By Jose Saldana
Part-time relief pitcher, part-time smasher of the baseball sophomore Will Matthiessen hit his first career home run with a three-run which was the difference in No. 2 Stanford baseball’s (34-6) 5-2 Tuesday victory over San Francisco (24-21) in Sunken Diamond.
The Cardinal couldn’t make quick work of their Bay Area opponent despite the disparity in records. Sophomore closer Jack Little had to be sent in to close out the Dons, which he did to get his Pac-12-leading 13th save of the season.
“We made this one harder than it should have been but a lot of credit goes to our pitching and defense for finishing this one off,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “[Matthiessen] hadn’t had a look in a while – he has kept himself ready and it showed here tonight.”
Matthiessen had 20 at-bats in his career, all coming this season, prior to Tuesday’s matchup as he has been an effective relief pitcher. But he appeared more like an everyday hitter against the Dons, going 2-4 with one run scored and three RBI.
His home run came on an 0-2 pitch high in the strike zone which Matthiessen crushed, with aid by the wind, over the left field wall.
The offense outside of Matthiessen was out of sorts against San Francisco’s bullpen, leaving 12 men on base and scoring only one run in six innings.
It had markedly more success against the Dons’ starter Benji Post as the Cardinal left four runs (three earned) on his score sheet.
Despite the struggles, the Cardinal were aggressive on the bases, stealing a season-high five bases. Juniors shortstop Nico Hoerner and right fielder Alec Wilson each stole two bases.
The Cardinal pitching appeared to be on all-cylinders except for hiccups from relief pitchers freshman Austin Weiermiller and sophomore Zach Grech.
Sophomore southpaw Erik Miller was tabbed to the start this game. He has usually been the third starter for the Cardinal, but the coaching staff decided to hold him out of the Cal series this past weekend. Miller, limited to 3.0 innings by the coaches, struck out four and allowed zero runs.
Freshman Brendan Beck replaced Miller to start the 4th and held down the fort more than admirably matching Miller in innings pitched with 3.0 and one-upping his teammate with five strikeouts.
Weiermiller and Grech were the next Cardinal pitchers up for relief and they combined for 1.1 innings, four hits, two runs (one allowed by each) and three strikeouts. They allowed a run in the seventh and eighth innings to cut the Cardinal lead to 5-2, which meant Little had to do his job sooner in the week than expected. Little pitched 1.2 shutout innings and struck out three batters.
The offense, at first, appeared motivated for the midweek soiree, scoring all of its five runs before the fifth inning.
Hoerner scored the Cardinal’s first run in the 1st on a couple errors by the Dons’ first baseman.
Matthiessen would step up to plate with two runners on in the third and cranked out his home run to give Stanford a 4-0 advantage, before a wild pitch scored the Cardinal’s final run in the fourth.
The Cardinal are on the road this weekend as they play last-place Utah for a three-game series beginning on Friday at 10:30 a.m. Every game will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.