By Jose Saldana
It isn’t particularly fair to face an ace a day after facing one the night before, but that’s what No. 17 Cal State Fullerton (0-2) experienced in its 5-3 defeat to No. 13 Stanford baseball (2-0) on Saturday afternoon in Sunken Diamond.
The win marks Stanford’s first series win of the season, and Stanford head coach David Esquer’s first series win with the Cardinal.
After junior Tristan Beck gave up only one earned run in six innings the previous day, junior left-handed pitcher Kris Bubic gave the Cardinal five quality innings, where he allowed one earned run and struck out four batters. Bubic led all starters in ERA (2.79) last season.
Although Bubic was pitching well, he was on a steeper pitch count than the rest of the starters which is why he only got five innings.
“[Bubic] is a week behind in his pitch count than everybody else,” Coach Esquer said. “He had a little tweak in his ankle coming out of Christmas. We wanted to get him through the 5th but not much longer.”
Junior second baseman Duke Kinamon was again out due to an oblique injury according to Coach Esquer.
This, again, forced sophomore Kyle Stowers into the lineup and into left field, and just like he did the previous night, Stowers made the most of it. He hit 2-of-3, doubled, tripled, scored one run, record two RBI and walked once. Easily the best offensive performance of his young career.
“[Stowers] is going to the see field every day now with the way he has been swinging it,” Bubic said of his teammate.
Unlike yesterday’s game, the bullpen was a bit shaky. The relief pitchers combined for four innings, five hits and two earned runs — a difference from Friday’s shutout performance.
“Some of those guys I got to give them a little bit of a break as far as the first time out,” Coach Esquer said, referring to the bullpen. “Maybe we haven’t seen exactly what they’ll be when they are comfortable on the mound.”
With an opportunity for a save, there was a question about who would take the closer role. Coach Esquer relied on sophomore Jack Little to shut the door on the Titans, and Little confirmed his coach’s confidence in him by getting the save.
The offense scored four of its runs in the 2nd. However, the Cardinal only scored one more run the rest of the game, going 3-14 with RISP.
Bubic started the game with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 1st inning. He forced two fly outs and struck out Cal State Fullerton’s Sahid Valenzuela.
The Titans threatened to score in the 2nd inning. A hit and an error put runners at second and first with no outs. Sophomore catcher Maverick Handley snuffed the attempt to steal third base as senior Jesse Kuet made the tag.
While the Titans couldn’t capitalize in the 2nd, the Cardinal sure did. Junior Brandon Wulff singled to left field to get things started for Stanford. One hit-by-pitch later, and Stowers delivered a 2-RBI double down the right field line. Freshman Tim Tawa continued to impress by showing his wheels and legging out an RBI double.
Coach Esquer went strategic and junior Alec Wilson bunted to send Tawa to third and then Kuet grounded out to score the freshman to give Stanford a 4-0 lead in the 2nd inning.
Bubic made quick work of the Titans batters in both the 3rd and 4th innings as six batters came up and six went down.
However, the 5th would be a different story. The first two batters hit doubles off of Bubic to have runners at third and second with no outs. Bubic struck out the next batter but a groundout would score Cal State Fullerton’s first run. He would strikeout Titans Jake Pavletich to stop the bleeding.
The bottom of the 5th would be all Hoerner. His speed allowed him to beat the throw to first, and he would then steal second base and third base. Sophomore DH Daniel Bakst would send Hoerner home on an RBI single into left field. Hoerner has four steals through the first two games of the season.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Jacob Palisch made his collegiate debut as his number was called to relieve Bubic to start the 6th. With the bullpen rotation still uncertain, Palisch had to make most of the opportunity.
He just struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 6th inning.
But the 7th wasn’t as kind to the freshman. He gave up a single and a walk to begin the inning. Palisch was replaced by sophomore Zach Grech, who had pitched a scoreless inning in Game 1.
Grech limited the damage to one run, which cut the Cardinal’s lead to 5-2.
Coach Esquer gave up the DH to make Bakst the pitcher at the start of the 8th. The move was a success at first as he caused a fly out and struck out a batter, but it went downhill after that.
Bakst allowed two hits and a hit batter as the Cardinal’s lead shrunk to 5-3.
Little replaced Bakst, and he got Stanford out of the inning without yielding a run.
The Cardinal had a chance to add more insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th but failed to score the runner from second base.
At the top of the 9th, Little took the mound again. He walked the leadoff batter, but then retired the next batters to secure the victory for Stanford.
Now, the Cardinal have a chance to go for Coach Esquer’s first sweep as a Cardinal ] against Cal State Fullerton on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. in Sunken Diamond. The game will be broadcast by Stanford Live Stream.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.