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Baseball continues to struggle in Pac-12 play

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This weekend, Stanford baseball experienced another first in program history.

Unfortunately for the Cardinal (11-17, 0-9 Pac-12), they were on the wrong side of history both times, as the Washington Huskies (18-12, 5-7 Pac-12) clinched a sweep of Stanford at Sunken Diamond for the first time in program history while suffocating Stanford’s bats all weekend.

This comes after Arizona also dealt Stanford the first home sweep by the Wildcats in program history in the team’s last home series.

This is also the team’s worst start in its 51-year history as part of the Pac-8/10/12 Conference, surpassing an 0-8 conference start in the 2007 season.

The level of frustration on the team looks to be close to hitting a tipping point — and who can really blame them when nothing has gone their way in over a month?

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Despite Stanford’s anemic offense this weekend, freshman Mikey Diekroeger was a bright spot, hitting 5-for-9. (MACIEK GUDRYMOVICZ/stanfordphoto.com)

“That’s the perfect word to describe it: frustrating,” said freshman third baseman Mikey Diekroeger. “We’ve lost nine Pac-12 games in a row. That’s the epitome of frustrating for us. We’ve just got to find a way to get a win any way we can. We’ve just got to come out and do it — not just talk about it, do it.”

Last weekend against Arizona State, it was the starting pitching that failed the Cardinal; this weekend, it was the bats. Diekroeger was the only Cardinal hitter to see any success whatsoever in the final two games of the series from the plate with a pair of two-hit performances.

In game two on Friday, the freshman had the Cardinal’s only two hits heading into the eighth inning. And in the series finale on Saturday, Diekroeger’s offense was quite literally it for the Cardinal — his two singles were the only offense whatsoever that the team put up.

The Cardinal put up a total of three runs in three games over the weekend.

“So number one, we’ve got to improve the offense — we didn’t do much with the bat,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “We’ve got to start with that. You can’t win if you can’t score, and we haven’t done a really good job of that. With the exception of a couple of innings last weekend where we got some hits, we need to improve that number one.”

The series started off innocuously enough on Friday, as Stanford actually held an early 2-1 lead in support of de facto ace Brett Hanewich, who pitched seven strong innings of four-run ball and struck out seven to tie a career-high.

However, the bats went quiet towards the end of the game, as a Diekroeger single in the sixth that started a bases-loaded, one-out rally in which Stanford couldn’t score was the final hit of the evening for the Cardinal. The 4-2 final score was the closest result of the weekend.

Friday’s game was over pretty much as soon as it began.

Sophomore Chris Viall couldn’t record a single out in his start and exited having allowed four earned runs, and junior Gabe Cramer was tagged for five more runs in just 1.1 innings of relief. By the time Keith Weisenberg was able to shut the door on the second inning, the Huskies were up 9-0 and the game was effectively over.

To rub salt in the Cardinal’s wound, Washington starter Tyler Davis was magnificent, pitching eight shutout innings of three-hit ball before Bobby Zarubin, Luke Pappas and Quinn Brodey mounted a mini-rally in the ninth to kill the shutout and make the final score 13-1.

And finally, Saturday turned out to be the most efficient Cardinal killing of the season, as Husky pitching needed just two hours and 34 minutes — the shortest game of Stanford’s season — to twirl a two-hit shutout.

Although the first inning lasted over 40 minutes thanks to three Logan James walks and a single and a hit by pitch on Stanford’s side, the rest of the game went by in a flash as Husky starter Ryan Schmitten, who entered the game with a five-plus ERA, mowed down the final 16 hitters he faced in order before exiting after six innings having allowed just one hit.

Brandon Choate and Troy Rallings were just as efficient and allowed just one more hit the rest of the way, and when the dust cleared, the Huskies had their first series win since 1997 at Stanford and their first sweep at Sunken in program history.

“We actually have to improve in all faces of the game,” Marquess said. “Our defense has been a little shaky, we’ve given up a few walks, and we really haven’t hit so we’re really not doing well in any phase of the game right now. We could improve in all areas, really.”

The lone bright spot this weekend apart from Diekroeger’s continued solid hitting was the performance of some of Stanford’s relievers, including solid relief appearances from Colton Hock, Weisenberg and Brodey along with a gutty 4.2-inning outing from sophomore Tyler Thorne on Saturday.

The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Stanford. After a home-and-home against Pacific on Monday and Tuesday, Stanford will hit the road for a three-game set against Cal, which is having a great season and sports a 21-9 record.

Until then, time is running out for Stanford to find some answers.

“I don’t even know [how we can fix this],” Diekroeger said. “Just play. Believe it. It’s easy in baseball to get into a slump and stay in a slump, both personally and team-wise, but we’ve just got to believe. We have to come out there and believe that we’re going to turn it around and we will.”

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is now the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily. He's also a Bay Area-based freelance sportswriter. He previously covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season. He covered the 2016 Minnesota Twins for MLB.com and has also contributed to The Bootleg and SI's (now defunct) Campus Rush. Hire him at dpark0027 'at' gmail.com or send him snarky Tweets @dohyoungpark.