Senior starting pitcher Mark Appel was masterful once again as the Cardinal rode its ace for one win and its bats for another, falling just short of a sweep en route to a 2-1 series victory on the road at Washington State this weekend.
Stanford (13-9, 3-3 Pac-12) continued its struggles at the plate Thursday night, but another complete game from Appel (4-2), his third of the season, was enough for a Cardinal victory over the Cougars (16-10, 3-3 Pac-12) in the series opener.
Since opening the season with a shaky performance at Rice, Appel has been close to perfect. On Thursday, Appel struck out 10 while allowing only four hits and a walk in a 3-0 victory. It was the fifth straight start where Appel reached double-digit strikeouts.
In those five starts since Rice, Appel has been nothing short of dominant. The big righty has averaged over 12 strikeouts per outing and maintained a stingy ERA of 0.64.
Stanford’s bats did all of their damage in the second inning off the Cougars’ starting pitcher Joe Pistorese (3-2). The left-handed sophomore allowed three runs—two earned—on three hits and two errors in the second frame.
Sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino got the rally started with a one-out double down the left field line. The Card then loaded the bases with a walk and a single to bring up junior first baseman Brian Ragira. Ragira, who finished 3-4 with a walk while batting in the leadoff spot in a shaken-up Stanford batting order, delivered a two-RBI single up the middle to give Appel all the run support he would need to seal the victory.
Pistorese buckled down after allowing one more unearned run in the inning to fall behind 3-0, holding Stanford scoreless the rest of the way en route to a complete-game loss.
In the second game of the series Friday evening, Stanford’s hitters finally picked up the slack for an offensive outburst to clinch the series with a 9-3 win.
After being held hitless through four innings by Cougar starter Tanner Chleborad (3-4), the Cardinal jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a five-hit fifth inning.
Senior left fielder Justin Ringo, Blandino and junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger all singled to load the bases with nobody out. Sophomore center fielder Dominic Jose knocked in the first run with a sacrifice fly to right before junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila doubled the lead with an RBI single.
Stanford did leave some potential runs on the board that, at least for a few innings, looked like they could haunt them. After junior catcher Brant Whiting singled to load the bases with only one out and two runs already in, Ragira grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The Cougars capitalized off the momentum of the double play to give the Cardinal a scare. Washington State put up three runs in the bottom of the fifth off freshman starting pitcher Bobby Zarubin and senior reliever Dean McArdle, who took over after Zarubin hit the first batter of the inning, to take a 3-2 lead.
But the Cardinal fought right back, tying the game with one run in the sixth and taking the lead back for good with two in the seventh.
Senior left-handed pitcher Garrett Hughes and junior righty A.J. Vanegas closed out the game in relief of the winning pitcher McArdle (2-1) with a combined five strikeouts in 2.2 scoreless innings. Vanegas picked up his first save of the season in only his second appearance since returning from offseason back surgery last week in Stanford’s loss to UC-Davis.
On Saturday, Stanford came within nine outs of a series sweep. The Cardinal overcame a 4-1 deficit from freshman starting pitcher Marcus Brakeman’s tough outing—seven runs in 3.2 innings in his first career start—to take the lead 5-4 in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Ringo.
But the Cougars fought back to earn the win and salvage the series with two runs—one earned—in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Freshman pitcher Logan James (0-2) took the loss by allowing the two runs in the seventh while Hughes and junior relief pitcher Sam Lindquist yielded one insurance run each in one inning of relief.
The late runs allowed squandered another solid day from Stanford’s hitters. Sophomore right fielder Austin Slater led the charge going 3-5 with three RBIs and a run scored. The sophomore has been great filling in for the injured junior Austin Wilson in right field. Slater is currently second on the team with a .325 batting average and third with 11 RBIs.
Stanford welcomes Cal back to Sunken Diamond tonight in its second of two non-conference games against Berkeley. In the first meeting at Sunken Diamond on Feb. 20, Stanford shut the Golden Bears down for an easy 5-0 victory. Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.