There are certain moments that simply cannot be described with words.
Stanford baseball was down to the final two outs of its season late Monday night, five hours and 50 minutes after the first pitch against the Indiana Hoosiers thanks to a rain delay that lasted nearly three hours. Freshman Tommy Edman stepped up to the left-handed batter’s box with sophomore Drew Jackson on second for a possible tying run as the Cardinal trailed 4-3.
On the first pitch he saw from sophomore reliever Scott Effross, Edman took the most important swing of his life, turning on an 86-mph inside fastball and depositing it over the right-field fence. The walk-off homer unleashed the Cardinal bench into a frenzy at home plate, while Indiana’s junior catcher Kyle Schwarber froze in a crouch in front of the celebration and senior right fielder Will Nolden hung from the fence in disbelief.
It was the San Diego, California native’s first homer from the left side of the plate in his life, he said after the game, and it secured a 5-4 victory for No. 3 Stanford (34-24) over No. 1 Indiana (44-15) in the final game of the NCAA Bloomington Regional and a ticket to Nashville, Tennessee to face Vanderbilt in a Super Regional.
“That at-bat, I was just trying to get on base to be honest. Home run was the last thing I expected,” Edman said. “I expected the first pitch to be a good pitch to hit because I knew he didn’t want to get behind with a runner on second base. I justwent up there, trying to be kind of aggressive, trying to take a good swing at a good pitch to hit, and got one right there.”
“[Realizing that it was a walk-off] took us a second because I think our lead-off hitter just hit a home run,” said freshman pitcher Cal Quantrill. “It was wild. It was incredible. Got us the win — wow. I’m at a loss for words. It was incredible.”
Edman was named the Bloomington Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after the game for his offensive performance — a .417 batting average (10-for-24) with four RBIs and six runs scored — as well as his steady defense at shortstop, which included a diving stop to start a 6-4-3 double play in the seventh inning on Sunday to keep the Cardinal within striking distance.
The shortstop’s ninth-inning heroics were just the culmination of a long list of strong performances that kept Stanford in the game against an Indiana team that prior to this Sunday had gone 39-0 when leading after seven innings.
Sophomore Logan James got the start for the second consecutive game, looking for redemption after allowing four runs over 1.2 innings on Sunday against the Hoosiers. But it was a similar story on Monday, as James lasted just two-plus innings and was charged for Indiana’s first two runs of the game. The sophomore retired the side in order in the first, but he surrendered a run in the second after two walks and a single, and was relieved after walking the leadoff man in the third.
Sophomore Marcus Brakeman was the Cardinal’s unsung hero of the game, as he allowed just one run over 4.2 innings in relief in his second-longest outing of the season — he threw 5.2 scoreless innings on April 23 against Saint Mary’s. Despite a two-hour, 51-minute rain delay in the middle of the third inning, Brakeman waited it out and then held the Hoosiers scoreless from the fourth to the seventh innings.
“I was very pleased with Marcus Brakeman, who came back and really surprised us to come back after the rain delay and pitch three or four really strong innings,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “They are a great team and they are tough to stop.”
After Indiana scored two in the third to jump out to a 3-0 lead, Stanford answered in the bottom half of the inning. The Cardinal’s first two hitters reached base in the frame, as Edman led off with a single and senior Danny Diekroeger was hit by a pitch. RBI singles from senior Alex Blandino, who hit .368 (7-for-19) with five RBIs in the regional, and sophomore Zach Hoffpauir narrowed the gap to 3-2.
From there, Stanford was held scoreless until the sixth by Indiana sophomore sidewinder Thomas Belcher. The Hoosiers reliever matched Brakeman frame by frame, allowing just one run over 4.2 innings, also waiting out the rain delay in between. But in the sixth, a coaching decision from Marquess paid big dividends for the Cardinal.
For the second consecutive game, the head coach pinch hit for freshman left fielder Jack Klein — on Sunday, junior Wayne Taylor slammed a three-run homer to give Stanford a 7-6 lead that they held on to for the win. On Monday, junior Dominic Jose was given the pinch-hit duty and did not disappoint. On a 2-1 count, Jose launched a homer to right field. Jose incited boos from the crowd at Bart Kaufman Field by kissing his biceps while crossing home plate. The blast tied the game at 3-3 and kept the Cardinal’s Super Regional hopes alive.
Freshman Cal Quantrill took over in relief in the seventh, just three days after his one-run, complete game effort against Indiana State. The Canadian, who is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA (3 ER/32.2 IP) and a 8.5 K/9 rate over his last four starts, petitioned Marquess to start before Monday’s game but was turned down.
“Coach and I have a good working relationship. We talked about it. We knew what I had left. I was begging to start, but they probably did the right thing waiting on that,” Quantrill said.
“Cal wanted to pitch. He wanted to start. I said, ‘You’re not going to start; if we have a chance to win it late and you feel good,’” Marquess said. “And he knows his arm. So I was real proud of him.”
Quantrill threw 2.1 innings in relief and earned the Regional-clinching win after the Edman homer and allowed one run — unearned — on four hits. The lone run came with two outs in the top of the eighth, after an error by Blandino followed by back-to-back singles plated the go-ahead run.
But the walk-off homer sent the Cardinal surging into Tennessee as confident as they have been all season after a rough first half in which they started 11-16 before they finished strong against a weaker schedule. Though Vanderbilt swept Stanford in their house at the beginning of March, the 4-1, 5-1 and 4-2 final scores of that series should give the Cardinal some more confidence entering the best-of-three tourney on Friday.
“The year has been really special because we’ve really struggled. We were under .500 for over half the year with a lot of young pitching, especially, and some older position players,” Marquess said. “[I’m] proud of everybody, because it’s been a difficult year for us…And the way we did it, it’s very difficult to win a Regional when you lose one of those first two games and then have a long day. We were just going to try to mix-and-match and try to get enough pitching to get by. So it’s a very special moment in our baseball program.”
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.
As seen on social media:
Tommy Edman! Walk-off! We’re headed to Nashville! pic.twitter.com/QJ4GKH2GPj
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) June 3, 2014
Take us all the way to Nashville, Tommy Edman! pic.twitter.com/tNRpaREcHB
— Stanford Daily Sport (@StanfordSports) June 3, 2014
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) June 3, 2014
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) June 3, 2014
— Cal Quantrill (@cal_quantrill47) June 3, 2014