In a matchup between the small-ball loving defending national champions and a Cardinal squad that seems to prefer pitcher’s duels to shootouts, fans at Sunken Diamond got the opposite of what was expected. Stanford continued its offensive resurgence spurred by the return of junior right-fielder Austin Wilson to put up 25 runs on the weekend, including 21 in the final two games, to take the series againt Arizona 2-1.
The first two games of the series had no shortage of excitement, with No. 17 Stanford (22-12, 9-6 Pac-12) and No. 21 Arizona (25-14, 9-9 Pac-12) trading blows to set up a rubber match.
Friday did not start on a good foot for the Cardinal or its senior ace Mark Appel. Appel, a favorite for the Golden Spikes Award (given to the nation’s best collegiate baseball player) looked more like the nation’s unluckiest player through four innings.
Arizona leadoff hitter Johnny Field skied to deep center in the first at-bat of the series. Sophomore catcher-turned-centerfielder Wayne Taylor couldn’t make the catch, allowing the ball to bounce off his glove for a three-base error. Field scored on a double two batters later.
In the third inning, the Wildcats took a 2-0 lead on another wild, and unlucky, play, again coming off the bat of Field. Field hit a pop fly to right field, an easy play for Wilson, but Wilson slipped and fell while tracking the ball down and Field ended up with a no-out RBI triple.
Appel buckled down to strand Field, which would prove vital later, and allowed only one more run in the remainder of his 6.2 innings of work.
Stanford charged back behind the clutch hitting of Wilson, who atoned for his slip in right field. With the bases loaded, two outs and one run already in, Wilson muscled a two-strike pitch up the middle for the game-tying two-RBI single.
And that single signaled a change of luck. A throwing error allowed sophomore designated hitter Austin Slater to get on base in the sixth inning with nobody out. After junior catcher Brant Whiting bunted him over to second, sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino came through in the clutch, delivering the game-winning RBI double to left field that put Stanford up by the final score of 4-3.
The Cardinal almost saw its hard-fought lead slip away at the very end. Senior pitcher Garrett Hughes, who had relieved Appel with 1.1 scoreless innings through the eighth, allowed the first two Wildcats to reach base on a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Junior Sam Lindquist came in to try to bail Hughes out and faced a tough spot.
After a sacrifice bunt, Lindquist intentionally walked Field to load the bases with only one out and Stanford clinging to its 4-3 edge. Lindquist got the ground ball he needed, and Blandino made a great play to retire the lead runner at home while falling to the ground to keep Stanford ahead. On the next play, Lindquist made another great play on a comebacker to the mound to record the final out, earn the save and give Stanford and Appel a big victory.
“I thought we battled,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “We made a couple errors which gave them some runs, but Mark came up with some big spots when they could have really added on.”
Saturday’s contest had about everything a baseball game could possibly have. From the bottom of the third through the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinal and the Wildcats combined for 14 runs, scoring in all five half innings.
That stretch saw three Stanford pitchers chased from the game. Senior starting pitcher Dean McArdle left after allowing five runs in 3.2 innings, and freshmen Marcus Brakeman and Logan James combined to allow four more runs while retiring just two Wildcat hitters.
But Stanford fought back late, scoring two in the seventh and one in the eighth to tie the game at nine. That ninth run came off the bat of junior first baseman Brian Ragira, who singled in the eighth for his fourth hit of the game.
Freshman relief pitcher Daniel Starwalt couldn’t keep it tied for long. Starwalt had pitched 3.1 scoreless innings coming into the ninth, but after striking out the leadoff hitter, allowed a solo homer to Wildcat third baseman Brandon Dixon that proved to be the winning margin.
Somehow, Sunday’s rubber match proved to be the craziest of them all, starting with Stanford’s defense falling apart in the second inning.
Errors by Blandino and junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger helped the Wildcats load the bases with only one out against sophomore starting pitcher John Hochstatter. Pinch hitter Riley Moore drove in everybody with a grand slam to turn a 2-0 Stanford lead into a 4-2 Arizona edge.
On the next pitch, Hochstatter plunked first baseman Joseph Maggi and was promptly ejected by umpire Ramon Armendariz. Stanford players said after the game that they were stunned by the ejection, and the shock quickly turned into more Wildcats runs. Freshman reliever Bobby Zarubin gave up two runs on four hits while recording only the second out of the inning before Hughes ended the rally.
But just like on Saturday, Stanford came roaring back. Slater contributed in a big way, going 3-5 with five RBI and three runs scored while playing back in right field. Ragira homered in the third to cut the lead to one and a five-run fourth inning gave Stanford the lead for good.
Lindquist shined again on Sunday, but in a very different way than Friday night. The junior threw 76 pitches over five scoreless innings to earn his first win of the season and seal the series for the Cardinal.
Stanford takes on San Jose State at Sunken Diamond Tuesday before heading to Oregon for the first of two consecutive Pac-12 road trips. First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.