By Jeremy Rubin
The youth movement is in full effect for Stanford (4-8, 0-0 Pac-12). Just one upperclassman, senior catcher Christian Molfetta, started the game for the Cardinal on Tuesday night. Including starting pitcher Max Meier, seven freshmen began the game.
However, it was the veterans of the team who got the job done against No. 16 Michigan (6-5, 0-0 Big-10). Stanford upset the Wolverines 5-4 in front of the home crowd of 1,066 at Sunken Diamond on Tuesday.
On the bump, redshirt senior Jackson Parthasarathy was electric in relief for the Cardinal. Entering the game with the bases loaded and his team trailing 3-0, he induced a swinging strikeout to end the Michigan threat in the third. He then fired off three more innings of scoreless baseball before turning it over to junior Carson Rudd to begin the top of the seventh.
Stanford got on the board in the bottom of the third inning courtesy of back-to-back singles by junior outfielder Tim Tawa, who replaced freshman Owen Cobb in the first, and sophomore Austin Kretzschmar to cut the deficit to 3-1.
In the sixth, with one run already in to cut the score to 3-2, redshirt senior Nick Bellafronto, who came into the game hitting .080 on the season, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Bellafronto, who replaced redshirt sophomore Zach Sehgal at third base an inning prior, worked a full count at the plate. Bellafronto then roped the next pitch he saw to short, which Michigan shortstop Jack Blomgren booted before throwing away trying to get him at first. Blomgren’s throwing error resulted in all three Stanford baserunners scoring and the Cardinal taking a 5-3 lead.
This two-strike, two-out hitting by Bellafronto put Parthasarathy in position for the win, his first of the season.
Rudd got the first two outs of the seventh inning for Stanford, but exited with runners on the corners. Senior Zach Grech’s first pitch in relief of Rudd resulted in a harmless flyout to center and the 5-3 Stanford lead was preserved entering the bottom of the seventh.
In the eighth, Michigan threatened to tie the score with men on the corners, having just cut the lead to one on an RBI groundout. The batter, Blomgren, chopped a ball to Bellafronto at third base, who caught the runner on third in a rundown and tagged him out in between third and home for the second out of the inning. Bellafronto then turned and caught a Michigan baserunner too far off second and fired a strike to second baseman Kretzschmar, who applied the tag for the third out, leaving Stanford still clinging to a 5-4 lead.
Following a quick bottom of the eighth, Grech remained on the mound for his third inning of work. Grech induced two harmless flyouts to begin the inning, before back-to-back singles put men on the corners in the one-run ballgame as the Stanford faithful held their breath. In a hard-fought five pitch battle against Michigan redshirt senior Matthew Schmidt, Grech outdueled the batter, forcing him to swing over an offspeed pitch to finish the game and earn himself the save. Upon the pitch, Stanford’s dugout erupted, having officially completed the upset.
Meier started on the mound for the Cardinal and fired off two scoreless innings before handing the ball off to sophomore Cody Jensen in the third. Following this start, Meier’s ERA was lowered to a stellar 1.86 on the season.
Jensen lasted just 0.1 innings, allowing two quick singles and a double to open up the scoring 2-0 in Michigan’s favor. Sophomore Nicolas Lopez replaced Jensen and could not escape the third, either. After inducing a ground out to the first batter, Lopez lost the plate and walked three straight before Parthasarathy took over.
The Cardinal will next welcome Kansas State for a four-game homestand this weekend. Stanford has won three of its last four games, including a series win against Grand Canyon University last weekend.
First pitch against Kansas State is set for 6 p.m. PT this Friday at Sunken Diamond.