After a crushing six-game losing streak, with five of them coming at Sunken Diamond, Stanford found life again on the road. The Cardinal outhit the Golden Bears to sweep Cal in Berkeley, mounting a late-season charge in the hopes of a postseason berth.
On Friday night, senior starting pitcher Mark Appel tied the Stanford career strikeouts record en route to a 9-8 victory in his final start against the Cardinal’s cross-Bay rival.
Appel came into Friday night’s game needing 11 strikeouts to tie the record of 363 career strikeouts shared by Kyle Peterson ‘98 and Justin Wayne ‘01. Though Appel was hit around at times—Cal managed four earned runs on nine hits in seven innings off the senior ace—the big righty did enough to pick up 11 strikeouts and, more importantly, the victory.
Though the record was not on Appel’s mind until a few weeks ago, one of his teammates, senior relief pitcher Sahil Bloom, reminded Appel before the game exactly what his game plan should be.
“Sahil, he’s big onto the stats and everything,” Appel said. “He came out to me and was like, ‘What you want to do is you want to get 11 strikeouts here so you can set the record at home next week.’ But obviously, I wasn’t really thinking about it during the game.”
Appel’s effort might have been for naught if it were not for the strong performance from a fellow Houston native, sophomore leftfielder Wayne Taylor. Taylor knocked in three runs on two opposite field homers, his second and third of the season, to lead Stanford’s strong offensive charge.
Junior catcher Brant Whiting and junior first baseman Brian Ragira also added three hits a piece for the Cardinal, scoring two runs and picking up two RBI combined.
The lead almost slipped away in the ninth inning due to some shaky pitching and defense. With senior relief pitcher Garrett Hughes on the mound, Cal put runners on second and third on a single and two errors. A single, a walk and a passed ball scored two runs and put the tying runs in scoring position with nobody out.
But that’s when Hughes buckled down.
After inducing a groundout that put the tying run on third base with one out, Hughes got a big strikeout and then a fly out to right field to seal the victory.
Saturday’s game had a lot less drama. Stanford scored three runs on three hits and two walks in the top of the first inning and never gave up the lead on its way to a 9-4 victory.
Freshman reliever Logan James picked up the victory with 4.2 very strong innings in relief of sophomore starter John Hochstatter. James allowed only one run on four hits while striking out five to finish off the Bears.
On the offensive side, a very balanced effort led to a second-straight nine-run performance. Ragira and Taylor again picked up two hits, but so did sophomore rightfielder Austin Slater, junior second baseman Danny Diekroeger and sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino. Whiting did his part again as well, walking three times and scoring twice.
Sunday’s 7-3 victory came from another balanced effort, aided by both Stanford’s hitters and pitchers.
Freshman pitcher Bobby Zarubin started the game, giving up only one unearned run in 3.1 innings before giving way to sophomore reliever David Schmidt. Schmidt protected Stanford’s lead, allowing two runs on five hits in 3.2 innings to earn the victory, before Hughes took over to close out the victory with two scoreless innings of work.
Offensively, it was the Cardinal’s No. 9 hitter, junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila, who led the way with three hits. Every hitter in the Stanford starting lineup besides Taylor picked up at least one hit, combining for a total of 14, and six different batters picked up a total of seven RBI.
Coming into the series on a six-game losing streak, the postseason seemed almost out of reach for Stanford. But now, with four games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinal may have played its way back into contention.
Postseason or not, Friday night will almost certainly be Appel’s last home start. After three years as the Friday starter, the senior is four days away from his final Sunken Diamond curtain call. But it does not feel like the end yet for the senior.
“It’s the same thing as every other week,” Appel said. “I’m sure it will really kick in afterwards, just thinking about all the great memories that I’ve had here. It’s been truly a blessing to be here at Stanford.”
Stanford hosts Pacific on Tuesday in its final midweek matchup of the season before welcoming No. 10 UCLA for the final series of the regular season. First pitch against Pacific at Sunken Diamond is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu.