By Jose Saldana
No. 2 Stanford baseball (33-6, 14-4 Pac-12) kept chugging along this weekend as it took the three-games series Cal (24-17, 10-11) in Sunken Diamond.
The rivalry battle had a little bit more nuance than in previous matchups. Stanford head coach David Esquer coached at Cal for 17 years before jumping onto the Farm after former head coach Mark Marquess retired at the end of last season.
“It’s a little bit of a relief to be done with this series,” Esquer said. “I can’t say it was a comfortable series for me – there are a bunch of kids over there that I have very strong relationships with. To get the win for Stanford and to represent Stanford with my family here is very satisfying.”
After dropping the first game, the Cardinal pitching and offense took it to another gear against the Bears. Starting pitchers juniors Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic combined for 11.1 innings, two earned runs and 10 strikeouts against a top-three offense in the Pac-12.
The bullpen was just as stellar, recording 10.1 innings and yielding only two earned runs all weekend.
The offense couldn’t help freshman pitcher Brendan Beck out in the first game, scoring only three runs in the 4-3 loss, but it made up with his older brother, Tristan. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Cardinal hung 10 runs, which were capped off by sophomore catcher Maverick Handley’s three-run home run.
The 10 runs scored were the most plated in any inning this season.
Then, in the final game, the Cardinal flexed their home run potential when sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach and freshman center fielder Tim Tawa each hit one.
Daschbach is tied with Oregon State’s Trevor Larnach for third in the conference with 12 home runs. The last Stanford hitter to hit 12 home runs was Alex Blandino in 2014.
One of the best hitters in the country, Cal’s Andrew Vaughn, who is in the top-five of almost any significant offensive statistic, was held below his season averages. Vaughn went 3-10 with one home run and two RBI through the series.
The Cardinal dropped the first game on Thursday 4-3 in Brendan Beck’s solid start. Despite giving up three runs in 5.1 innings, the younger Beck still leads all starters with a 1.69 ERA.
Stanford jumped first on Cal, scoring the first three runs of the game in the 5th inning. However, an inning later, Beck gave up back-to-back home runs to Vaughn and Jonah Davis, which tied the game at 3-3.
Beck would be relieved by freshman relief pitcher Jacob Palisch with one out in the 6th. An inning later, Palisch gave up an RBI single to left field to score the go-ahead run for the Bears.
The Cardinal offense couldn’t materialize a rally as most bats swung through air to end the game with a defeat.
“This was a tough ball game and we knew they were going to come at us hard, probably even harder considering they need big wins at the moment,” Esquer said.
Game 2 rolled around with Tristan Beck on the mound and the Cardinal offense showed their trademark resilience by exploding in the bottom of the 2nd.
There were 14 at-bats, four singles, two doubles and a three-run homer. Cal’s starter Jared Horn could only muster one out in the inning, on a sac bunt by senior second baseman Beau Branton, before leaving the game.
With a 10-0 lead, Beck could have eased up, but he went full bore, pitching 6.0 innings and yielding only one run.
“Beck was outstanding on the mound tonight, and we really needed a big outing from him with some of our pitchers unavailable,” Esquer said.
The Cardinal would score four more runs to end the game with a 14-1 victory.
Bubic started for Stanford in the final game, coming up huge by pitching 5.1 innings, allowing one run to score and striking out seven Bears.
Like in the first two games, the Cardinal got on the board first, when Tawa hit a two-run home run in the 3rd. An inning later, Handley would score on a trot to home plate from a wild pitch. An inning after that, Daschbach sent his team-leading 12th home run over the left field wall to give the Cardinal a 5-0 lead.
The Bears responded in the 6th, tagging Bubic with a run on an RBI single. Two innings later, Cal would cut the lead even further with Davis’ second home run of the series, which cut the lead to 5-2.
Grech replaced Bubic in the 5th with one out and delivered a shutout inning before sophomore closer Jack Little came in the 6th to end Cal’s night.
Outside of the Davis home run, Little was excellent, pitching 2.2 innings and striking out four Bears.
Little has 37 strikeouts in 28.0 innings pitched.
The Cardinal have a Tuesday matchup in Sunken Diamond against San Francisco at 6:05 p.m before heading to Salt Lake City to face Utah in a three-game series beginning on Friday at 10:30 a.m. The Tuesday game will be broadcast by Stanford Live Stream and the Utah series will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks.
“Our guys have a toughness about them which I am very proud of,” Esquer said. “We preach resiliency a lot – our assistant coaches do a great job of coming in every day and preparing our guys for what’s next.”
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.