There is a talent gap in the Pac-12. And for the first time in a few years, Stanford is clearly on the wrong side of it.
The Oregon State Beavers came into Sunken Diamond and mercilessly demonstrated why they are the class of the conference, dominating the Cardinal en route to a three-game sweep to put Stanford’s postseason hopes in doubt.
The series got off to an ominous start from the very first at-bat. Oregon State leadoff hitter Tyler Smith grounded to Stanford sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino, but Blandino’s throw went all the way to the wall, allowing Smith to advance to third base. Smith scored on a groundout two batters later.
The Cardinal briefly spotted senior starting pitcher Mark Appel a lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Four consecutive Stanford hitters reached base, starting with a one-out single from junior first baseman Brian Ragira and ending with a three-RBI double from Blandino, to give the Card a 3-1 lead.
But the lead was short-lived. In the top of the fifth, Appel imploded, giving up five runs on four walks, a hit batsman and three hits to cough up the lead for good.
The usually dominant Appel (8-4) did not have his best stuff from the beginning. The senior needed 103 pitches to get through five innings, allowing six runs–five earned–on six hits and five walks with only four strikeouts to take the loss.
The lone bright spot for Stanford, besides the always impressive yearly post-game fireworks display, was the strong relief performance from sophomore pitcher Jordan Kutzer. Kutzer relieved Logan James with one out in the seventh and was almost perfect through the rest of the evening, allowing no runs on two hits in front of a jam-packed crowd for Firework Night.
“I didn’t really notice that everyone was there,” Kutzer said. “You’re into the game and you’re just trying to focus on getting ahead and getting the win…When I got in I didn’t really realize until the last inning that there were 4,000 people in the stands.”
Saturday’s contest, somehow, proved to be even uglier, without a performance like Kutzer’s or fireworks to numb the pain.
Sophomore starting pitcher John Hochstatter (3-3) took the loss thanks to command problems, allowing four runs–all unearned due to a fielding error from junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila–with two outs in the third inning on two hits, three walks and two very wild pitches.
That inning sucked all of the life out of Sunken Diamond. The Beavers continued to build their lead against senior reliever Dean McArdle with two runs–unearned due to another throwing error by Blandino–in the fourth and two more in the sixth to make it 8-0.
Junior centerfielder Austin Wilson put Stanford on the board with a two-run homer in the sixth inning that just stayed fair down the left field line, but Oregon State added two runs in the eighth to get the lead back up to eight runs.
Junior pinch hitter Brett Michael Doran homered to left field to lead off the ninth and freshman shortstop Drew Jackson knocked in junior pinch hitter Brian Guymon to make the final score 10-4.
On Sunday, the desperate Cardinal turned to junior pitcher Sam Lindquist for the start. It was Lindquist’s 21st appearance of the season, and 30th of his career, but his first collegiate start. The big righty allowed five runs on two hits and four walks in four innings of work to take the loss.
Trailing 5-0 after five innings, Stanford showed signs of life for the first time since early in Friday’s contest. Senior designated hitter Justin Ringo and sophomore rightfielder Austin Slater singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Ragira knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice and Wilson knocked in Ragira with a single to right to cut the lead to three.
With senior relief pitcher Garrett Hughes, sophomore reliever David Schmidt and freshman reliever Logan James combining for five scoreless innings of relief, the Cardinal bats had three more chances to try to tie or win the game.
In the eighth, Slater and Ragira led off with walks to bring Wilson up as the tying run. The slugger delivered an opposite-field RBI double to put the tying runners in scoring position with nobody out. Junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger hit into a fielder’s choice, but everyone was safe after a throwing error.
Freshman catcher Austin Barr grounded to third, forcing Wilson to wait as Kavin Keyes forced Diekroeger out at second. After the throw, Wilson ran for home, but was thrown out for a double play. Blandino struck out swinging to end the threat and Stanford went down in order in the ninth to give the Beavers the sweep.
Stanford hosts Santa Clara Tuesday in its penultimate midweek matchup before hitting the road to face Cal in a crucial conference series. The first pitch against Santa Clara Tuesday at Sunken Diamond is set for 5:30 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.