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Baseball’s postseason hopes falter in series loss to Cal

Stanford baseball’s playoff chances were dealt a tough blow this weekend, as the Cardinal dropped two out of three games to California (18-21, 7-11 Pac-12) in an up-and-down series that was frankly more down than up. The Stanford team (18-19, 7-11) that won six of its last seven games entering the weekend only seemed to show up on Sunday in a 4-1 win — the players posting a heartbreaking 7-4, 10-inning loss on Saturday after a blown save and a sloppy 9-5 loss in Monday night’s rubber game seemed like an entirely different team. Those performances have placed a lot of pressure on the Cardinal with four weeks left in the regular season.

To sum up the weekend, entering Saturday, Stanford was an undefeated 14-0 when scoring more than three runs in a game. Three games later, the team had picked up its first two losses in those situations, highlighting the Cardinal’s defensive and pitching struggles in the series.

Freshman Tommy Edman (above) has excelled in recent play, delivering a game-winning three-run home run against Cal on Sunday. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Freshman second baseman Tommy Edman (above) excelled over the weekend series, delivering a game-winning three-run home run against Cal on Sunday. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

On Saturday, freshman Cal Quantrill got the start and battled through seven innings despite not having his best stuff. After surrendering two runs in the third and one in the fourth, Quantrill allowed just one baserunner over the next three innings. Saturday’s game was Quantrill’s longest start in his last three appearances.

The offense tied the game and then took the lead in the sixth with aggressive baserunning and a couple of clutch hits from senior Brett Michael Doran and senior Brant Whiting. The Cardinal have gone 10-for-12 in stolen base attempts over their last five games after going 11-for-23 in prior appearances.

Senior reliever A.J. Vanegas was called upon for the two-inning save with the Cardinal up 4-3 in the eighth, but uncharacteristically struggled. He walked the leadoff hitter and then allowed him to score — good for his first earned run of the season, as well as his first blown save. In the top of the tenth, after Stanford left the bases loaded in the eighth and left two men on in the ninth with the opportunity to win the game — they left 12 runners on base during the game  — Vanegas allowed three runs on two hits and a walk to give the Bears a 7-4 lead.

Junior John Hochstatter, who was making his third start of the season after taking over the spot in the rotation from freshman Chris Viall, dominated Sunday’s game. He pitched his second career complete game, allowing just six baserunners and striking out three over the nine innings. As a starter, Hochstatter has allowed just four earned runs over 23.2 innings, good for a 1.52 ERA.

“It’s about the fifth time in a row he pitched well for us. He wasn’t as sharp early as he had been, but he got stronger as the game went on,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “He didn’t have much fastball command [earlier this season] and he got hit a little bit early, but all of a sudden he started getting the fastball down, getting a bit more velocity and that was complemented with his off-speed pitches. It’s been a confidence thing. He’s pitched big for us and he knows he can do it and he’s not a freshman.”

On the offensive side, freshman Tommy Edman stole the show, hammering a three-run homer — the first of his career — to left field in the bottom of the fourth to put Stanford up for good, 4-1.

“It was awesome, super exciting. I probably had a huge grin on my face running the bases,” Edman said. “I’ve been trying to keep things simple — getting my foot down early, seeing the ball for really long — and it’s helped my pitch selection a lot.”

Through Monday’s game, Edman has exploded as of late, amassing an eight-game hitting streak in which he has hit .423 (11-for-26). The five RBIs that he has tallied over that span more than double his total over his first 16 appearances. He has also stolen three bases in that span.

Meanwhile, another Stanford player has been extending a hit streak of his own, albeit a bit more quietly following his three game-winning hits last week. Senior Danny Diekroeger has hit .417 (15-for-36) over his season-long nine-game hitting streak though Monday, raising his season batting average by 41 points to .304.

The momentum Stanford gained after Sunday’s win was quickly lost on Monday, as freshman Brett Hanewich was hit hard early and chased from the game after allowing four runs — two earned  — over just 2.2 innings. It was an indication of things to come for the Cardinal, as they committed three errors in the contest, matching the amount of errors they had made over the last nine games.

“We just got beaten in every phase of the game,” Marquess said. “They pitched better than us, they played defense better than us, hit better than us. There wasn’t a part of the game we won.”

Cal jumped to a 4-2 lead after three innings, and later extended it to 9-3 after picking up 12 total hits in the game. The Cardinal got the tying run on deck in the ninth after Bears starter sophomore Ryan Mason faltered towards the end of his performance, but Cal’s closer quickly shut them down.

Nearly every game for Stanford is a must-win at this point if the team hopes to make the NCAA Tournament. That journey will start at Pacific this afternoon. The Tigers enter the game on a tear, having won 10 of their last 12 games, including six of seven on their current homestand. They will send out fifth-year senior southpaw John Haberman, who is 3-1 with a 4.67 ERA in eight appearances this season. The Cardinal’s starter is still to be announced.

First pitch from Stockton, California is set for 6 p.m.

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 sophomore from New York City and is a prospective chemical engineering major. To contact him, please send him an email at jwallach 'at' stanford.edu.