By Joseph Beyda
After a fortuitous, weather-induced day off gave the No. 6 Stanford baseball team some much-needed rest, the Cardinal beat Pacific 8-3 at home last night and put away the Tigers in a midweek matchup for the second time this season.
Redshirt sophomore lefthander Garrett Hughes pitched five brilliant innings for his first career win, and Stanford (21-8, 4-5 Pac-12) got more consistent production from its top six batters to control the action at Sunken Diamond from start to finish. Junior leftfielder Tyler Gaffney stole two bases while junior second baseman Kenny Diekroeger had one of his best games of the year, recording three extra-base hits.
The Cardinal would have played 13 games in 17 days had rain not delayed the contest with the Tigers, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday. Instead, Stanford came in fresh and jumped on Pacific (10-21, 0-3 Big West) early and often to secure its third straight win.
“This is the kind of team we know we are,” Diekroeger said of the Cardinal’s 27 runs in two games. “It’s definitely good news to just know that we’re back to the old ways.”
For Hughes (1-0), a former high-school All-American who missed all of 2011 with an injury and got his first career start against these same Pacific Tigers over two years ago, the win felt validating after two years of frustration.
“It’s a great feeling to get out there and pitch again,” he said. “I went out there with a lot more confidence today than I did two years ago, as a freshman, and I’m excited going forward.”
Stanford got on the board with a sacrifice fly from junior centerfielder Jake Stewart in the bottom of the second, and made it 3-0 with a two-out rally in the third. With Gaffney on second after being hit by a pitch and stealing second, junior third baseman Stephen Piscotty doubled him home and later came around to score on a single by sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira.
Hughes cruised through the first three innings and looked poised to get out of a fourth-inning jam when he snagged a one-out, comeback chopper. The redshirt sophomore couldn’t convert the double play, however, overthrowing second to bring home an unearned run.
He added two more innings of solid work before departing, giving up only four hits.
“You could just tell that he was pitching with something to prove out there,” said Diekroeger, Hughes’ roommate. “You could really tell that he was giving it his all, and that’s what we really need from our guys on the mound.”
Stanford quickly got that run back in the bottom of the fourth, as junior catcher Eric Smith and Diekroeger led off with a single and a double. Shortstop Lonnie Kauppila brought them both around to score on a double of his own — just the fifth of the season for the sophomore — and came home on a Gaffney single later in the frame, making it 6-1.
Diekroeger launched his second homer of the year deep over the left-field fence to add another tally in the fifth.
Pacific narrowed the margin by two runs in the sixth off sophomore righty Sam Lindquist, but an error and a wild pitch by the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh got Stanford an 8-3 lead that the Cardinal would hold. Diekroeger also added his second double of the night in the seventh, making for a team-leading 12 two-baggers on the season.
“I’m just trying to see the ball well and put a good swing on it,” Diekroeger said of his 3-for-3 performance. “Sometimes you hit the ball hard three times and go 0-for-3.”
Stanford will now prepare to host No. 16 Oregon in a three-game series this weekend, with the opener starting Friday at 5:30 p.m.