Preseason No. 12 ranked Stanford men’s baseball (4-0) headed down to the Angels College Classic in Arizona over the long weekend and swept its competition. The Cardinal defeated Ball State (1-3) 2-1 in a pitching duel, squeaked by Wichita State (1-3) 5-4, came alive to down Pepperdine (3-1) 6-1 and blew out Grand Canyon (2-2) 14-4.
Cardinal take down Cardinals
Taking over the first spot in the rotation from his brother, sophomore right-handed pitcher (RHP) Brendan Beck shut down Ball State for an opening night 2-1 victory.
“What a night for Brendan,” head coach David Esquer said. “Coming in and replacing his brother as our Friday night starter from a year ago was special to watch.”
Beck, who went 8-0 with a stellar 2.43 ERA last season as a freshman, struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced in 2019. His 11 strikeouts were the most by a Stanford pitcher since 2017 when Kris Bubic struck out 11 against Sacramento State.
It was a true pitching duel, with Ball State’s Drey Jameson lifted after the sixth inning with his no-hitter intact. Jameson struck out nine Cardinal but was touched for an unearned run in the third.
Senior right-fielder (RF) Alec Wilson led off the bottom of the third with a fly ball into the right-center gap, which was dropped, allowing him to advance to third on the error. Junior catcher (C) Maverick Handley hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field on the next pitch to score Wilson and record the Cardinal’s first run of the season.
Stanford had only two hits to Ball State’s five, but the pair came back-to-back on a senior third baseman (3B) Brandon Wulff triple and junior designated hitter (DH) Will Matthiessen RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The RBI erased a Ball State run in the top half of the frame to recapture the lead for the Cardinal.
After recording his eleventh strikeout for the first out in the seventh inning, Beck surrendered his fourth hit of the night, a triple to center field. Replacing Beck, Junior RHP Zach Grech allowed the tying run to score with a sacrifice fly to left field to his first batter faced. Grech struck out the next batter to finish the seventh and then returned to throw a scoreless eighth.
Junior RHP Jack Little continued right where he left off from last season’s program record, tying 16 saves from last season. Little worked around a leadoff single to record his first save of 2019 on a spectacular play up the middle by sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa with the winning run on second base.
“This was a really great baseball game won on pitching and defense, which will always be what this program is about,” Esquer said. “Their starter was very impressive, so we had to take advantage of our opportunities with some good situational hitting.”
Don’t be shocked
Another night of strong relief appearances won Stanford its second game in as many days, edging out Wichita State 5-4.
Sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch, making his first career start, lasted only five innings while allowing all four runs to score.
In a night of firsts, freshman RHP Cody Jensen made his first appearance with the Cardinal to strike out three across two scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Jensen was awarded the win.
“Palisch didn’t have his best stuff but battled hard for us, and you love to see Jensen throw so well in his debut,” Esquer said.
Jack Little punched out four in a six out save, already his second of the season.
The Cardinal were on the board right away, as Tawa’s off-the-bat dropped liner scored Handley from second. Handley had led off the game with a walk— the first of four times reaching base and the first of three runs.
Wichita State answered in the bottom half with a leadoff double from Alex Jackson, who scored on a sacrifice fly two batters later. A two out triple by Jordan Boyer plated Jack Sigrist as the Shockers took the lead and promptly extended it on a single by Jackson.
It was Stanford’s turn to reply in the top of the third. Molfetta and Handley reached on walks and advanced on a balk so that junior outfielder/pitcher Kyle Stowers’s sacrifice fly and Tawa’s ground out scored both. A single from junior infielder/outfielder Andrew Daschbach and Wulff’s walk restarted the Cardinal offense and chased Wichita State’s starting pitcher Stuempfig. Matthiessen wasted no time, greeting the Shockers reliever with a two out RBI single.
After a busy first three innings, the score was 4-3 in favor of the Cardinal. Palisch was able to throw a scoreless fourth, but was touched for a solo home run by Ritter and would take a seat after five frames.
Jensen replaced Palisch for the Cardinal, striking out the side in the sixth to become the pitcher of record when Stanford regained the lead for the final time. Handley led off the top of the seventh with a triple to deep right, and a Stowers sacrifice fly plated the winning run.
Esquer took the opportunity to make a pair of defensive substitutions, with freshman 3B Austin Kretschmar and sophomore outfielder Christian Robinson entering at third and center, moving Handley to the squat and Wilson to right field.
Jensen pitched a clean bottom half, but returning in the eighth he allowed a leadoff single and was spelled by Little. Two batters and one double play later, Stanford was three outs away from its second win.
Little struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his sixth career save of six outs or more.
“These are the kind of games we have learned to win over the last two seasons,” Esquer said. “Similar to last night, situational hitting, pitching and defense ultimately won us the game.”
Late rally sinks Pepperdine
The Cardinal bats started to heat up in a 6-1 win over the Pepperdine Waves on Sunday.
Starter junior LHP Erik Miller tied a career high with nine strikeouts in five innings. Matthiessen pitched four shutout innings in relief, tying a career high, to become the third different Cardinal to pick up a win through the first three games. Together, the pair maintained a one-run tie through eight frames. Then, it was Matthiessen’s bat that drove in the game-winning run as part of a five-run eighth inning.
