By Jose Saldana
Despite dropping the first game of the three-game series 10-1, No. 3 Stanford baseball (20-3, 5-1 Pac-12) secured another series win by winning the final two games against Oregon (15-11, 3-6) in Sunken Diamond.
The Cardinal were bound to have a series like this where they had to grind out victories, especially after coming from the high of their beatdown of USC a week prior.
Only one starting pitcher, junior lefty Kris Bubic, pitched over four innings, and the Stanford offense combined to score 10 runs through three games — a far cry from the 34 runs put on the Trojans.
Bubic might have had the best performance by a starting pitcher for the Cardinal this season. He pitched a season-high 7.1 innings, struck out nine Ducks and allowed zero unearned runs in his win over Oregon.
“In all my years playing and coaching, this was one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “You saw what Kris had to get through in the first couple innings, so for him to settle in and take it to this lineup was really impressive.”
The pitching was buoyed by excellent performances from the bullpen in Game 2 and in Game 3. The bullpen combined for 6.2 innings of shutout baseball, including two more saves for sophomore Jack Little, who now leads the Pac-12 with nine saves and has not allowed a single run this season.
On the offensive side, familiar faces and newcomers made contributions. Freshman center fielder Tim Tawa added five more hits to a ledger as his batting average creeped up to .329. Junior shortstop Nico Hoerner had a hit in each game, and sophomore left fielder Kyle Stowers flashed his power with his third home run of the season in Game 3.
Senior second baseman Beau Branton has been getting starts at second base with junior Duke Kinamon still out with an injury, and Branton has made most of it. After his performance against Oregon (four hits and three RBI), Branton leads all eligible batters in batting average at .355.
Freshman first baseman Nick Brueser had a memorable performance in Game 2. He collected three hits, two runs and had a stolen base in the victory.
Game 1 began on Thursday with junior Tristan Beck starting on the mound. Despite having their ace, the Cardinal were routed 10-1 in the opening game of the series.
Beck ran through the Ducks quickly in the 1st, but it was all trouble for him after that. He battled through the 2nd and 3rd innings, yielding only two runs. However, the 4th would ultimately undo the Cardinal’s ace. Beck gave up back-to-back home runs to the first two Oregon batters and then allowed a two-run shot later in the inning.
Beck would finish the inning but he would not come back out for the 5th as sophomore Daniel Bakst took over.
Already down 6-0, the Cardinal would give up four more runs in the 7th and 9th innings.
The Stanford bats went ice cold, scoring one run on a Tawa double and striking out 11 times. Oregon starter Kenyon Yovan blanked the Cardinal through six innings and racked up nine strikeouts.
“This was just one of those nights where nothing was going for us in all phases of the game, and that’ll happen,” Esquer said. “We’re going to have to get used to welcoming everyone’s shot, and this just shows you the quality of teams we have in the Pac-12.”
Bubic would change the narrative in Game 2 with his incredible performance on the mound in the 5-1 win, but it didn’t start as idyllic. Oregon would score the first run again as the Cardinal were sluggish at the start.
Bubic needed 49 pitches though the first two innings as he gave up two doubles and a single. He got into a rhythm and only needed an economical 61 pitches in the next 5.1 innings.
Little would come in to relieve Bubic with two outs in the 8th, and he struck out the side in the 9th for his eighth save of the season.
The offense wasn’t dominant, but it was effective enough as Branton and Brueser both helped score five runs against the Ducks.
“We got off to a rough start, so we just had to remind ourselves we’re really going to have to earn it tonight,” Esquer said. “Hats off to Nick and Beau tonight for stepping up when we need it most.”
The final day of March was the date of the final game between Stanford and Oregon. The Cardinal threw out sophomore Erik Miller, who gave the team a solid four innings of work. He gave up four hits and walked three Ducks, but he battled to allow zero runs. The bullpen took over from there as freshman southpaw Jacob Palisch replaced Miller for 2.2 innings.
Sophomore Will Matthiessen and freshman Austin Weiermiller each pitched 0.1 innings before Little closed the game out for his ninth save.
The pitching did its job, but it was helped by some late Cardinal offense. Leading 1-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Stowers hit a two-run shot over the right field wall to give Stanford more insurance runs for Little. They would score one more run on a Branton single to give the Cardinal the game and the series.
Stanford leads the Pac-12 in team ERA at 2.10.
The Cardinal will next play host to the Gonzaga Bulldogs for a Monday afternoon affair on April 2 at 1 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast by Stanford Live Stream.