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7-run 4th inning sinks baseball in Round Rock opener

A lack of clutch hitting and defense doomed the Cardinal to begin the Round Rock Classic on Friday, as the team fell 11-4 and dropped to 1-4 on the season

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Junior pitcher Brendan Beck lasted just 3.2 innings in his second start of the season for Stanford (1-4, 0-0 Pac-12) in a 11-4 loss to Houston (2-2, 0-0 AAC) at the Round Rock Classic in Texas on Friday.

Seven runs in the fourth, five of which were unearned, did him in while the Cardinal bats went largely silent when called upon throughout the afternoon.

Stanford took an early 1-0 lead in the first after a leadoff walk by freshman Brock Jones and a subsequent double by redshirt senior Christian Molfetta. The Cougar pitchers held the Cardinal scoreless for the next six innings, however, as Houston scored eight unanswered runs.

After Beck allowed a hit batter to score in the second, the wheels came off the bus in the fourth as Houston capitalized on poor infield defense. All three of Stanford’s errors came in the frame, two on the same play courtesy of junior first baseman Nick Brueser. Four of the inning’s seven runs came with two outs.

It took two pitchers, Beck and sophomore Nicolas Lopez, to stop the Cardinal bleeding and escape the inning trailing 8-1. Lopez pitched a clean fifth to maintain the seven-run difference.

After the initial RBI to score the first run of the game in the first, Molfetta kick-started Stanford’s only other run-scoring frame, leading off the seventh with a double. The Cardinal scored three in total to close the deficit to 8-4. Senior third baseman Nick Bellafronto found the gap for his first hit of the season, a two-run single to right center.

Stanford promptly handed the momentum back to the Cougars in the eighth, however. Houston scored one run off redshirt senior Jackson Parthasarathy and two off junior Carson Rudd to bring the lead back to seven. A clean ninth inning from Houston pitcher Tristen Bayless ended any chance of a Cardinal comeback.

The loss continues a growing trend for the Cardinal. After a season-opening loss in which Stanford also coughed up five unearned runs, the team has yet to put it all together for nine full innings. The team’s lone win this season was a close, low-scoring 2-1 victory against Cal State Fullerton in the third game of that opening series. In eight innings over the course of two starts, Beck has given up 11 runs, but just four of the runs have been earned. 

The four runs Stanford scored in Friday’s effort are just two less than the six the Cardinal put together in the first four games of the season. In total, the team had nine hits in the contest, including two apiece from Molfetta and Brueser. Timely hits eluded coach David Esquer’s ’87 club, though, as the team stranded 12 base runners and was unable to find a way to get back in the game.

Friday’s game marked the first of three for the Cardinal at the Round Rock Classic in Texas. Stanford will look to regroup and prepare for No. 6 Texas Tech (4-0, 0-0 Big-12), the highest-ranked team Stanford has faced thus far, on Saturday.

First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT.

Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Jeremy Rubin '23 is one of the sports section's Managing Editors for Vol. 258. A lifelong Yankees, Knicks and Jets fan, this New Yorker spends his free time devouring all forms of sports content or jamming out to music. Contact him at jjmrubin 'at' stanford.edu.