Washington came to Sunken Diamond with an 8-22 record and the least-productive offense in the Pac-12. But it took Stanford until Sunday to solve the Huskies’ bats, overcoming a pedestrian start from senior pitcher Mark Appel Friday and an offensive onslaught Saturday to win the series two games to one.
With the dominant Appel facing the weakest offense of the Pac-12 in Washington (9-24, 3-9 Pac-12), many anticipated a special performance from the righty ace and certainly a victory for Stanford (19-11, 7-5 Pac-12).
But the Huskies jumped on Appel from the start. Washington right fielder Jayce Ray tripled to lead off the game and scored on a wild pitch from Appel. After the Cardinal tied in with an unearned run in the bottom of the first, Washington went right back at Appel, tagging him for two more runs to take a 3-1 lead.
Stanford clawed back with a consistent scoring effort. The Cardinal scored in five of the first six innings, using a three-run fourth to reclaim the lead for good.
Junior catcher Brant Whiting, who has been on a tear since ascending to the starting catcher spot, singled to start the inning. Then junior right fielder Austin Wilson, playing right field for the first time since opening day, doubled to left center to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out.
Sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino and senior designated hitter Justin Ringo knocked in Whiting and Wilson respectively with RBI singles to take back the lead. Junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger added the third run with an RBI walk.
“The whole year the pitching’s kind of carried us,” Wilson said. “I think it’s about time that the bats kind of turned around and [did] our job.”
Junior pitcher AJ Vanegas relieved Appel after the eight with the Card leading 7-4 to try to earn the save and seal Appel’s sixth victory of the season. It didn’t go smoothly for Vanegas, as the junior allowed three consecutive singles to put the tying run on base with nobody out. But Vanegas settled down, retiring the next three Huskies to earn the save, his fourth of the season.
But Washington’s ninth-inning momentum carried over to Saturday afternoon, as the Huskies again had success at the plate from the beginning of the game. Stanford freshman starting pitcher Logan James struggled with his command. The freshman allowed six runs–five earned–on six hits and three walks in only 3.1 innings of work to take the loss.
Of the four Cardinal pitchers that appeared on the mound, only freshman Marcus Brakeman had a day to remember. Brakeman allowed only one run on five hits in 3.2 innings of relief to keep the Cardinal within striking distance. Freshman Daniel Starwalt and sophomore David Schmidt allowed two earned runs each in the eighth and ninth innings respectively.
Heading into Sunday’s rubber match, the pressure on Stanford was sky high. After dropping two of three in its other conference series at Sunken Diamond against Utah back in March, and with tough opponents in Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA visiting the Farm soon, the Cardinal was running out of opportunities to improve its postseason resume.
The Stanford bats answered the call in a big way. After scoring one in the bottom of the first, the Cardinal exploded for six runs in the bottom of the second to take a decisive 7-0 lead en route to a 12-2 victory. Stanford sent 10 hitters to the plate in the inning between bookend outs from Blandino–the sophomore recorded the first and third outs of the inning, both on hard-hit balls.
The highlight of the beat down was back-to-back monster home runs from sophomore Wayne Taylor–his first career homer–and junior first baseman Brian Ragira. Ragira’s blast chased Washington starter Trevor Dunlap, who took the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits in only 1.1 innings.
Sophomore starting pitcher John Hochstatter earned the complete-game victory, needing only 98 pitches. The lefty kept Washington off-balance all game, allowing only two runs on seven hits while recording his only two strikeouts in the ninth inning.
Stanford saw its fielding improve on Sunday as well. Perhaps sparked by strong performances at the plate, junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila and Wilson made great plays at shortstop and right field. Wilson had two more diving catches in foul ground Friday night, demonstrating that he is ready to play the field in his first weekend back out from that elbow injury.
“I got my reps in during some intrasquads in the past week,” Wilson said. “I’ve got to keep my legs in shape so I can track down balls. I’ve been working hard in batting practice, trying to get good reads, so [the transition back] wasn’t too bad.”
Sunday’s win gave Stanford its third consecutive series victory. However, it was the Cardinal’s first win on a Sunday since topping Texas 2-1 on March 3.
On Tuesday, Stanford heads back on the road to take on Pacific before a home weekend series against Arizona. First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.