Stanford’s baseball team had a tall task ahead of it this past weekend as it traveled to Seattle to take on the conference-leading No. 9 Washington Huskies (24-7-1, 12-3 Pac-12). It was the Cardinal’s (12-16, 3-8) sixth ranked opponent of the season — continuing one of the country’s most difficult schedules — with the Huskies entering the three-game set with a near-perfect 10-1 record at home.
Ultimately, the team’s prolonged lack of opportune offense as well as a couple of regressing starts by its freshmen plagued Stanford in the series, as the team dropped the first two games 6-1 and 7-2 before salvaging Sunday’s finale, 6-3. It was the first time since 2010 that the Cardinal dropped a series to Washington.
Almost everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Cardinal did on Friday and everything went wrong on Saturday. While the offense left 18 combined runners on base and hit just .133 (2-for-15) with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, freshman starting pitchers Brett Hanewich and Cal Quantrill had among their worst outings of the season.
Hanewich allowed a season-high five runs and eight hits over 5.1 innings on Friday, including four runs in the second inning. Quantrill was hit hard on Saturday, surrendering a season-high 11 hits and allowing five runs — the most he’s given up since allowing six in his Feb. 21 start at Texas — over 5.2 innings.
Still, the offense didn’t do the pitching any favors. The saying, “when it rains, it pours” couldn’t fit the Stanford offense any better, but an important caveat for the team would be that when it doesn’t rain, there’s a drought. In Stanford’s 12 wins this season, the offense has hit .289 and averaged 6.8 runs per game. But in its 16 losses, the offense has hit .214 with a measly 1.6 runs per game average, clearly illustrating that a vast majority of the team’s runs have come in its blowout wins.
Junior John Hochstatter got the start and the win on Sunday afternoon, ending the team’s streak of starting 27 consecutive freshman pitchers to begin its season. Hochstatter, who went 3-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 2013 as the Cardinal’s customary Saturday starter, overtook freshman Chris Viall’s spot in the starting rotation after throwing 6.2 scoreless innings in his relief last Sunday at Oregon State.
Almost a year to the day of his only career complete game, which also happened to be against Washington, Hochstatter likely further cemented his role as a starter moving forward. He earned the win after allowing just three runs over seven innings and striking out seven.
“Hochstatter pitched another great game for us. He pitched great in relief last week at Oregon State and also at the Oregon game, so we started him today and he gave us some good innings,” said head coach Mark Marquess.
Before he even reached the mound, he was treated to a 4-0 cushion, as the Cardinal offense exploded against Washington starter junior Jeff Brigham in the first inning. The Stanford hitters came out with an aggressive approach, attacking early in the count, and as a result, each of the team’s first four hits came on the first pitches of at-bats. Junior Austin Slater’s two-run single and senior Brant Whiting’s two-run double provided the scoring in the inning.
Stanford added two runs in the third inning to extend its lead to 6-0, which it did not relinquish for the rest of the game.
“To get six runs in the first three innings was good,” Marquess said. “It was a good win for us. We’ve been struggling with getting guys in so we finally scored some runs.”
Sophomore two-sport athlete Zach Hoffpauir has excelled at the plate of late, as he has tallied seven multi-hit performances over the last 10 games and has brought his season batting average up to .297. He is also slugging .484 on the season, second on the team behind junior Alex Blandino.
Senior A.J. Vanegas relieved Hochstatter in the eighth and threw two scoreless innings to close out the game and earn a save. Since working his way back from a back injury and making his 2014 debut 10 games into the season, Vanegas has been lights-out out of the bullpen, having yet to allow an earned run over 16 innings in eight appearances in which he has struck out 12.
Stanford now heads home for a two-week stretch in the Bay Area, during which it will host seven of its next eight games at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal have a quick turnaround and not a lot of rest this week, as they are set to play St. Mary’s on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. before welcoming Arizona State for a three-game set starting Thursday.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.