By Michael Woo
Stanford baseball handed Nevada (7-1) its first loss of the season in dramatic fashion Tuesday night, getting to .500 after a walk-off hit from none other than freshman first baseman Matt Winaker.
The Cardinal (4-4) had been clawing its way back all game from an early deficit and finally had its opportunity to not only take the lead, but win the game, in the bottom of the ninth. Winaker stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second, and said he was both “excited and focused” for the opportunity. Having struck out against Nevada reliever Cameron Rowland several innings earlier, Winaker knew what to expect this time around. He drove a hanging curveball deep down the right-field line, pushing across junior Jonny Locher as the go-ahead run in the 6-5 Stanford win.
Winaker, who went 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs on the day, continued a hot start to his collegiate career. He’s hit safely in seven of the Cardinal’s first eight games, and is now hitting .357/.400/.750 on the young season.
Nevada had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, scoring in both the first and third innings. In the fourth inning, Stanford finally got on the board, pushing two runs across to tie the game. Winaker continued his hot start to the season with a triple to right-center, driving in third baseman Beau Branton. Freshmen Quinn Brodey, the next batter up, drove in Winaker with a weak ground ball to the shortstop to tie the game at two.
Nevada however, took advantage of a Stanford pitching change the following inning and quickly regained the lead. Stanford reliever Chris Viall allowed a two-run homer to Nevada’s power-hitting second baseman, Ryan Howell, which made the game 5-2. The sophomore Viall settled down nicely after the fifth inning, which enabled the Cardinal to climb back into the game.
Nevada reliever Michael Fain entered the game with runners on first and third in the sixth inning, but failed to stop the bleeding, as he allowed consecutive singles to freshman Jesse Kuet and sophomore Alex Dunlap, which knotted the game up at five.
In the bottom of the seventh, Stanford squandered a pair of golden opportunities to take their first lead of the game, but managed to push across the winning run in the ninth with Winaker’s walk-off double.
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) February 25, 2015
The Cardinal started four freshmen in the game, and head coach Mark Marquess was happy to give the players some valuable experience. He said after the game, “Any time you can win and play those freshman, we’ll take it.”
Stanford now travels to Houston to take on Rice for a four-game set that begins on Friday night.
Contact Michael Woo at mtwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.