Yogi Berra was famously quoted as saying, “you can’t think and hit at the same time.”
Right now, it seems everyone playing for Stanford (5-11, 0-0 Pac-12) is doing too much thinking. The Cardinal fell 6-1 in the finale of a four-game series with Kansas State (9-6, 0-0 Big 12) on Sunday.
“Trying to play perfect on defense by not making any mistakes because we haven’t been scoring a lot of runs,” said Stanford head coach David Esquer ’87, “probably pressing on offense because we haven’t scored a lot of runs and probably pressing on the mound because they don’t feel like they have a whole lot of margin for error.”
“You always find out with the Stanford kids they gotta learn how to play relaxed and how to play loose because if they get tight and they get a little too introspective, they can think about a lot of things,” he added.
A freshman All-American last year, Wildcats starter Jordan Wicks had yet to concede an earned run this season and through 5.2 innings on Sunday. Then, sophomore second baseman Austin Kretzschmar knocked his second double of the game on an 0-2 count. Two pitches later, Carson Greene delivered the RBI single to score Stanford’s only run of the game.
“He was excellent,” Esquer said of Wicks. “I thought he had three pitches he could throw for strikes. He’s very polished, he could attack hitters in a number of different ways, right handed and left handed.”
The double was Kretzschmar’s second of the game and solidified his spot atop the Cardinal hitters. His .295 average is 50 points higher than the next-best qualified batter.
“He’s just squaring the baseball low and hard; he’s not trying to do too much,” Esquer said. “That’s something that we need for sure.”
Mirroring Friday night, freshman RHP Nathan Fleischli opened for the Cardinal. This time, the perfect outing lasted eight batters until a hit by pitch summoned sophomore RHP Brandon Dieter out of the bullpen.
In 3.1 innings, Dieter surrendered just two hits, but both were costly. The first hit, with a runner on base, went deep and left the yard. The second bounced, then cleared the wall. Two batters and two groundouts later, Dieter was charged with his third earned run.
Before the home run, Stanford had an opportunity to shut the door with a double play and erase the batter that reached via walk, but Kretzschmar was slow on the transfer, and the runner reached first.
“There’s things we’re doing within the game that make it hard for us,” Esquer said. “Every mistake we make seems to get amplified.”
Fifth-year RHP Jackson Parthasarathy scattered a single in the seventh inning, but walked two without recording an out in the eighth. An error committed by junior RHP Carson Rudd rendered both runs that came around to score unearned. Senior RHP Zach Grech pitched the ninth, allowed three hits and was charged with the sixth and final run.
Through 16 games last year, Stanford had nine home runs and finished with 88. This year, Stanford has two and is on pace for less than seven in the 54-game regular season.
“That’s a lot of breathing room that you lose out when you’re unable to pop one,” Esquer said.
On the season, Stanford has been outscored 91-47. Cardinal opponents have scored more unearned runs, 33, than Stanford has scored earned runs, 32.
Stanford will now have its regularly scheduled break for finals before heading into conference play. Stanford hosts Cal beginning March 21.