By Jose Saldana
The offense finally flashed some signs of life and the pitching staff was dominant for the third day in row as first-seeded Stanford baseball (46-11) defeated second-seeded Baylor (37-21) 4-2 in an early-afternoon elimination game in Sunken Diamond.
After losing to third-seeded Cal State Fullerton yesterday on a walk-off home run, the Cardinal had to overcome the Bears to stay alive in the Stanford Regional. With the job completed, Stanford will have a short rest before a rematch against Fullerton at 6 p.m.
Freshman starter Brendan Beck earned the victory, going a season-high 6.2 innings, striking out one batter while giving up four hits and two earned runs. Beck worked quickly and efficiently, with 16 pitches in the first two innings, and 71 total pitches before being pulled in the seventh.
Beck came on strong with his changeup, utilizing the pitch with great success, but both the home runs he gave up came on the off-speed pitch.
“My changeup was my go-to pitch today,” Beck said. “I gave up two home runs on it, so there is room to improve, but I got a lot of outs with it.”
After yielding his second run, Beck was relieved by fellow freshman Jacob Palisch, who needed only seven pitches to get four outs. Palisch has pitched 4.2 shutout innings this weekend with four strikeouts.
Sophomore closer Jack Little started the ninth, and the usually suffocating righty came dangerously close to giving up a home run. Baylor leadoff hitter Nick Loftin nearly homered when a fly ball he sent to left field was inches to the left of the foul pole.
Loftin would eventually single after junior shortstop Nico Hoerner had trouble digging the grounder on a bad hop.
Little settled down to strike out the next two batters, and then got the last batter to fly to center to complete the save. He now has tied the Stanford record for most saves in a season, with his 16 matching Colton Hock ‘17, who set the record last season.
The offense provided a much-needed spark early in the game, scoring four runs in the first two innings, but reverted back to its malaise starting in the third inning against reliever Alex Phillips.
Hoerner walked with two outs in the first, which brought sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach up to plate. He promptly hit a two-run home run on the first pitch he saw over left field.
“My approach was to be aggressive early in the count and find something to drive,” Daschbach said. “[Baylor starter Tyler Thomas] made a mistake, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
In the second inning, sophomore Will Matthiessen delivered his first hit of the regional with an RBI triple that scored junior right fielder Brandon Wulff. The 6-foot-5 Matthiessen nearly caught the slower-footed Wulff on their way around the bases.
The good times continued for the Cardinal when junior center fielder Alec Wilson brought Matthiessen home on a sacrifice fly to extend Stanford’s lead to 4-0.
Matthiessen finished the game 2-for-3 with a run scored and one RBI.
However, that’s when the good times ended. The Cardinal only had two baserunners for the rest of the game.
Phillips gave the Cardinal bats trouble as he went 5.2 innings to hold Stanford at four runs.
The Cardinal offense has struggled for most of the weekend, scoring nine runs in 30.0 innings, which makes the early-inning explosion an exception rather than the rule for the regional.
It will need to do better if it hopes to defeat Fullerton twice in order to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Sophomore starter Erik Miller will pitch the second game of the double header against Fullerton.
First pitch of the nightcap is at 6 p.m. PT. 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.