Hosting the first matchup between the top two teams in the rankings since 2000, No. 2 Stanford (20-5, 7-2 Pac-12) dropped the series to No. 1 UCLA (23-6, 9-3 Pac-12) following a 10-7 defeat on Sunday. The Cardinal suffered their first back-to-back defeats of the season, their first conference losses and their first series defeat this weekend.
“They’re the number one team in the country for a reason,” said Stanford head coach David Esquer. “That’s the best lineup they’ve had in years.”
UCLA hit 10-32 in Sunday’s game and 34-106 in the series. Stanford was 23-103 for the series and is now .258 for the season.
“We’re just a few ingredients and a little more experience away from winning that series,” Esquer said. “I think our goal is to flip the outcome of this series by the end of the year, and if we do that, we’re capable of beating anyone in the country.”
Esquer was willing to reevaluate his team after the series. “A little reshuffling of our bullpen and our starters to get the right people in the right spot to win that game,” Esquer explained. “It could be Palisch going into the bullpen.”
In the top of the first, an error from junior Andrew Daschbach allowed the first baserunner. Stanford’s starter, junior LHP Erik Miller (3-0, 2.78 ERA) walked the next batter on four pitches. After a rare passed ball, a sacrifice fly to center gave the Bruins a first-inning run for the second straight game.
Although junior catcher Maverick Handley (.265/.371/.378) led off the bottom half of the frame with a double, he was stranded there by UCLA’s RHP Ryan Garcia (2-0, 1.35 ERA), who came back from two 3-0 counts to record outs.
Stanford got on board with a two-out two-strike home run by sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa (.245/.267/.439).
The Bruins added another run on a sacrifice fly in the third. Jake Pries sent one out to center to score Noah Cardenas, who singled to lead off the inning.
“UCLA did it with the small game,” Esquer said. “We were only able to do it with the home run.”
The Cardinal hit a season-high four home runs, recording more hits via a long ball, than non-homer hits (3).
“We’re really good at hitting home runs, but we need base hits,” Esquer said.
Junior DH Will Matthiesen hit a three-run home run, his third, with two outs in the bottom of the third. Bellafronto walked, and Handley reached on an error, but it looked as if the Cardinal had squandered the opportunity after a shallow pop out and a strikeout. Instead, Stanford took a two-run lead into the fourth.
Tawa showed off his glove in the fourth, but the Bruins were still able to cut the deficit in half. A leadoff double came around to score after a bunt and a sacrifice fly, as UCLA continued to execute with runners on base. The third out of the frame was recorded with Tawa venturing deep into the five-six hole and throwing across the diamond.
UCLA erased a leadoff runner with a double play in the fourth inning, their first of the series.
The Cardinal turned to RHP Will Matthiessen (1-1, 3.93 ERA) on the mound in the top of the fifth, ending Miller’s day after 4.0 innings. Miller struck out one, walked three, and allowed two hits, but was only charged with two of the three runs.
Sophomore Christian Robinson came into center in the top of the sixth, pushing Stowers to left, senior Brandon Wulff to right, and sophomore Nick Brueser to the bench. UCLA’s Jack Stronach (.444/.526/.619) had his lone hit of the afternoon in the inning.
“There’s probably no one in the country as confident as Stronach right now,” Esquer said.
The Bruins closed the door in the seventh inning with a six spot. Noah Cardenas (.237/.388/.289) hit a bloop single, Garrett Mitchell (.324/.400/.468) singled through the right side, and Ryan Kreidler doubled to score both. Matthiesen was relieved by freshman RHP Cody Jensen (1-0, 1.76 ERA) after a walk, who faced just one batter and allowed an infield single.
Matthiesen was responsible for four runs on four hits, a strikeout and a walk across 2.1 innings.
Sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller (5-0, 1.08 ERA) walked one, and with the bases loaded, surrendered a bases-clearing triple. After a second walk, Weiermiller was replaced by sophomore RHP Carson Rudd (0-0, 0.75 ERA), who escaped with a groundout. Stanford issued a season-high eight walks.
Tawa hit his second home run of the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Rudd walked in a run in the top of the eighth to restore the Bruins’ five-run lead.
After a masterful outing of eleven strikeouts, one walk and five hits, only two of five runs were earned. Garcia was replaced by RHP Kyle Mora (2-2, 2.25 ERA) for the bottom of the eighth. Both redshirt junior second baseman Duke Kinamon (.278/.350/.315) and Wulff (.259/.388/.553) recorded their first hits of the game in Mora’s brief appearance, with Wulff following a single with a team-leading seventh homer of the season.
Matthiessen and Daschbach, however, were struck out by Mora’s replacement, Holden Powell (1-2, 3.06 ERA). Thirteen Stanford batters were set down on strikes Sunday, the second most this season, including five looking.
Junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 2.14 ERA) worked the ninth for the Cardinal, stranding a lone single.
Stanford could not complete the comeback, going down in order in the bottom of the ninth, as Powell recorded his eighth save of the year.
UCLA won the series 2-1, with an eight-run advantage. It was the Bruins’ third consecutive series win against the Cardinal.
“We lost to UCLA last year and still won the title,” Esquer said. “This doesn’t derail us one bit.”
Stanford will have their next opportunity at the University of San Francisco (18-13, 7-5 WCC) on Tuesday at 3 p.m. PT. The Cardinal beat the Dons 8-3 at the end of February.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.