In a high-scoring affair, No. 2 Stanford (36-8, 18-4 Pac-12) outmuscled California (28-15, 13-8 Pac-12) 10-7 in the Friday night rivalry matchup at Evans Diamond.
“That’s a good team,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said.“That’s Friday night regional baseball on the road.”
Redshirt junior second baseman Duke Kinamon (.315/.353/.508) hit two home runs as part of a 4-5 night. Kinamon, with three RBI and three runs, finished just a triple shy of the cycle during the first multi home run game of his career. Stowers was also a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-4 with three runs and a walk from the top of the lineup.
“Duke Kinamon and Kyle Stowers had two great games for us, and sometimes guys like that have to take over,” Esquer said.
Although Stanford starting sophomore RHP Brendan Beck (4-3, 2.74 ERA) labored through 4.0+ innings, the bullpen pitched 5.0 innings of one-run ball, with the lone blemish coming on a solo home run off junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 2.70 ERA) in the ninth.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit bullpen,” the winning pitcher, sophomore Austin Weiermiller, said. “Everyone is pulling for each other and trying to help each other in the littlest ways possible.”
Stanford jumped out to a three run lead in the top of the first off of Cal’s starter LHP Arman Sabouri (2-2, 2.68 ERA). Sophomore center fielder Kyle Stowers (.286/.363/.519) set the table in the first inning with a walk, and after an out, senior right fielder Brandon Wulff (.278/.410/.636) drew his own to put two runners on. Junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach (.306/.395/.573) made the Bears pay, as he sent one over the left field wall for a three-run bomb for his eleventh of the season.
The Bears responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half, starting with reigning Golden Spikes Award winner first baseman Andrew Vaughn, who bested Beck for an RBI double. The next batter, catcher Korey Lee, tied Vaughn for the team lead in home runs (13) with a two-run blast that also tied the game.
“That’s a big punch to take on the road,” Esquer said. “To jump on them early and get three on a Friday, you hope your pitching can roll and give you some breathing room, and it didn’t.”
Cal tacked on two more runs in the second when Quentin Selma knocked one out of the park with Cameron Eden on base. Cal’s three home runs in the game maintain their pace at second in the conference, but Stanford’s five closed the gap between third and second place to six.
Kinamon led off the fourth with a solo home run to cut the deficit in half, but a walk and a single in the remainder of the inning could not push across a tying run. Once again, the Bears answered with a run of their own, as Eden singled and stole second – the only occasion in which Berkeley tested junior catcher Maverick Handley. He then advanced to third before he was brought in by a Vaughn RBI single. That run, however, would be the final noise from the Cal side until the ninth inning.
After the Cardinal went down in order in the top of the fifth, Max Flower singled to chase Beck from the game. Beck left after a season-low 4.0 innings while surrendering a season-high five earned runs on nine hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. Despite eclipsing 6.0 innings pitched in his first four starts of the season, Beck has done so just twice in the eight since, while giving up at least three earned runs in the past four.
“It’s about time we picked him up,” Esquer said. “He’s picked us up all season with great outings.”
Beck was relieved by LHP Weiermiller (6-0, 1.57 ERA), but it was Weiermiller who found relief in the defense of Handley, in what he described as the play of the game.
Weiermiller loaded the bases with two more singles to his first two batters faced, but came back to strike out two Golden Bears. Handley recorded the final out of the frame by throwing behind Sam Wezniak at first base for his conference-leading fifth pick-off of the season.
“That play by Maverick completely turned the game around – he picked us up like he has all season with his defense,” Esquer said. “They had a chance to add a couple runs there and it came at a moment when our offense slowed down a bit.
“If there’s a better catcher I’d like to see him,” Esquer added.
RHP Jack Delmore (1-1, 4.15 ERA) replaced Sabouri on the mound for Cal in the sixth inning. Sabouri, who has throughout the year been deployed in the opener role, threw a season-high tying 5.0 innings, with four runs, four hits, six strikeouts, and three walks, exiting the game with the lead. Kinamon willed himself a run, first driving a double down the line, then stealing third and scoring on an error to once again bring the game within a run.
“Running the bases is a big part of my game, because it can affect the game a lot,” Kinamon said. “Getting into scoring position, the hitter has to do less, so I have fun running the bases.”
In the bottom half, for the first time in the game, Stanford staged a shutdown inning as Weiermiller retired the side in order.
The Cardinal offense got busy in the top of the seventh, as Stowers’ double forced Cal to the bullpen after LHP Jack Wolger (0-0, 5.84 ERA) faced just one batter. RHP Rogelio Reyes (4-2, 3.10 ERA) allowed a single to Handley, and Wulff grounded to shortstop for a potential double play, but Wezniak bobbled the ball at shortstop and was forced to settle for a fielder’s choice while watching the tying run score. Wulff tried to take second on a pitch in the dirt, but the ball did not skip far enough away from the catcher Lee and Wulff was thrown out at second.
Junior DH Will Matthiessen (.340/.423/.568) singled, and Daschbach reached on an error by Wezniak, who first mishandled the grounder and then rushed a poor throw, which allowed Matthiessen to reach third. A Kinamon single through the right side scored an unearned run, and the Cardinal took the lead for the first time since the top of the first inning.
“He’s starting to make up for lost time with the bat,” Esquer said. “You don’t just jump onto a college diamond and hit the ground running.”
Weiermiller recorded the first out of the frame before he was replaced by sophomore RHP Zach Grech (2-0, 3.72 ERA). In 2.1 innings, Weiermiller earned the win with three strikeouts and just two hits. Grech then sat five Bears down in order across two frames, striking out the side in the eighth.
“[Weiermiller] has done a great job, and we have real confidence in him,” Esquer said. “Our bullpen in concept, Weiermiller to Grech to Little, if we can start to map things out like that we shorten the game for our starters.”
With two home runs off of Sean Sullivan in the top of the eighth, Stanford padded its lead. Redshirt junior Nick Bellafronto (.279/.411/.488) sent a towering shot out to left for his third career home run, with all three coming in the past eleven games. Stowers sent a ball out to straightaway center on a line that gout out in a hurry. It was the third time this season the Cardinal managed five home runs.
Kinamon completed his fine day at the plate with his second home run in the top of the ninth. Although not in a save situation, junior RHP Jack Little (3-1, 2.70 ERA) entered for the Cardinal, and despite allowing a mammoth home run to Selma that cleared the wall of Edwards Stadium, the adjacent soccer stadium, he preserved the Friday night victory.
After eighteen seasons at Cal, Esquer returned to Evans Diamond for the first time as an opposing coach and managed a win.
“It’s a little different, I got a lot of players that I have strong feelings for and close relationships with,” Esquer said. “It’s a little odd to be on the other side, but we intersquad when I was here at Cal, so I was able to compete against them.”
The series continues today at 2:05 p.m. PT with RHP Matthiessen toeing the rubber opposite of Cal’s Jared Horn (4-1, 2.03 ERA).
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.