In the bottom of the first, for the second straight game, the Cardinal got on the board early. Stowers, who reached on an error by the Pepperdine second baseman, scored courtesy of a Tawa double. Stanford had a chance to add to their lead with the bases loaded and one out after Daschbach was hit and Wulff singled, but Matthiessen, who started at DH, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
Pepperdine answered with its only run of the game in the top of the second inning. Matt Kanfer led off with a double, and Duncan McKinnon hit a clutch two-out single to tie the game for the next six frames.
After five innings of scoreless baseball, Miller was removed with a final line of four hits and two walks. Matthiessen replaced him, tossing the final four frames with a career-high six strikeouts.
“I tip my cap to Erik Miller and Will Matthiessen,” Esquer said. “This was probably the best we’ve ever seen Matthiessen on the mound.”
Stanford broke through in the eighth with a Matthiessen double to center that scored Andrew Daschbach, who reached on an error by the third baseman. Up to the plate with a runner in scoring position, Kretschmar came through with his first career hit, an RBI single.
“It took us a while to finally get the bats going, and those guys really kept us in a game that was much closer than the score indicated,” Esquer said.
Robinson doubled off the top of the right-field wall to score Kretschmar, and scored himself one batter later on Handley’s single up the middle. That hit, the fourth of the inning, chased Salazar after two and one third innings, charged with the loss and five of the Cardinal’s six runs despite allowing only one earned.
Facing the Waves’ Morrow, Stowers knocked a double into the left-field gap to score Handley, becoming the sixth different Cardinal to score. The extra insurance was not needed, as Matthiessen sat Pepperdine down in order in the ninth to earn the win.
Stanford carves out Grand Canyon
“Tomorrow will be another tough test for us,” Esquer said after the Pepperdine game. “Grand Canyon is a postseason team with a lot of firepower, but it’s a great opportunity for us.”
On Monday, the Cardinal were more than up to the task, defeating Grand Canyon (GCU) by a 14-4 scoreline in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Esquer said, “Today was much better offensively, but throughout the weekend we pitched and played solid defense.”
On Monday, it was freshman RHP Alex Williams who shone brightest. Williams started and won his first career game for the Cardinal, striking out five, walking one and scattering three hits.
Stanford struck first in the second inning. Walks by Wulff and Robinson set up freshman 2B Brandon Dieter for his first career hit and RBI, a single to bring Wulff home. Wilson was next to the plate and hit a sacrifice fly to center to clear the bases.
“Today you saw what this lineup can really do,” Esquer said. “We still have a lot of room to improve but we’re thrilled to get four wins to start the season.”
The Cardinal added more in the fifth, including a walk from Handley and a Stowers single chasing GCU’s starting pitcher Hull. Tawa hit an infield single to bring Handley home, and Daschbach’s single up the middle scored Stowers. Tawa went 3-5 to break out of a 2-14 slump through the first three games, and his three steals lead the team.
A Matthiesen double with two outs scored Tawa, and after two more 1-2-3 innings from Williams, Stanford led 5-0 heading into the seventh.
If anything was slowing down the Cardinal, it was trouble on the basepaths. Three different Cardinal were caught stealing, including two in the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Stanford doubled its lead. With the bases loaded and no outs, Wulff singled to score Stowers and Tawa, and Matthiesen’s second double of the afternoon scored Daschbach and Wulff a batter later. Redshirt junior Nickolas Oar pinch ran for Matthiesen and scored the final run of the inning on a Wilson double down the right field line.
After the seventh inning stretch, the Cardinal brought in a new battery including sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller and Molfetta at catcher. Three straight hits allowed GCU to score its first run of the game on a groundout. After a popout to second, Stanford had an opportunity to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but Molfetta missed a pop up and two runs scored.
Jensen replaced Weiermiller for the eighth inning, working around three walks to escape unscathed.
The Antelopes trotted out their eighth pitcher of the afternoon to face the Cardinal side in the top of the ninth. His defense committed its third error of the day to allow Robinson on base, and after hitting Wilson with a pitch, a triple, double, and single by Stowers, Tawa, and Brueser scored four unearned runs.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Ben Baggett came in to finish the game, but he could not get an out and walked two batters. It was junior RHP Zach Grech who finished out the game. Grech struck out the first batter faced, but allowed a single that scored one run. The batter was thrown out trying to stretch a double, and a harmless walk preceded a game ending groundout.
After the long weekend, Stanford outscored its opponents 27-10 due in no small part to an on base percentage plus slugging 241 points higher than the competition. Despite hitting .246 as a team, Stanford struck out only 21 times compared to 48 for their opposition. After finishing last season with a .978 fielding percentage that ranked third in program history, the Cardinal concluded the weekend fielding .986 on only two errors. The team’s 2018 ERA of 2.83 that ranked second in Division I baseball is 2.00 through the first four contests.
Stanford will host University of Nevada Las Vegas (2-1) over Parent’s Weekend at Sunken Diamond with the first of three game series to be played Friday night. The Cardinal were swept by the Rebels in their last meeting in 2013.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.