There was a little bit of everything on Stanford baseball’s first road trip of the season — an extra-innings thriller, a comeback attempt falling just short and a few blowouts — but when all the dust cleared in Austin, the Cardinal (5-3) emerged from a four-game road series against No. 23 Texas (4-3) with a hard-earned series split thanks to a pair of stellar pitching performances in the first and last games of the series.
Thursday saw Stanford claim a hard-fought 1-0 victory in 12 innings after Mikey Diekroeger finally broke through in the 12th with an RBI fielder’s choice to give the Cardinal the victory. Although Stanford’s starters — Tristan Beck and Chris Castellanos — struggled in 4-3 and 9-0 losses on Friday and Saturday, a hitting resurgence on Sunday cleared the way for a Stanford demolition derby as the Cardinal evened the series with an 11-1 win to leave Austin with the split in hand.
With the bats largely falling quiet through the first three games of the series, it was Stanford’s pitching that held up most of the burden through those games — with varying degrees of success.
While freshman Kris Bubic impressed in his first career start on Thursday with his 7 strikeouts through 4.1 innings of shutout ball, the true hero on the mound was sophomore reliever Colton Hock, who gave the Cardinal a stunning 5.2 shutout innings of relief during the 12-inning marathon, striking out 8 and allowing just 3 hits to pave the way for Stanford’s ultimate game-winning rally punctuated by Diekroeger’s groundout in the top of the 12th.
The efforts of Hock and junior Chris Viall, who pitched hitless 11th and 12th innings to earn the win, simply can’t be understated — especially not on the road facing a ranked team amidst a vocal pro-Texas crowd, one of the biggest home-field advantages in college baseball.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, that success didn’t carry through to their next two games, as a pair of solid starts were spoiled by just two big innings from the Texas offense.
Although Beck had been pitching well through his first two innings on Friday, the freshman found himself in trouble after a walk and a hit-by-pitch put runners on with nobody out — trouble that was compounded by a throwing error on a bunt by Diekroeger at third base for Beck’s first run given up of the season. A fielder’s choice, a passed ball and an RBI single plated three more, ending Beck’s outing after just 3.0 innings and 65 pitches.
Sophomore Keith Weisenberg did a tremendous job in relief, keeping the game close with 4.2 shutout innings and 7 strikeouts while Stanford’s hitters tried to chip away at Texas starter Kyle Johnston, but despite a pair of RBIs from freshman Nico Hoerner and a prime opportunity in the eighth with runners on first and second and one out, Stanford only plated one more run and went down quietly in the ninth to seal the tough 4-3 defeat and hand Beck the first loss of his collegiate career.
Saturday was particularly ugly: Not only was Stanford no-hit through the first six innings by Texas lefty Ty Culbreth, but Castellanos, Stanford’s own lefty, labored through a tough fourth inning in which Texas batted around and plated 6 runs on 5 hits to put the game out of reach in a hurry. In the end, Texas outhit the Cardinal 13-2 and outscored the Farm Boys 9-0 in a blowout win that put Stanford on the cusp of a tough series loss.
However, Stanford bounced back on Sunday in a big way against Texas righty Connor Mayes and company, as seven of Stanford’s nine starters pounded out multiple hits and the Cardinal also rode multi-RBI days from Diekroeger, first baseman Matt Winaker and outfielder Jonny Locher to a blowout win to salvage the series.
The Cardinal jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first, when a pair of walks and a single loaded the bases for Winaker, who drove home two with his second hit of the series, a solid single into right. A balk by Mayes plated another run, and with a 10-inning scoreless streak finally snapped, the Cardinal’s frustrated bats were far from done.
Sophomore catcher Bryce Carter drove home his first run of the season with a single in the sixth before a double from Tommy Edman into the left-center field gap made it 5-1 Stanford. Carter later again singled in the eighth to drive in a run — compounded by a wild throw from second baseman Joe Baker — and the ensuing two-run double from Diekroeger just piled on.
Locher’s second home run of the season, a three-run shot with no outs in the ninth, was icing on the cake as Texas never so much as threatened Stanford’s lead thanks to 6.1 solid innings from junior Brett Hanewich, who struck out 4 and allowed just 1 run en route to his second victory of the season.
Diekroeger led the way for Stanford over the weekend with 4 RBIs, while Hoerner continued his fantastic start at the plate with 4 more hits to bring his team-leading season total to 10. Freshman Brandon Wulff also notched his first two career hits with his 2-for-3 performance on Sunday before being lifted for Locher.
Stanford will next return home for a Tuesday midweek matchup against Saint Mary’s at 5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond before it hosts No. 3 Vanderbilt for a three-game set next weekend.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.