If there were any spectators at Sunken Diamond on Thursday, they’d see the new Escondido Village Graduate Residences peek over the outfield trees. Those spectators would also see signs of a great season ahead for Stanford baseball (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12). The team kicked off its season with a strong performance in a 10-7 victory against Santa Clara (1-3, 0-0 WCC).
Senior pitcher Brendan Beck started the game for the Cardinal, looking to improve on last season’s 2.82 ERA. Beck did a good job of getting ahead in at-bats throughout the game, but gave up an early single and home run in the top of the first to put the Cardinal behind 0-2.
Senior center fielder Tim Tawa got the offense going in the bottom of the first with an infield single, a ball that Santa Clara’s third baseman couldn’t gather in time to make the throw. The next two batters walked, loading the bases for the Cardinal.
Santa Clara catcher Jake MacNichols gave the Cardinal what they needed to get on the board. He was unable to corral a wild pitch that landed in front of him, scoring Tawa. The bases remained loaded, leading to the game’s first big moment — a grand slam by senior right fielder Christian Robinson over the left field fence. Just as quickly as they fell behind, the Cardinal were ahead 5-2.
The early lead helped Beck settle in. He put together 6.1 innings of five-hit ball, striking out nine batters. On the other side, once Santa Clara substituted pitcher Cole Kitchen in for starter Russell Grant, who gave up the five-run first inning, the game settled into a lull.
Action picked up again in the bottom of the fourth, when sophomore third baseman Brett Barrera and Tawa each crushed two-run home runs. The blasts unlocked another level of energy from the Stanford bench, along with the need to throw to first base to keep Cardinal baserunners honest, disrupting Kitchen’s rhythm. Kitchen only lasted for 2.2 innings before being replaced by Alex Waldsmith.
Waldsmith entered while trailing 9-2 and let sophomore left fielder Brock Jones chime in with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. The next batter, sophomore catcher Kody Huff then stepped up to the plate for the at-bat of the game. It wasn’t one of the four home runs the Cardinal hit in the contest, but after getting clipped on his left leg and evaluated by training staff, Huff managed to grind out Waldsmith in an 11-pitch at-bat that ended in a ground-rule double, compelling Santa Clara to make its third pitching change of the game.
Just before the seventh inning stretch, Beck was replaced by sophomore pitcher Max Meier. Some of the energy on Stanford’s side left with him. Errors helped start a five-run Santa Clara rally, which forced head coach David Esquer ’87 to replace Meier with fifth-year pitcher Zach Grech, who managed to stop the bleeding and finish the frame with Stanford still ahead by three runs.
Grech was able to close the seven-out save without allowing a hit, and the Cardinal were able to prevail 10-7. The team heads to Santa Clara tomorrow for the second game of a four-game home-away-home-away series.