No. 2 Stanford baseball (20-4, 7-1 Pac-12) snapped an 11-game win streak in Saturday’s loss to No. 1 UCLA (22-6, 8-3 Pac-12). After five total runs were scored in Friday’s Game 1 walk-off victory, the second game of the series was lost 11-5 after an offensive explosion by the Bruins.
“Pretty emotional game last night,” Esquer said. “Didn’t come back and play as well. I’ve seen that a hundred times in this league.”
Sophomore LHP Jacob Palisch (2-1, 5.93 ERA) struggled from the outset, when the first batter of the game, Grant Mitchell (.326/.400/.468), reached on a bunt single. Mitchell finished with three hits in five at-bats, scoring two runs. Ryan Kreidler (.327/.397/.538) singled, and a batter later Jake Pries (.321/.422/.512) tripled to clear the bases.
The Bruins were not finished yet, as Jack Stronach (.444/.526/.619) added an RBI single. Stronach was 4-5 at the plate, scoring two and driving in a pair. Sophomore outfielder Tim Tawa and redshirt junior Duke Kinamon were able to turn a double play on a Michael Toglia (.264/.333/.491) grounder to limit UCLA to three first-inning runs.
The Cardinal were unable to match the Bruins’ output in the first, but did put one on the board against RHP Jack Ralston (5-0, 2.76 ERA). Kinamon was on board after a hit by pitch sent him to first, a Brandon Wulff single moved him over, and a base hit by Daschbach drove him in for the Cardinal’s first run.
Facing the bottom of the order in the second, Palisch recorded a strikeout before Tawa could erase a pair on groundouts. With a pair of strikeouts, Palisch sandwiched a phenomenal defensive play from Kinamon, who raced out into shallow right for an acrobatic catch, with a pair of strikeouts.
It looked as if Handley was going to drive in Tawa and redshirt junior Nick Bellafronto after their walks to lead off the second inning, but Jack Stronach went over his shoulder to make a catch at the warning track. Instead, it was Kinamon reaching on an error, and a Wulff walk that brought in the first run to cut the deficit in half. Matthiessen, the walk-off hero from the night before, singled to score two and put the Cardinal up by one.
“We punched back after getting hit pretty hard,” Esquer said. “We have to get off to a better start.”
Although it looked as if Palisch had settled in, the sophomore allowed a leadoff single in the fourth to Stronach. Toglia followed it up with a home run to reclaim the lead for the Bruins. After allowing seven hits and five runs, Palisch was removed in favor of freshman RHP Alex Williams (2-0, 2.25 ERA).
“We’ve got to pitch better on Saturday,” Esquer said.
A week ago against Washington State, when Palisch was replaced by Williams after allowing five earned runs in just 2.1 innings, the freshman was able to rescue the Cardinal with 4.2 innings of shutout baseball, but could not repeat the magic against the Bruins.
“Figuring out where guys belong in the long run is still something we’re trying to figure out,” Esquer said.
Williams recorded three straight outs in the air, including another incredible diving grab from Stowers.
Williams allowed consecutive singles in the top of the fifth and was quickly replaced by RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 4.76 ERA). Of his first three batters faced, two hit doubles, and the Bruins plated four runs in the inning.
The only other offense for the Cardinal came in the fifth, when Daschbach sent the first pitch of the inning into the trees behind left field. Ralston would finish the inning, but would not come out for the sixth. The Bruins’ starter recorded the victory with 5.0 innings pitched, walking four and surrendering six hits, but was only charged for two of the five runs.
The Bruins managed their final two runs in the seventh, when Strumpf, who reached on an error, and Stronach, who singled, were knocked in by Toglia for his season-high fifth RBI of the day.
“UCLA did a great job of sustaining their offense,” Esquer said. “They’ve got a few guys swinging the bat very well right now but we have to do a better job of stopping them.”
Although Stanford was outhit 15-6, the Cardinal stranded eight runners to UCLA’s three, hitting just 3-15 with runners on compared to the Bruin’s 9-22.
“They gave us some baserunners,” Esquer said. “We just weren’t able to get another big hit to put them down.”
The series will be on the line Sunday. The rubber match is set for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch from junior LHP Erik Miller (3-0, 2.56 ERA).