After a rainy forecast forced a preemptive Thursday doubleheader, Stanford baseball (7-5) took on defending College World Series runner-up No. 2 Vanderbilt (10-1), splitting Thursday’s games before falling 5-2 in the rubber match on Sunday. Strong pitching kept the Cardinal in the games against the nation’s best offense, but Stanford’s bats could not keep up.
The Cardinal kicked off the series with a decisive 4-1 win on Thursday afternoon, handing Vanderbilt its first loss of the season. After a rough start against then-No. 23 Texas last weekend, Tristan Beck seemed to find his rhythm again. The freshman pitched a tremendous 5.0 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 5 and walking only 1 batter to limit a Vanderbilt lineup that hadn’t scored fewer than 6 runs in a game all season and had eclipsed 10 runs in four of its eight games before coming to The Farm.
Meanwhile, Stanford’s hitters never let Vanderbilt ace Jordan Sheffield get comfortable, as Stanford got its leadoff hitter on base in four of Sheffield’s five innings of work, keeping him in the stretch and never letting him find a rhythm. The Cardinal had at least one baserunner in all eight innings and scored in each of the first three innings.
Junior Tommy Edman opened up scoring in the first inning. After leading off with a single, Edman advanced to third base on a missed catch error by Vanderbilt left fielder Ro Coleman, and a sacrifice fly from sophomore Quinn Brodey sent him home. The second inning began with another leadoff single, this time from sophomore Matt Winaker. He took second on a wild pitch and scored on a single down the right-field line by freshman Brandon Wulff.
Sophomore Mikey Diekroeger followed his teammates’ lead and sent a leadoff single to center in the bottom of the third. Back-to-back singles from Brodey and hot-hitting freshman Nico Hoerner plated Diekroger, and Stanford entered the fourth inning with a convincing 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Beck held the Commodores scoreless through three, allowing only one hit. Vanderbilt plated a runner with two outs in the fourth on an RBI single from junior catcher Jason Delay, but Beck forced a pop-up to end the inning with no further damage.
Diekroeger scored another run for the Cardinal in the seventh inning for insurance, but none was needed, as reliever Colton Hock completed another shut-down performance, garnering his second save of the season while allowing no runs on 2 hits and 3 walks over 4.0 innings to continue the dominance that helped him earn Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors last week.
“Playing a team like Vanderbilt that has recently had so much success is always kind of a daunting task,” Beck said. “[Pitching coach Rusty] Filter really preaches that no matter who you’re playing or what you’re doing, if you make your pitch, you’ll have success. So I just focused on what I could do to put the team in a good position, and it went well for us.”
Stanford struggled with runners in scoring position in the nightcap, stranding 6 men on base — including 5 in the sixth and seventh innings alone – before falling to Vanderbilt 4-1.
Commodore left-handed starter Ben Bowden was dominant – he allowed just 1 unearned run in 5.0 innings and, except for a walk and a single from Hoerner, kept the Cardinal off of the basepaths while he was on the mound. The offense never materialized, and Stanford managed just 2 hits in the loss.
For his part, left-handed pitcher Kris Bubic threw 5.0 strong innings for the Cardinal, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) while tying his season-high with 7 strikeouts. After the Commodores plated 2 runners in the top of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead, junior reliever Tyler Thorne took the mound with the bases loaded and escaped the inning unscathed.
Stanford had a shot at a late-inning rally, but its attempts came up short. A double play cut down the Cardinal’s advances in the sixth, and an uncharacteristic strikeout from Edman left the bases loaded in the seventh. Vanderbilt tacked on an unearned run in the top of the ninth, and the Cardinal failed to answer, allowing the Commodores to come away with the win.
Apparently El Niño is a baseball fan, because the rain stopped just long enough for a brisk Sunday afternoon in the ballpark.
Vanderbilt opened up scoring in the second with a pair of runs, while Commodore starter Kyle Wright allowed only one hit in his first four innings.
Cardinal right-handed starter Brett Hanewich put up a solid four innings but struggled in the top of the fifth, allowing two runners to reach base on a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Vanderbilt took advantage, hitting a double and consecutive singles to plate three runners and claim a commanding 5-0 lead. In his first relief appearance this season, junior lefty Chris Castellanos replaced Hanewich to get out of the inning and finish out the ballgame.
Stanford scored its only runs in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of doubles from junior center fielder Jack Klein and sophomore catcher Bryce Carter. Despite getting two men on base in the sixth and one in both the eighth and ninth innings, the Cardinal never managed to score.
Castellanos would end his day with 4.1 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball, but the Stanford offense failed to capitalize with runners on base, handing Vanderbilt the game and the series.
Stanford now heads into a two-week break for finals before hosting Kansas in late March in its last non-conference series. Last year, the team floundered out of the break, dropping six of its next seven games, but the schedule is a bit more favorable this season.
“We’re fortunate this year that when we come out of finals we’re not in league [play],” said head coach Mark Marquess. “Normally we’re in league, but we have a week where we play the University of Kansas and then we go into league, so that way it’s a little bit better.”
Stanford will return to Sunken Diamond to host Kansas March 18-20.
Contact Olivia Hummer at ohummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.