By Jose Saldana
The trip to the City of Angels wasn’t a godsend for No. 2 Stanford baseball (23-5, 6-3 Pac-12) as it dropped its first series of the year to No. 17 UCLA (19-8, 8-4) in a three-game series in Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Despite starting 22-3 heading into the weekend, which is the best start since 2004, the Cardinal failed to replicate against UCLA what has made them so successful: dominant pitching.
The Stanford pitching staff had the second-ranked ERA in the entire nation, but after this weekend, the ranking dropped all the way to ninth. The problem largely stems from the poor performance of the pitching staff.
Juniors Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic and sophomore Erik Miller got the starts and combined for 13.0 innings pitched and allowed 13 earned runs. That wasn’t able to get it done against a comparable pitching staff in the Bruins.
The offense outside of Game 2 could not figure out the UCLA pitchers. The Cardinal scored 19 runs but 13 of them came in the Saturday game, where they combined for four home runs.
The outfielders flexed their power as sophomores Andrew Daschbach and Kyle Stowers and freshman Tim Tawa each had a home run in the series.
Daschbach in particular had three home runs in the three-game set to give him eight on the year, which is tied for third in the Pac-12.
Outside of those home runs, the Cardinal offense did very little against a potent UCLA pitching staff.
Beck started on the mound for the Cardinal in Friday’s 8-4 loss. Although he yielded only three runs, his command was shaky as he also allowed eight hits and two walks.
UCLA was able to get to Beck in the third to strike first. The Bruins scored a couple runs on a two-RBI double from Chase Strumpf — the three-hole hitter.
The Cardinal retaliated an inning later when Daschbach singled to right field to score sophomore catcher Maverick Handley.
UCLA and Stanford would trade runs in the fifth before the Bruins used a five-run eighth inning to blow the game wide open.
Freshman pitcher Jacob Palisch took the mound in the seventh with one out and was thrown out there again in the eighth. The normally stout southpaw struggled with his command as he gave up all five runs in the inning and was shown the door after allowing a grand slam home run.
The offense tried to rally in the ninth and cut the lead to 8-4 on Tawa’s RBI double and junior shortstop Nico Hoerner’s sac fly, but it was to no avail as the Bruins closed the door on the Cardinal.
Game two featured Bubic, who had been the Cardinal’s best starter all year, but he didn’t have it on Saturday afternoon.
Luckily for the lefty, the offense bailed him out in a huge way by scoring 13 runs.
The first inning showed some promise for the junior as he gave up a leadoff single but struck out the next two batters to end the inning. However, Bubic began his struggles in the second. He yielded a home run in that inning and then two more in the fourth.
Then, in the fifth, Bubic allowed the first two batters to reach base on a hit-by-pitch and a single. He was relieved by freshman Austin Weiermiller, but by the time Bubic was done, the Cardinal were leading 13-3.
Stanford began its offensive exploits with a metallic bang in the first inning. Stowers sent a three-run home run to right field, which briefly tied him with Daschbach for the home run lead with five.
Not to be left behind by his power hitting teammates, Tawa hit a solo shot over left field to tie him with Daschbach and Stowers for the home run lead.
Feeling the pressure to perform, Daschbach hit a two-run home after Hoerner’s triple to give him sole possession of the home run lead with six.
An RBI single by freshman first baseman Nick Brueser and Tawa each pushed the runs scored to eight.
Two more runs scored later, Daschbach comes up to the plate and smashed a three-run RBI home run to increase the lead to 13-3 and give him seven home runs on the season.
The Cardinal bullpen would give up five runs in the ninth, but managed to “escape” with a victory.
Stanford might have used up all of its offensive fortitude in game two, because in game three, the Cardinal swings were coming up empty.
The offense scored two runs and struck out 13 times, which isn’t very good when your starter isn’t having his best game.
Outside of Daschbach’s eighth home run of the season which put Stanford up 2-0 in the 1st, the Cardinal offense did more sitting than standing at the bases the rest of the game.
MIller got the nod in this one and gave up four earned runs in the third (and one earned in the first), which meant his day was done early as he only managed 2.2 innings pitched.
The Bruins squeezed one more insurance run against sophomore pitcher Will Matthiessen in the fifth.
The Cardinal next host a midweek game against UC Davis on April 10 at 6:05 p.m. and then, they will partake in the Cardinalpalooza festivities by hosting Arizona State for a three-game set beginning on April 13 at 6:05 p.m. All games can be seen on Stanford Live Stream.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.