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Baseball struggles against Vanderbilt in weekend sweep

Continuing its tough nonconference slate, Stanford baseball traveled to Nashville, Tenn. this weekend in hopes of making a statement against a consensus top-10 team. However, the Cardinal bats fell silent against Vanderbilt’s dominant pitching staff, which allowed just four combined runs in the series, as Stanford (4-7) was swept—falling 4-1 on Friday, 5-1 on Saturday and 4-2 on Sunday.

Vanderbilt (10-2) entered the weekend series with a 1.56 team ERA and a .170 opponents’ batting average, so the Cardinal offense had an idea of what was coming, but it simply did not have any answers. The team hit just .157 (14-for-89) over the three-game set and struck out 25 times—nearly a quarter of its plate appearances—contributing to a 23.8 percent team strikeout rate.

FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Sophomore outfielder Zach Hoffpauir (left) had an RBI triple in Saturday’s loss. He accounted for two of Stanford’s three hits that evening and is now hitting .206 on the season. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Even improved outings by the Cardinal pitching staff, which had a 2.25 ERA over the weekend, could not make up for the team’s other miscues, as sloppy defense on Sunday spoiled Stanford’s best opportunity to salvage a win. But despite the run prevention, inopportune lapses in command—a developing trend from the young staff—led to the Commodores pushing some key runs across the plate.

“We still walked too many people. We didn’t do much with the bats,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “We pitched a little bit better—the freshmen pitched a little bit better—but we still had way too many walks.”

The 20 walks allowed against Vanderbilt built on Stanford’s problem of creating its own jams thus far this season, as the team’s 1.58 WHIP exceeds last season’s mark by 0.25—equating to an extra two runners on per game.

Both Friday’s and Saturday’s games were similar in that although the Cardinal pitching was able to avoid the big letdown inning, the offense was simply unable to get anything going.

Freshman Brett Hanewich got the start on Friday after the starting rotation was bumped up one when freshman Cal Quantrill made Tuesday’s start against San Francisco. He threw 97 pitches, allowing four runs—three earned—over five innings, and departed with a 4-1 deficit, ultimately the final score.

Vanderbilt’s ace, junior Tyler Beede—who previously struck out 18 hitters over 11 innings in his first two starts—pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits to the Stanford hitters and striking out six.

Senior reliever A.J. Vanegas made his second appearance of the season coming off of a back injury, throwing a scoreless eighth inning in just 11 pitches.

On Saturday, freshman Chris Viall and sophomore Logan James combined to allow five runs over seven innings of work, but a lack of offensive opportunities once again led to the Commodores’ cruising to a 5-1 win.

Sophomore outfielder Zach Hoffpauir, who provided two of Stanford’s three hits in the game, cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning with an RBI triple that scored sophomore Austin Barr. But Vanderbilt quickly answered back with a run in the bottom half and never looked back.

Junior Alex Blandino had a nine-game hitting streak snapped in the loss and freshman Tommy Edman had a seven-game on-base streak snapped as well.

Quantrill got the Sunday start and had an impressive outing in the rain, throwing a season-high 91 pitches, lasting five innings and only allowing one earned run.

“He threw more strikes and he got his breaking ball and changeup over, which made him more effective, so it was probably his best outing of the year,” Marquess said.

With the Commodores up 2-0 in the top of the seventh, the Cardinal began to threaten. After loading the bases with the first three hitters, sophomore Wayne Taylor had a sacrifice fly to close the lead to 2-1. Two batters later, after a walk and a strikeout, junior Danny Diekroeger stepped up with the bases loaded and two gone. He drew a walk with the bases loaded after falling behind in the count 1-2, tying the game at two.

But in the bottom of the eighth, sophomore Marcus Brakeman broke after having entered in relief earlier in the game, walking four batters and forcing a go-ahead run. A hit-by-pitch later in the inning by freshman Tyler Thorne with the bases loaded forced in another run, giving Vanderbilt a 4-2 advantage.

The Cardinal loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, getting the tying run to scoring position with two outs and Blandino up as the team’s last chance. But a fly out to right field ended the game at 4-2 and closed out the series.

Stanford’s first time being swept this season also delayed a milestone for Marquess, who only needs one more win to reach the plateau of 1,500—a mark only six other coaches have ever reached.

After two consecutive weekend road trips, the Cardinal will stay in the Bay Area for the next month, hosting its final nonconference series against Kansas and the start of Pac-12 play after the Finals Week break. First, however, the team will travel to Berkeley this Tuesday to take on Cal at 6 p.m. in a contest televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Jordan Wallach

Jordan Wallach is a sports desk editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat writer for Stanford's baseball and women's volleyball teams. Jordan is a freshman from New York City and is a prospective chemical engineering major. To contact him, please send him an email at jwallach 'at' stanford.edu.