By Jose Saldana
Junior pitcher Tristan Beck missed all of the 2017 season after leading the team in ERA (2.48) as a freshman. Beck certainly didn’t look like a guy who hasn’t played in 20 months on today’s Opening Day.
No. 13 Stanford baseball (1-0) gets the 5-1 win against No. 17 Cal State Fullerton (0-1) on the strength of Beck’s pitching, defense and junior shortstop Nico Hoerner’s offense on a cold Friday night at Sunken Diamond.
Beck finished with one earned run in six innings and five strikeouts.
“[Beck] can get you out with all four pitches,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “He can get you out with the fastball, changeup, slider and curve, so that what’s makes him a quality pitcher and makes him tough to plan for.”
Beck had his off-speed going early, with three strikeouts in the first three innings, and his fastball maxed out around 92. He faltered in the 6th inning, but made it out only a little bit scathed.
Hoerner was spectacular on offense going 3-for-4, two runs, one RBI and one walk. His ability to come through on offense made Cal State Fullerton starting pitcher Colton Eastman work. However, the offense was a balance effort on the base paths, as well.
“I think we got a deceptively athletic team,” Hoerner said. “Guys from all positions are getting us in better positions to score runs, and I think over the course of 54 games we will create more runs that way.”
The Titans pitching was erratic with six wild pitches in total.
The Cardinal defense was excellent at times. Kyle Stowers made two incredible grabs, and sophomore catcher Maverick Handley robbed a base runner of a steal.
The bullpen was a question mark heading into the game. Colton Hock ‘17 and Tyler Thorne ‘17 were both great relief pitchers for Stanford last season but are now in the minor leagues. However, for one game at least, the bullpen appeared stable.
“I have a lot of confidence in [Zach] Grech, in his ability to just be different from throwing down below,” Coach Esquer said. “I think as he gets more comfortable out there just knowing that he’s going to get an opportunity, you are going to see that ball sink and a lot of ground balls.”
Sophomore Jack Little was the other pitcher coming out in the 8th and 9th innings, blanking the Titans.
“Little was outstanding,” Coach Esquer praised. “He’s been one of our best three pitchers coming out of the fall, and that’s kind of what you want out of your pen.”
Junior second baseman Duke Kinamon was a late scratch which forced a bevy of lineup changes. Freshman Tim Tawa was moved to third base, senior Jesse Kuet to second base, junior Alec Wilson to center field and sophomore Kyle Stowers to left field.
The left field, which had been an open job all preseason, was tested early when a fast, looping fly ball went in the direction of Stowers. He made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch to make the first out of the game.
The Cardinal offense got going in the bottom of the second. Junior right fielder Brandon Wulff walked to leadoff the inning. He moved to second on Andrew Daschbach’s grounder and then to third after Stowers grounded into fielder’s choice.
After Wilson popped up, Tawa, on an 0-2 count, delivered an RBI single on a grounder to left field to score Wulff. It was Tawa’s first hit, RBI and at-bat as a Stanford Cardinal.
After a lengthy battle with Eastman, Kuet struckout to end the 2nd.
Beck gave up his first hit to Jake Pavletich, but then struckout the next batter for his third punchout. After a Beck pitch, Handley caught the ball and delivered an absolute laser to force out Pavletich at second base to end the inning
Hoerner led off the bottom of the 3rd, and he hit a moonshot to straight-away center for a double. Handley came big on offense like he did on defense in the top of the inning and hit an RBI single to score Hoerner. Two wild pitches by Eastman would score Handley to increase the Cardinal’s lead to 3-0. Eastman barely got out of the inning when Stowers sent another Stanford fly ball to straight-away center, but was caught by the Titans’ center fielder.
The Cardinal threatened again in the 4th when Tawa walked with one out. He would advance to third base after a groundout and a wild pitch. Hoerner came up to bat and singled up the middle to score Tawa. He stole second but an error by Cal State Fullerton allowed Hoerner to advance to third. Eastman made another mistake and balked to score Hoerner to give Stanford a 5-0 lead.
Beck finally broke at the top of the 6th. On his 80th pitch, Fullerton’s Sahid Valenzuela sent a single to left field to score the runner and to end Beck’s shutout bid. With a runner at third, the Titans Chris Prescott mashed a hard grounder up the middle. The ball took a high bounce, but Hoerner made a leaping grab to secure the ball and forced the out at first base.
Beck was replaced by sophomore Zach Grech to start the 7th. The submariner hit the first batter and then retired the next three Cal State Fullerton batters. For the final out, Stowers made another highlight reel grab to rob the Titans of a run.
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) February 17, 2018
Grech had made three appearances as a freshman.
Little took over for Grech and closed out the final two innings for the Cardinal.
Game 2 starts on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. and Game 3 starts on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. The games will be broadcast by Stanford Live Stream.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.