Taking care of business and sending a message, No. 1 Stanford (42-11, 22-7 Pac-12) rode an excellent start from sophomore RHP Brendan Beck to shut out No. 4 seed Sacramento State (39-24, 18-9 WAC) 11-0 in the opener of the NCAA Regional. The bats came alive for four home runs to ensure the Cardinal left with a crucial Game 1 victory while snapping a six game Hornets win streak.
“Great effort by Brendan on the mound — a Friday night effort that you have to have,” said Stanford head coach David Esquer. “We were able to support him with some runs and some situational hitting.”
Beck (5-3, 3.68 ERA), who faced just five over the minimum through 7.0 three-hit innings, never found himself in much trouble. When he did, help came in the form of a double play and junior catcher Maverick Handley (.294/.393/.433) catching a runner stealing.
The start was Beck’s longest since 7.1 shutout innings in a win over No. 1 UCLA (47-8, 24-5 Pac-12) and the first time he had made it through five innings in his past four starts. Beck began by working around an error in the first, but the Cardinal were unable to capitalize in the bottom half.
“He’s a guy that goes out there and is consistent,” Handley said. “He’s going to make some pitches, and it’s typical at this point.”
The Cardinal threatened Scott Randall (8-2, 2.68 ERA), but a single from sophomore outfielder Kyle Stowers (.304/.370/.513) was erased by a double play on a hit and run. Senior right fielder Brandon Wulff (.269/.388/.581) and junior DH Will Matthiessen (.323/.400/.552) looked poised to start a two-out rally after a wild pitch put both into scoring position, but a diving stop by shortstop Keith Torres stole a hit from junior first baseman Andrew Daschbach (.309/.389/.649).
“Couple early opportunities that we weren’t able to cash in, but we were able to keep the pressure on them,” Esquer said.
Two more Cardinal batters reached in the second inning, but redshirt junior second baseman Duke Kinamon (.319/.354/.497) was caught stealing, and redshirt junior third baseman Nick Bellafronto (.274/.392/.496) was left on base after his single.
“[Kinamon’s] got a pretty good carte blanche to run,” Esquer said. “We wanted to set the tone to be aggressive.”
In the third inning, Handley jump started a rally with a full count walk. After Wulff singled, both advanced on a wild pitch. Matthiessen smacked a sacrifice fly into center field to bring home the first Stanford run.
Kinamon reached on an error for the second time to leadoff the fourth, and this time he was moved over by sophomore shortstop Tim Tawa (.246/.278/.415), who reached first on a bunt. Bellafronto kept a ball fair down the left field line to score both, and he was brought home after a groundout and Stowers’ sacrifice fly. Three pitches later, Handley cleared the left field fence to extend the Cardinal lead to five. Travis Martizia relieved Randall on the mound, and struck out Wulff to begin a streak of three K’s in four at-bats.
It was the shortest start of the year for Randall at 3.2 innings, and the five runs were the most in any of his 15 starts. Of those runs, just two were earned to accompany seven hits, two walks and one strikeout.
The Cardinal flashed the leather behind Beck, beginning in the top of the third when Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Handley caught Bronson Grubbs (.227/.336/.265) trying to steal second, his eleventh caught stealing in 27 attempts.
“The defense made it pretty easy,” Beck said. “You can fill up the zone and rely on guys to make the plays.”
In the fifth, Tawa, Kinamon and Daschbach turned a double play to end the inning. The next inning, Stowers, a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection, crashed into the left field wall to rob Torres of a two-run home run and preserve the shut out.
“Great catch, really ignited us, and kept us out of some trouble,” Esquer said. “Our defense has been able to do that a few times this year, to keep the momentum on our side.”
Stowers carried the momentum into the bottom half, doubling home Bellafronto after his walk. After six innings, Stanford led 6-0.
“We’re driven a little bit by our offense,” Esquer said. “At the end of last year, we cooled down right there at the end, at the wrong time.”
Parker Brahms came in for Martizia in the top of seventh inning after 2.1 innings of relief. Martizia allowed just one run on one hit, with five strikeouts and a walk.
“We’re not sitting here if not for the job of Travis Martizia and the job he’s done,” said Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen.
The second pitch of Brahms’ outing was taken deep by Matthiessen, and a batter later Daschbach went back-to-back to the Varsity Turf behind left field for his first hit of the game. With the blast, Daschbach tied Wulff for the team lead and matched his home run total from a season ago.
“I think it’s the furthest I’ve seen hit here in all my years as a player, an assistant coach, and now as a head coach,” Esquer said.
In the bottom half, Beck was relieved by freshman RHP Cody Jensen (1-0, 3.64 ERA) with a final line of five strikeouts, three hits and three walks. Jensen made quick work of the Hornets in a perfect frame.
Senior center fielder Alec Wilson, who entered in the top of the frame as a defensive substitute, doubled off of Sacramento State’s arm out of the bullpen, RHP Evan Gibbons (1-2, 7.80 ERA). With one out, redshirt junior catcher Christian Molfetta pinch hit for Handley, and lined out to center field.
Wulff, however, was able to bring Wilson home with a single into left. Taking advantage of a pinch-hit opportunity, redshirt junior first baseman Nick Oar (.313/.353/.500) hit his first home run of the year for the eleventh and final run.
Jensen scattered a leadoff single in the top of the ninth inning to seal the win for the Cardinal, who were able to save the back end of their bullpen.
“Tip your cap to those guys, they were certainly better today,” Christiansen said.
One of the two junior arms, RHP Will Matthiessen (6-2, 3.91 ERA) or LHP Erik Miller (7-2, 2.91 ERA) will face off against the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara and No. 3 seed Fresno State. The next game for the Cardinal will be played Saturday with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. PT from Sunken Diamond.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.