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Peterson: Good luck stopping Stanford baseball

On Monday night against Indiana, Stanford baseball’s magical season appeared all but finished.

After starting the season 11-16, Stanford underwent a complete turnaround, rallying to give itself a chance to make the postseason. Even after going 16-7 in its past 23 games leading into its final series, Stanford likely needed a sweep against Utah to qualify and trailed in the second game of the series before a Zach Hoffpauir three-run, inside-the-park home run provided the difference in the seventh inning and gave Stanford the win.

Then, after making it through the losers’ bracket and into the Regional final where it needed to beat Indiana twice, Stanford fell behind early in the first game. After four innings, the Hoosiers led 5-2 and seemed destined for the Super Regional.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, trailing 6-4 and with two outs in the inning, the magic struck again. A two-out single by Dominic Jose put runners at the corners for pinch-hitter Wayne Taylor. Four outs away from defeat, Taylor launched an opposite-field, three-run home run that shocked the Hoosiers, brought new life to the Cardinal and gave Stanford a lead that it would never surrender on its path towards victory.

Even in Monday’s deciding regional game, more heroics abounded for the Card. Trailing 3-0 after a three-hour-long rain delay, Stanford quickly put two on the board. In the sixth inning, still behind by a run, Jose again delivered for the Card with a solo home run to tie the game. Time and time again, Stanford delivered when it mattered most. Nothing could stop the Cardinal.

But late Monday night, suddenly, it appeared all for naught. An unfortunate bounce in the eighth inning allowed Indiana to score a run on an infield single, as the ball plopped perfectly over the head of pitcher Cal Quantrill and too far in front of second baseman Brett Michael Doran. Indiana retook the lead 4-3 and its home crowd exploded in trying to push the nation’s No. 4 team back to a Super Regional. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Stanford went down as quietly as you can, with all three batters retired. You could feel the tension creeping in. The dugout was full of worried faces for the first time in a while.

Tommy Edman stepped to the plate with one out and a runner on second base in the bottom of the ninth inning. Edman is listed generously at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, the smallest player on the team. He played sparkling defense in the middle infield this year for the Card. The switch-hitting Edman had never hit a home run from the left side of the plate — not in little league, not in high school and not at Stanford — where he stood now against Indiana’s right-handed pitcher.

Yet, in spite of all the overwhelming odds against what happened next, it happened. Edman disproved a long-held theory: lightning can strike twice in the same place, as it did twice in the left-handed batter’s box at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Indiana. A day after Wayne Taylor snatched Stanford from the jaws of defeat, Edman did so in dramatic fashion.

Smack. Edman turned on an inside pitch, the first one he saw, and ripped it down the right field line. Surely it was going to drop in for a hit, it sounded good off the bat.

The ball kept sailing.

The eyes on the intent faces staring from the Stanford dugout grew just a little bit. Could this ball get over the head of the right fielder and bring Edman into scoring position, where he would represent the winning run?

The ball kept sailing.

The right fielder turned to give chase. Edman, running down the first base line, couldn’t take his eyes away from the ball and given his intent expression, he had to have been thinking the same thing that was now running through the minds of everyone watching.

The ball kept sailing.

The Stanford dugout was in shock. This could not be happening. Another long ball in the most opportune of moments? And from the freshman leadoff hitter?

The ball kept sailing.

The right fielder ran out of room to run and prepared to leap up on the fence. The beating hearts of the players in the Stanford dugout raced twice as fast. Then, all of a sudden, their hearts all skipped a beat.

The ball had sailed over the wall and into Stanford lore. The comeback Card struck again.

Pure jubilation erupted from the Stanford dugout and Stanford fans amid still a shocked feeling at what had just happened. Edman might have been the most shocked of them all, with his mouth gaping for just a moment as he ran between first and second base. The Indiana right fielder was draped over the wall, longingly looking at the baseball that sent Stanford through to the Super Regional. More happiness and excitement than is possible to describe huddled around home plate, waiting to greet the triumphant, unsuspecting hero as he made his way home. Parents of the players on the team stood on top of the dugout, pumping fists and screaming throughout an otherwise dreadfully silent stadium.

Tommy Edman had reinvigorated the magic of Stanford baseball, and in the process, had forever etched himself into the memories of Stanford baseball fans everywhere.

The two-run, walk-off home run to earn Stanford a berth in the Super Regionals and a trip to Vanderbilt likely ranks as one of the greatest moments in Stanford Athletics history, and it came from one of the guys you might not have expected to deliver it. If that doesn’t describe the magic behind this season for Stanford baseball, then I don’t know what will.

Now, Stanford faces Vanderbilt for a spot in the illustrious College World Series. Vanderbilt had better watch out, because there’s something special about this year’s version of the Card, and it doesn’t seem like that will be ending any time soon.

Michael Peterson is at least hoping that the magic lives on so that he can join the team in Omaha if the time comes. Direct him to any practitioners of witchcraft and/or sorcery that you know at mrpeters@stanford.edu or on Twitter @mpetes93.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.