In the first midweek game of the season, No. 11 Stanford (7-1) outmuscled San Francisco (4-3) for an 8-3 victory on a wet afternoon at Sunken Diamond, marking the Cardinal’s 23rd straight triumph on the season.
Junior DH Will Matthiesen, junior catcher Maverick Handley and junior left fielder Kyle Stowers each extended their streaks of reaching base safely to eight games to start the season, but it was senior right fielder Brandon Wulff who shined brightest through the rain.
“Everyone is going to have to get hot at some point and be that guy,” head coach David Esquer said. “It’s just Brandon’s turn right now.”
Wulff went 2-4, with both of his hits leaving the stadium. He sent one into the left field trees to lead off the bottom of the second inning; in the fifth, he plated two with a blast that cleared the trees, landing somewhere on the varsity field hockey turf.
“We needed it today,” Esquer said. “He gave us a big lift with those home runs.”
Both home runs had a lot of lift. The first landed 372 feet away courtesy of a 46-degree launch angle and 104 mph exit velocity. The second left the bat at 107 mph at a 36-degree angle, and was estimated to have traveled 420 feet.
Wulff tweaked his swing during the offseason, but it was his mental game that made the most strides.
“I’m able to process information a little bit quicker than I have been in the past,” Wulff said.
However, it was the Dons who struck first. Coming off five strikeouts and 6.0 shutout innings in his collegiate debut against Grand Canyon, Stanford freshman RHP Alex Williams struggled for the first time in his brief career.
In the top of the first inning, Williams hit the Dons’ Tyler Villaroman with a pitch and then walked Jack Winkler on four pitches. Jonathan Allen singled and Robert Emery reached on an error, and the Cardinal were quickly down two runs.
Julian Washburn opened the game for San Francisco, lasting two innings after allowing just two hits and one earned run on the Wulff big fly. He was replaced by Ryan Hecker in the bottom of the third, who was charged with an unearned run as Stanford tied the game at two.
Handley and Stowers hit back to back one-out singles off Hecker. A pop-out from sophomore infielder Tim Tawa brought Matthiesen up with two outs. It looked like the inning was over when Matthiesen grounded out to shortstop, but a throwing error scored Handley.
USF took the lead back in the top of the fifth inning as Williams let up a single and a double before making way for sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller without recording an out. Williams struck out three and walked two across 4.0+ innings, surrendering the first two earned runs of his career.
In the bottom of the frame, the Cardinal took control. Prior to Wulff’s three run blast, Matthiesen had knocked in Handley with a single to left. Singles from junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach and senior center fielder Alec Wilson got the offense restarted. Senior second baseman Duke Kinamon brought both home with another single for the fifth and sixth Cardinal runs of the inning and the final scoring for either team in the game.
In the seventh, a diving stop from Kinamon robbed the Dons of a leadoff baserunner to add to an already impressive day that included the first two RBIs of the season.
“He’s an outstanding defender,” Esquer said. “He doesn’t have to hit to affect the game, and you saw that today.”
After Weiermiller’s two perfect innings with three strikeouts, sufficient to earn the first win of the season, Esquer sent out sophomore RHP Carson Rudd for his first appearance of the year. Rudd struck out two and surrendered just one hit in two innings of work. Junior RHP Zach Grech came in for the final three outs, allowing a hit and a walk but nothing more.
The bullpen combined to pitch five innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out six. “If we can get the game started, we’ve got the guys who can hold it there,” Esquer said.
Still, the Cardinal are not satisfied with where they are. “I think there’s a lot of frustration,” Wulff said. “It’s nice to have games like these where everyone is getting hits and we’re starting to win games by more than one run.”
“We are capable of better,” Esquer said. “It’s nice on the way there that we’re able to win some games.”
It was the first career start for redshirt junior Nick Bellafronto batting ninth and playing third base. He walked once in three at-bats.
“I think a game like this makes us feel a little bit better going into the weekend,” Wulff said.
The weekend is not just any series. Stanford heads down to face the team that has knocked them out of the College World Series the past two seasons: Cal State Fullerton.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.