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Bullpen falters as Stanford suffers sweep to ASU

Junior catcher Alex Dunlap (above) stayed hot during the series sweep to ASU, knocking five hits and driving in three to raise his batting average to a team-leading .337. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Once again, the Cardinal found some magic in the ninth inning – but this time, they couldn’t close it out.

Arizona State second baseman Andrew Snow bobbled a routine grounder to second in the bottom of the ninth with two outs to allow pinch-runner Alec Wilson to score and tie the game at 7-7 in Sunday’s series finale.

However, sophomore Colton Hock couldn’t hold the lead in the 10th inning, giving up the decisive go-ahead home run to Brian Serven to push the Sun Devils (23-14, 9-9 Pac-12) to a sweep of the Cardinal (19-15, 7-8) at Sunken Diamond over the weekend. After a 3-2 win in a pitchers’ duel on Friday, ASU outslugged Stanford in 9-6 and 8-7 wins on Saturday and Sunday to head back to Tempe with the series sweep in hand.

Simply put: Stanford’s pitchers had a wickedly tough time keeping the ball in the stadium. After allowing just seven home runs through the first 32 games of the season, Cardinal hurlers gave up five long balls on Saturday and Sunday as the best pitching staff in the conference couldn’t hold late leads despite ample run support from its offense.

The bright spots for the Cardinal over the weekend were freshman Tristan Beck, who turned in another solid start in a losing effort on Friday, and the continued hot hitting of catcher Alex Dunlap, the team’s batting leader at .337, who added five hits and three RBIs over the weekend at the plate.

Beck has now drawn the short end of the pitchers’ duel stick in his last two starts: Last weekend, he pitched well but lost due to a complete-game outing from Arizona’s Nathan Bannister, and again on Friday, he wasn’t bad but took another tough-luck loss thanks to a complete-game outing from ASU righty Seth Martinez, who allowed two earned runs in his 9.0 innings of work.

Beck was actually spotted an early 2-1 lead by his offense when an Edman RBI single in the third was followed by a Quinn Brodey sacrifice fly in the fourth. However, the wheels fell off in the seventh when he allowed three singles (with an RBI) before exiting. Hock allowed the go-ahead sacrifice fly off the bat of Snow to spot the Sun Devils a 3-2 lead that ended up as the final tally.

Saturday saw a back-and-forth affair in which the bats broke out but were undone by struggles out of the bullpen. Stanford took an early 2-1 lead on an Edman RBI double and a Nico Hoerner sacrifice fly. Though ASU retook the lead on a Snow two-run double in the fifth, Stanford’s bats answered with a three-spot in the sixth thanks to a home run by Brodey and RBI knocks by Austin Barr and Jonny Locher, putting Stanford up 5-3.

Working with a lead, lefty Chris Castellanos got hit hard in the seventh, as he allowed long home runs to two of his first three hitters of the inning to tie the game. Tyler Thorne didn’t fare too well out of the bullpen, allowing a walk and three hits as ASU pushed its lead to 8-5 with a five-run inning.

Stanford threatened again with a run in the eighth, but a popout and a flyout undid most of the damage as the Cardinal ultimately fell 9-6.

With sophomore lefty Andrew Summerville on the mound making his third start of the season in the finale, Stanford’s lineup flexed its own muscles with early home runs from Jack Klein and Dunlap as Stanford trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Stanford tagged ASU for three runs in the fifth on RBI knocks from Edman and Dunlap before Hock was hit for three more in the bottom in the seventh as the Sun Devils took a 7-6 lead. Hock was the pitcher of record in the game after throwing 90 pitches in a 5.1-inning appearance in relief of Summerville, who exited after 4.2 innings.

Hock’s relief set the stage for Snow’s blunder, and though Stanford couldn’t make anything of its new life in extra innings, the continued consistency of Hock in the face of escalating workloads is certainly something that the Cardinal can rely on moving forward.

Stanford will head to Santa Clara for a Tuesday night battle before heading up to Corvallis for a three-game set against Oregon State.

 

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

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