By Jose Saldana
Freshman outfielder Christian Robinson’s walkoff RBI double in the bottom of the 13th inning sealed first-seeded Stanford baseball’s (45-10) 4-3 victory over fourth-seeded Wright State (39-16) on Friday night in Sunken Diamond.
The Cardinal will next face third-seeded Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, which defeated second-seeded Baylor 6-2 earlier on Friday.
“That right there was what playoff baseball is all about,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “I tip my cap to Wright State – they played a heck of a ballgame and really made it difficult on us.”
The Cardinal struggled with RISP all night, going 3-for-16. Stanford had a leadoff batter reach base in eight of the 13 innings, and sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach was the eighth when he was hit by a pitch from Raiders’ reliever Jeremy Randolph to start the bottom of the 13th.
It appeared that the game would go on longer when the next two batters couldn’t advance Daschbach from first base. Then, facing an 0-1 count and two outs, Robinson hit a rope under the first baseman’s glove that would stay fair and would escape into the corner of right field.
Daschbach lumbered all the way from first base to score the game-winning run.
“[Randolph] threw a good fastball, and I was just trying to move [Daschbach] over,” Robinson said on his walkoff hit. “It just happened to work that way.”
The Raiders tied the game at 3-all in the bottom in the seventh, and the game remained at an impasse until Robinson’s hit six innings later.
“A lot of credit has to go to our bullpen for keeping a tough lineup off the scoresheet through all those extra innings,” Esquer said.
The bullpen had to pitch 6.2 innings with the game going so deep into extra innings, but it only allowed one hit and struck out six Raiders. The performance from the pen was almost perfect except for the beginning of sophomore closer Jack Little’s appearance as he allowed two inherited runners to score.
Little relieved junior starter Tristan Beck, who went 6.1 innings and allowed two earned runs to go along with seven strikeouts.
That was Beck’s most punchouts since striking out nine batters against USC on March 23.
Despite giving up a solo home run on his second pitch of the game, Beck settled down and used his fastball to power through the Raiders’ lineup.
“It was a great job by the defense to rally behind us,” Beck said. “When they show that kind of fire, it’s easy to go out there and pitch.”
However, he ran into trouble at the start of the seventh inning. After forcing the first batter to pop out, Beck allowed a walk and a single to yield runners at first and second with one out. He would not face another batter as he would be relieved by Little.
“In the seventh, it kind of snuck up on me,” Beck said on his command. “I started to let fastballs go, and I got to get better in that aspect.”
The offense started strong, but faltered as the game progressed.
Down 0-1 in the first, junior shortstop Nico Hoerner hit a liner to left field which skipped past the left fielder’s glove to score senior second baseman Beau Branton. Then, Hoerner would score on a wild pitch.
After wasting RISP chances in the second and third innings, including having runners at the corners with no outs in the third, the Cardinal finally scored with RISP when freshman third baseman Tim Tawa’s RBI single scored junior center fielder Alec Wilson from third base.
Tawa had the most hits on the night on either team, going 3-for-6.
The 2-3-4 hitters on the Cardinal lineup combined to bat 7-for-16, but the rest of the lineup went 5-for-30.
The offensive malaise kept the game going deep into extra innings, causing the Cardinal to use Little, and freshmen relievers Jacob Palisch and Brendan Beck extensively.
With the bullpen stretched thin, the Cardinal will need a great performance from junior starter Kris Bubic against Cal State Fullerton.
First pitch between the Cardinal and Titans begins at 8 p.m. PT on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the radio call will be on KZSU 90.1 FM.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.