With 13 runs and a grand slam in each of their last two games, No. 3 Stanford (29-7, 13-3 Pac-12) salvaged a series win over Arizona (19-20, 7-12 Pac-12) to remain atop the conference standings. Sunday’s 13-5 home victory marked the team’s 11th win of the last 13 games.
“We’re starting to get some balance in the lineup, it’s been a long time coming and different guys up and down the lineup are really helping us out,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said. “Sometimes you have to face different types of adversity with the loss on Friday but we did a great job of coming back strong in these last two games.”
The Wildcats scored first in all three games, and on Sunday, they benefited from two wild pitches from junior LHP Erik Miller (6-0, 2.60 ERA) to push across a first inning run. Matthew Dyer, who singled to begin a 2-5 outing, was brought in by a groundout off the bat of Austin Wells. Miller now has eight wild pitches, half of the team’s season total.
Senior left fielder Brandon Wulff (.299/.435/.701), who played the national anthem on the piano before Saturday’s fireworks game, answered with a solo home run in the bottom half of the first inning. The home run traveled 428 feet and exited the bat at 114 miles per hour.
Avery Weems (3-5, 6.75 ERA) sat Stanford down in order in the second inning, but the Cardinal took its first lead on a three-run home run in the third inning from junior catcher Maverick Handley (.304/.397/.459). The home run was Handley’s second of the season, and he paused briefly to admire it out of the box. Redshirt junior third baseman Nick Bellafronto (.268/.389/.465) walked to leadoff the inning, and redshirt junior Duke Kinamon (.298/.345/.452) doubled to set the table for Handley.
Miller was once again touched in the fourth, surrendering a leadoff triple that was quickly scored by a sacrifice fly from Blake Paugh. In the bottom half, however, Stanford continued its offensive onslaught with three runs for the second consecutive inning.
Junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach (.316/.403/.581) went first to third on sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa’s (.252/.277/.413) single up the middle, and he was brought in by a double off the bat of sophomore right fielder Nick Brueser (.277/.412/.462). Bellafronto hit a sacrifice fly to score Tawa and sophomore center fielder Kyle Stowers (.268/.353/.457) doubled to plate Brueser.
In the fifth inning, Wulff doubled down with his second home run of the afternoon to bring the Cardinal lead to six. The 108 mile per hour, 411 foot home run raised his season tally to 15, edging into the top ten in the NCAA leaderboard. The inning was the last for Weems, who did not miss many bats. He left allowing eight runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out just one.
Miller returned for the sixth and recorded an out from the first batter on a flyout, but that would be his last. A walk and a home run from Paugh chased Miller, who exited after 5.1 innings with the win despite allowing four walks, five hits, and four runs with just two strikeouts.
Out of the bullpen, RHP Austin Weiermiller (5-0, 1.82 ERA) faced three batters but did not record an out. Two doubles scored a run, and a walk was the end of his day, as junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 1.63 ERA) came on with eleven outs remaining.
It was Little’s battery mate, however, who made the big play. Handley picked off the runner on first, and a pitch later Little recorded the third out of the inning on a flyout. The pickoff was Handley’s fourth of the season, the most of any catcher in the conference.
“Maverick’s back pick in the sixth really kept the momentum in our favor and was certainly a turning point with Arizona threatening,” Esquer said.
With sophomore Christian Robinson entering as a defensive substitute in center field in the seventh, pushing Stowers to left and Wulff to right, Little worked around a single and a walk for a clean inning. The All-American came back out for the eighth and recorded two strikeouts as he retired the side.
The Cardinal insured the game in the bottom of the frame, chasing Vince Vanelle after 2.1 innings of relief when Tawa singled to put runners on the corners. Gil Luna walked the only two batters he faced, issuing a free pass to Bellafronto that plated a run. Kinamon showed no mercy to the fireman, Preston Price, walloping a grand slam that sent Price back to the bench.
Kinamon went 2-4 with the home run, two runs, and a double, while Bellafronto scored twice with two RBIs a game after contributing four RBIs on his own grand slam.
The Wildcats were able to escape without further tangible damage, but they entered the last inning with an eight run deficit and the knowledge that Stanford was 27-0 when leading after eight innings.
Junior RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 4.56 ERA) closed the door on a trio of groundouts, working around a leadoff single. In the last 14 games, Stanford has hit 37 home runs, and in the past seven the Cardinal has scored 85 runs.
The Cardinal travel to Santa Clara (10-31, 3-15 WCC) Tuesday with first pitch set at 6:00 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.