No. 5 Stanford (22-5, 8-2 Pac-12) picked up right where it left off with another barrage of home runs to take the first game of the series 8-2 against Washington (15-13, 5-8 Pac-12), who the Cardinal beat in the final game of the last year’s regular season to win the Pac-12 title.
“We don’t try to defend the Pac-12 title,” said redshirt junior second baseman Duke Kinamon. “We think we can do better than last year.”
The reigning Pac-12 pitcher of the week, sophomore Brendan Beck (2-2, 1.98 ERA) took the mound for the Cardinal and delivered another brilliant performance. Beck tossed six innings, allowing three hits, an earned run and a walk while striking out six.
“Good Friday night win,” said Stanford head coach David Esquer. “Beck did a great job for us.”
Washington got on the board first with Connor Blair’s (.234/.321/.489) team-leading seventh home run of the season — and the first allowed by Beck this year — to lead off the top of the second inning. The home run was just the sixth allowed by Stanford pitching this season. A season ago, the Cardinal pitching staff allowed 14 home runs through 27 games, and 33 home runs total.
“Our guys are doing a good job with location and off-speed pitching,” Esquer said. “That’s been the key to it so far. ”
The Cardinal responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the second, with junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach (.205/.384/.474) and Kinamon (.323/.382/.371) hitting a pair of doubles off David Rhodes (4-4, 3.77 ERA).
“We answered back the one time they landed a punch on us with the home run,” Esquer said.
In the third inning, junior catcher Maverick Handley (.257/.355/.362) singled and proceeded to jog around the bases courtesy of senior outfielder Brandon Wulff’s (.250/.378/.554) eighth home run of the year. Leaving the bat at 108 mph at a 29-degree angle, the home run ball traveled 392 feet.
Daschbach’s second hit of the night was also his second RBI, as he belted a first-pitch homer 414 feet at an exit velocity of 109 mph to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning.
After an out, Kinamon singled to rejuvenate the Cardinal offense, and stole his way to third base for his ninth and tenth successful attempts of the season.
“It’s fun to run around a little on the base paths,” Kinamon said.
Kinamon, who was drafted by the New York Mets in the offseason despite missing all of 2018 with an injury, sat out the first four games of the current season before returning to the diamond after 630 days between appearances. He now leads the Cardinal in stolen bases.
“One of my favorite things to do is wake up and play, and I wasn’t able to do that,” Kinamon said. “This year, I used it to come out and not take anything for granted.”
Kinamon is “so dynamic on the bases,” Esquer said. “He can impact the game without getting a hit.”
Sophomore outfielder Nick Brueser (.333/.525/.444) walked to put runners on the corners, as junior third baseman Nick Bellafronto (.293/.404/.463) came to the plate next in the fourth. A mishandled bunt scored Kinamon, put Brueser at third and advanced Bellafronto to second. Junior center fielder Kyle Stowers (.256/.337/.427), batting leadoff for the second straight game as Esquer tried to “force the action,” singled in another run, and a Handley sacrifice fly to center plated the fourth Cardinal run of the inning.
“We need to get Stowers going,” Esquer said. “We’re not going to be the team we need to be unless we get him going.”
The next inning, however, Rhodes set the Cardinal down on just five pitches. It was that kind of night for the Huskies’ pitching, who sat the Cardinal down in order in all four innings in which the home team was held without a run.
A Bellafronto two-out double chased Rhodes after 5.2 innings, in which he allowed eight runs, seven earned, eight hits, four strikeouts and a walk. Washington’s Jack Enger (1-0, 2.76 ERA) entered out of the bullpen, conceding the inherited runner, Bellafronto, to score on a Stowers single. Enger induced a pop fly to end the sixth and struck out the side in the seventh.
Junior RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 3.52 ERA) relieved Beck in the top of the seventh inning, surrendering two infield singles before getting some help from Kinamon to turn an unassisted double play.
“The ball was in the air for a pretty long time, so I had quite a bit of time to think,” Kinamon said. “I caught the ball, the runner was right in front of me so I tagged him and flipped it over to first.”
Dylan Lamb (0-0, 6.23 ERA) was the final Washington pitcher, sitting the Cardinal down in order in his only inning of work.
Sophomore RHP Carson Rudd (0-0, 1.46 ERA) came on to work the ninth inning but allowed one run on three consecutive one-out singles to the seven, eight and nine batters. He was replaced by freshman RHP Cody Jensen (1-0, 1.59 ERA).
Washington received nearly all of its offensive production from the bottom third of the lineup, which accounted for six of the Huskies’ nine hits. The Huskies’ cleanup hitter, Joe Wainhouse, who hit .306 a season ago, is batting just .126 this season and was held hitless in his four at-bats Friday night, with two groundouts to the shortstop and two strikeouts.
Esquer suggested that junior RHP Will Matthiesen (1-1, 3.93 ERA), a quiet 0-4 as Friday night’s DH, will get his second career start in Saturday’s game. He will square off against Jordan Jones (2-3, 5.40 ERA) ahead of Sunday’s date with the Golden Spikes watch list nominee, Josh Burgmann (3-1, 2.29 ERA).
“They’re best pitching is at the back end,” Esquer said. “They’ll try to sneak one in on the first day, and now the series is in their favor.”
“We lost two last year,” Kinamon said. “We’re trying to change that.”
First pitch of Game 2 is 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Sunken Diamond.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.