit on the fastball, and he gave it to me right away.”
Stanford will look to end its two-game losing streak and salvage the series Sunday at Sunken Diamond behind freshman starting pitcher Bobby Zarubin, who threw eight innings of one-run ball in his first career start last Sunday against Texas. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.