With its offense finally clicking and the team back to its winning ways, No. 22 Stanford headed up north to Eugene, Ore., for its toughest series of the season at No. 7 Oregon. An error Friday, a rough starting pitching performance Saturday and a blown save on Sunday gave the Ducks a series sweep, including two walk-off wins, and sent the Cardinal crashing back down to earth.
Friday night’s loss was eerily reminiscent of Stanford’s early-season struggles. Senior starting pitcher Mark Appel (7-3) had another strong performance, allowing only two runs—one earned—over 8.1 innings of work to take the complete-game loss.
In the end, a lack of hitting and one defensive mistake did the Cardinal in. An RBI double from junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger gave Appel the lead in the top of the third inning, but the senior erased the advantage in the bottom of the third thanks to a rare mistake.
With two outs and a runner on first, Appel threw a wild pitch, allowing Oregon second baseman Aaron Payne to advance into scoring position. During the same at bat, Appel allowed a single that scored Payne from second to tie the ballgame. Appel retired the next batter to end the inning, making the wild pitch even more devastating.
As it turned out, that was the last sniff Appel and Stanford would have of the lead. The Cardinal mustered only two outs over its next six innings at the plate, forcing Appel to be perfect, which he was through eight.
But in the bottom of the ninth, a throwing error from freshman shortstop Drew Jackson allowed Oregon pinch-hitter Steven Packard to reach base and advance to second base with nobody out. A bunt single and an intentional walk loaded the bases still with no outs.
Appel fought back, striking out Oregon left fielder Brett Thomas to set up a potential game-saving double play situation. But on an 0-2 pitch, Payne singled to center to win the game for Oregon in walk-off fashion.
Saturday’s game was ugly from the very start for Stanford. Senior starting pitcher Dean McArdle (2-2) gave up five runs—all earned—in just three-plus innings to take the loss.
McArdle allowed two runs in the first and one in the second, but seemed to settle down with a shutout third. However, the wheels came off in the fourth as the senior allowed a leadoff triple, a wild pitch that scored the runner and a walk before being relieved by freshman pitcher Logan James.
James gave up a two-run homer in that fourth inning to clinch the Cardinal’s fate, but gathered himself well afterwards. With the Stanford bullpen desperately thin, James finished the game without allowing another run, both keeping the Cardinal’s chances alive on Saturday and saving some key arms for Sunday.
Stanford slowly clawed back, cutting the lead to two in the seventh inning on an Oregon error. But the Cardinal’s best comeback chance ended when junior pinch-hitter Brant Whiting struck out with runners on second and third and two outs to end the eighth inning.
Stanford seemed to put the disappointment of Friday and Saturday in the past for Sunday’s final game of the series. Freshman pitcher Daniel Starwalt made his first ever start and was very successful, allowing only two runs—one earned—over 5.1 innings pitched.
Trailing 2-0 and facing a disappointing sweep in the face, junior first baseman Brian Ragira came up big with a two-RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the game. Two innings later, senior designated hitter Justin Ringo homered with two outs and nobody on base to give the Cardinal a 3-2 lead and put Stanford six outs away from a series salvaging win.
Senior relief pitcher Garrett Hughes, who relieved Starwalt in the sixth, got out of a jam in the eighth to put Stanford even closer. But after allowing a one-out walk in the ninth, Hughes gave way to fellow junior reliever Sam Lindquist. Lindquist (1-1) could not get it done, giving up another walk and then a double to tie the game and put the winning run on third base with only one out.
Then Oregon, one of the most prolific bunting teams in the nation, caught Stanford by surprise with a suicide squeeze to walk off with a win and sweep the series.
Oregon was the first opponent to take a series from the Cardinal since Utah stunned Stanford at Sunken Diamond to win two out of three back in March. Between that upset and the trip to Oregon, Stanford had won four consecutive series, all two games to one against conference opponents.
Stanford next faces Saint Mary’s in a home midweek matchup before heading on the road again to face No. 17 Arizona State in another critical conference series. First pitch against Saint Mary’s Tuesday at Sunken Diamond is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.