By Jose Saldana
No. 8 Stanford baseball (11-1) took three of the four games in the series victory over Michigan (3-8) in a rain-soaked weekend in Sunken Diamond.
It wasn’t a pretty series and almost every game was marked by bad offense and sloppy defense, which was reflected by the wet and cold conditions.
The first three games featured strong starting pitching. Junior right-hander Tristan Beck had his best start of the year as he went seven innings and struck out eight batters and allowed no runs in the Friday game, despite the rainfall.
“[Beck] was excellent,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “You have to be mentally tough to pitch in these conditions.”
Southpaws Kris Bubic and Erik Miller both pitched well to start their games until running into a bit of trouble.
On the offensive side, both freshman Tim Tawa and sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach flashed their offensive firepower with two home runs each in the series. Tawa even had the most memorable moment of the season so far with a walkoff three-run home run in Game 2.
“That was one of the coolest moments I have ever had in my entire sports life,” Tawa said. “Just seeing the reactions from the rest of the guys — that was special for me.”
Friday’s game featured the most rain but the hottest pitcher as Beck completely overwhelmed the Michigan lineup. Outside of two singles, one in the first and one in the second, Beck was in complete control as he fanned batter after batter. He along with freshman Austin Weiermiller and sophomore Daniel Bakst combined to shut out the Wolverines with only three base runners allowed.
Bakst, who primarily plays as a designated hitter, used the ninth to feel better with his pitching after struggling for a few appearances.
The offense came in bunches as the Cardinal scored two in the second, three in the fifth and two again in the seventh. The final two runs came off a dinger over the left field wall by Daschbach. Much scoring wasn’t needed due to the outstanding work done by the pitching as Stanford prevailed 7-0 to begin the series.
Game 2 seemed to be more of the same at least on the pitching side. Bubic was electric through the first three innings, striking out four batters. He was looking to be on perfect game alert but the fourth inning presented problems for the southpaw. Bubic allowed a walk and a single to start the inning and then gave up a run on single.
Bubic got to the sixth without much more trouble and then he was replaced by sophomore righty Zach Grech, who, after getting one batter, was relieved by freshman Jacob Palisch.
Palisch continued his excellent start to the season by pitching 2.1 innings and refusing to allow a base runner.
The Cardinal pitching only allowed two runs all game, but they were trailing in the bottom of the ninth, 2-0. The offense left six on base and grounded into two double plays. The Wolverines pitching seemed to be giving them more trouble than they have been used to.
However, with runners at the corners and with one out, Tawa came up to bat. Despite all the struggles of the offense, it took one pitch to change all that. Tawa sent the first pitch he saw into the land of no return on the other side of the left field wall for a 3-2 walkoff victory.
Stanford was able to stave off a loss for 10 straight games, but it was bound to happen — it came in Game 3 when the Cardinal lost 5-0. Saturday’s late game in the doubleheader featured Miller on the mound.
Similarly to Bubic in the early game, Miller struck out four batters in the first three innings. He even did one better by not allowing a base runner until the fifth, but then he faltered. After a strikeout and a fly out, Miller gave up a single and a walk. Then, he induced a grounder to junior shortstop Nico Hoerner who decided to field the ball to second base, but it was the wrong decision as the runner beat the throw.
The bases were now loaded with two outs, and a Michigan single scored three runs (one unearned). Miller got the next out with a strikeout and then got two more outs in the sixth before being relieved by freshman Carson Rudd. Rudd only had one prior appearance during the season against Cal State Fullerton.
Rudd pitched 1.0 inning and gave up three hits in the seventh, which helped score one Michigan run. Senior John Henry Styles took over with two outs and got the last batter out with a strikeout.
Styles did an admirable job, pitching 2.1 innings and giving up only one run. His pitching allowed Coach Esquer to rest the rest of his bullpen arms for Sunday’s game.
The pitching received no help from the offense. The Cardinal only mustered up three hits and struck out 13 times. The frustration on the Stanford batters was visible and no better exemplified by Hoerner’s ejection after arguing the umpire’s call on his third strikeout of the evening.
“I don’t want to make too much drama for one loss,” Coach Esquer said of his message to his team. “We uncharacteristically played poorly. We kind of played underwater for a little bit.”
A sunny day was on call for Game 4. Freshman Brendan Beck got the start, and he made it through his first inning with relative ease. However, he found trouble in the second when the leadoff batter hit a solo home run. Beck gave up another hit, but he limited the damage to the single run.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Austin Weiermiller relieved Beck to start the third and it didn’t go so well for the young lefty. He gave up two doubles and a single and he allowed one runner to score.
Weiermiller made it to the top of the fifth, allowing two earned runs, before being replaced by Palisch. Palisch made it through the fifth but was replaced by Grech.
Grech hit the first batter in the top of the seventh and Coach Esquer quickly yanked him for his closer sophomore Jack Little. Little did let the inherited base runner score but he finished the inning and retired the minimum number of batters in the eighth and ninth for his fifth save of the season.
Unlike the previous night’s performance, the offense was clicking from the start. Getting a start at leadoff due to Hoerner’s suspension, Tawa sent the third pitch he saw out of the ballpark to give the Cardinal a 1-0 lead in the first.
“I hit leadoff in the summer and in a high school for a little bit,” Tawa said of making the adjustment to first in the batting order. “So it wasn’t anything new to me.”
The Cardinal would score two more runs on a Daschbach double and a Kyle Stowers single.
Stanford only held a 5-4 advantage in the bottom of the seventh. Junior right fielder Brandon Wulff walked with two outs and Daschbach came up to bat. Just like Tawa, Daschbach turned on the very first pitch he saw and knocked the ball for a two run home run.
The shot gave the Cardinal a 7-4 cushion which the bullpen used to get the win.
Stanford will now take its first true road trip as it heads to Austin, TX for a four-game series against No. 23 Texas.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.