By Michael Woo
Stanford baseball (21-28, 7-17 Pac-12) dropped two out of three games this weekend against No. 14 USC (34-16) in a series that highlighted dominant pitching on both sides.
Runs were hard to come by for the Stanford offense, which only managed to push three runners across the plate over the entire series. The Cardinal remained competitive in all three contests, however, thanks to strong outings from their starting rotation.
“It was definitely good to see that we were able to have a very competitive series against a top-25 team despite our offense performing very poorly,” said sophomore second baseman Tommy Edman. “Our pitchers all really did a good job of keeping us in every game.”
Stanford dropped the series opener 1-0, but bounced back the following day with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. All 3 runs came in the eighth inning and seemed to send the Cardinal into game three trending in a positive direction.
Nevertheless, the Stanford offense once again fell flat in the closing game and suffered another shutout loss, 2-0.
USC took game one of the series Friday night via an A.J. Ramirez home run in the bottom of the third inning. The solo shot, Ramirez’s eighth of the season, was the lone run of the night for the Trojans, but it proved to be enough to secure them the win.
Stanford starter sophomore Brett Hanewich turned in a typically strong outing, surrendering only 1 run in 6 innings of work. Hanewich was outdueled, however, by USC starter Kyle Davis. Davis held the Stanford offense in check all night and only allowed 6 hits, 3 of which came from Edman. Davis picked up his second win of the season in the complete game shutout, striking out 10 batters along the way.
It was not until the ninth inning that the Cardinal advanced a runner to third base. Edman and junior Zach Hoffpauir both singled to start the inning, but were eventually stranded when sophomore catcher Alex Dunlap struck out to end the game with the bases loaded.
In game two, the Cardinal were once again at risk of being shut out, but managed to score 3 in the eighth to complete the comeback win.
The Stanford offense was stymied by another strong pitching performance from a USC starter, this time Kyle Twomey, who tossed 6 shutout innings. Stanford starter junior Marc Brakeman kept the Cardinal close, however, allowing just 2 runs in 6 innings of his own.
“The USC pitchers did a good job of making us swing at their pitches that may not have been good pitches to hit,” Edman said. “We ended up getting ourselves out a lot.”
Entering the top of the eighth, Stanford had been held scoreless for 26 straight innings, but finally broke out of their slump when it mattered most. Junior shortstop Drew Jackson led off the inning with a single to left field and, after freshman Beau Branton struck out swinging, USC relievers walked the next three batters to bring in Stanford’s first run of the series.
Trailing 2-1, junior designated hitter Austin Barr stepped up to the plate and drove a first-pitch fastball to right field, driving in Edman and Hoffpauir and pushing the Cardinal out ahead 3-2.
Asked about the importance of finally getting on the scoreboard, Barr said, “Sometimes as a team, you just have to break the seal and push one across.”
Stanford reliever sophomore Tyler Thorne, who came on in the seventh inning, closed out the game without surrendering a run or allowing a hit, protecting the Cardinal lead and picking up the win.
Despite the dramatic come-from-behind win in game two, Stanford failed to carry over their momentum into the closing game.
The rubber match of the series featured another pitchers’ duel in which the Cardinal fell short. Stanford starter Chris Castellanos allowed only 1 run, but left the game with his team trailing 1-0 after 6 innings.
After escaping the first three innings unscathed, Castellanos allowed 2 doubles in the fourth to concede his only run.
The lead proved to give enough breathing room for USC starter Mitch Hart, who threw a complete-game shutout, USC’s second of the series. The shutout was Stanford’s third game out of its last four in which it was held scoreless. Edman managed another multi-hit game, but the Cardinal received minimal production from the rest of the lineup, with only three batters landing a hit.
“As far as the offense goes, we just need to try to stay within ourselves and not try to do too much at the plate,” Edman said.
Stanford baseball’s next game is Tuesday night against San Francisco. First pitch is at 5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.
Contact Michael Woo at mtwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.