Bottom of the ninth. One out. Stanford is down 4-3 in the deciding game of the NCAA Bloomington Regional. Runner on second. Tommy Edman up to bat.
“I had my swings really locked in. So in that moment, I definitely felt really confident going up lefty.”
Edman, a light-hitting freshman, has been Stanford’s leadoff hitter all season. Although the switch-hitter has two homers, both have come from the right side of the plate.
“I hadn’t really hit for power much at all lefty up till that point in the season. That was pretty much the best all year that I felt from that side. I was just seeing everything really well.”
Indiana closer Scott Effross is on the mound. Effross hasn’t given up a ninth-inning Indiana lead all season. His battery-mate, Kyle Schwarber, is a future top-five MLB Draft pick and had jacked a monster two-run homer to right-center earlier in the game.
“I went up there feeling like he probably wouldn’t want to fall behind first pitch. Obviously if he fell behind, he would have to groove one over the plate. So I figured he would try to get ahead early.”
Effross winds and delivers. Edman begins his swing.
“You never really think that you’re going to swing first pitch no matter what, but I definitely had the approach that I was going to be aggressive in the at-bat.”
Edman makes contact. Good contact. With a momentous crack, the ball shoots out into deep right. Right fielder Will Nolden gives chase. In a futile attempt, he scales the wall. The ball floats over his head and lands with a thud amidst the stunned silence of Bart Kaufman field.
“I honestly don’t really remember what I was thinking as I hit it and rounded the bases. It was just totally a blur.”
Tommy Edman! Walk-off! We’re headed to Nashville! pic.twitter.com/QJ4GKH2GPj
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) June 3, 2014
One of the most iconic images of the 2014 NCAA baseball season was that of Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber crouched in front of home plate with his head in his hands as a delirious Stanford team celebrated at home plate in the background.
With that in mind, No. 22 Stanford is probably the last team that Indiana wants to see to open up the 2015 season after the Cardinal so ceremoniously ended their season of destiny last year.
It gets better, though: This afternoon’s starter for the Hoosiers, junior righty Scott Effross, was actually the pitcher that gave up that fateful blast to Edman on June 2. And in a further twist of fate, Edman is still Stanford’s leadoff hitter — meaning that he’ll be the first man up against Effross. If this isn’t fate, well, what is?
Edman is one of two big time freshmen from last season that will be looking to emerge as more clear-cut leaders on Stanford’s team this year — the other being today’s starter, Cal Quantrill, who also played a significant role in that dramatic win.
“I know Cal and I were just happy to get a chance to play early on in the season,” Edman reflected. “I know that the whole fall and winter leading up to that, pretty much just trying to win a spot and get into the lineup. It was crazy to think about.
“If you told me that as a senior in high school or going into college that I would hit the walk-off home run in the regional, that would just be crazy. It would blow my mind.”
If you watch the video of that walk-off closely enough, you can see the then-freshman Quantrill, the winning pitcher of that dramatic game three, late to the frenzy at home plate, throwing a sheaf of papers high into the chilly Indiana night as he bull-rushed the growing pile.
Quantrill, the unquestioned ace of the staff, had actually wanted to start that fateful game, but head coach Mark Marquess and pitching coach Rusty Filter wouldn’t let him. Instead, he entered in late relief and gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth inning before Edman bailed him out and cemented the two of them into Stanford’s history books.
“I was fighting to start, I really wanted to,” Quantrill said. “Luckily, Nine [head coach Mark Marquess] and [pitching coach Rusty Filter] are a little smarter than I was.”
There isn’t going to be any doubt that Quantrill will start this time around, though. For as good as the big Canadian righty was last season, he’s had a full offseason to prepare, and the unanimous preseason second-team All-American is expected to be a steadfast presence atop the rotation all season long.
While most of his team-leading 98 strikeouts — double the second-highest total on the team — over his freshman season came on his devastating changeup, he’s improved his third pitch — a slider — and added a fourth — a curveball. All in all, bad news for the Hoosier hitters on Friday and the conference foes that will face him throughout the season.
“I still don’t necessarily think you need a fourth pitch, but it can be an effective tool come your second, third and fourth times through the lineup,” Quantrill said. “Over the summer, I really was able to not perfect the pitch — by no means is it where it needs to be — but at least get some use out of it. It’s hard: When the only goal of the game is to win, sometimes you get away from the whole getting-better thing.”
The duo of Edman and Quantrill, who are both still only sophomores, leads the Cardinal roster that has certainly provoked more questions than answers. While 100 percent of the team’s innings pitched return in 2015, first-time starters will consist a majority of the Opening Day lineup.
Still, as with the 2014 season, new faces will step up and Stanford will look to find production from unexpected sources. That search starts against Indiana this weekend, which seeks to avenge the Cardinal’s walk-off win in the Hoosiers’ own building in last year’s regional.
“I’d be hesitant to call it this newfound rivalry: We’re very far away, we don’t necessarily match up well,” Quantrill said. “But I think there’s a little bit more on the line this weekend, right? There’s probably some hard feelings on their end. They were a great team, great competitors, and that was a lot of fun.”
First pitch of the season from Sunken Diamond is set for 3 p.m. Friday. The series continues at 6 p.m. on Saturday and rounds out with a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee. The first two games will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu and Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.