By Jeremy Rubin
After winning its first conference series, Stanford baseball (14-4, 2-1 Pac-12) again took two out of three this weekend on the Farm.
Originally scheduled to play a three-game series against CSU Bakersfield, the Cardinal switched plans following a pause in all CSU baseball operations “as a result of university and department wide health and safety protocols,” according to a GoStanford press release.
Instead, Stanford welcomed Fresno State (7-10, 4-5 Mountain West) to Sunken Diamond for two games over the weekend and Sacramento State (18-6, 10-2 WAC) for one on Monday.
The Cardinal came out swinging in Saturday’s contest against the Bulldogs. A seven-run first inning that saw seven straight batters reach base via three walks, three singles and a hit by pitch provided more than enough cushion for sophomore pitcher Quinn Mathews. Mathews moved to 3-0 on the season and went six innings while giving up four runs, ensuring his team’s substantial early lead held up.
Junior designated hitter Vincent Martinez finished 3-for-4 at the plate with a two-run single in the first and a two-run home run in the fifth. Senior first baseman Nick Brueser and freshman third baseman Drew Bowser each also had three hits in what amounted to a 12-4 Cardinal win.
Stanford again got to work at the plate early on Sunday. Freshman second baseman Tommy Troy sent the first pitch he saw in the top of the first over the left-center fence to give the Cardinal an early 1-0 lead. Senior center fielder Tim Tawa matched Troy and raised him an RBI in the second, knocking a two-run shot also out to left-center. After a walk to sophomore left fielder Brock Jones the next inning, sophomore catcher Kody Huff found a gap in the outfield for an RBI double to set up an early 4-0 lead.
From there, the Bulldogs began to chip away at the Cardinal pitching. Freshman Drew Dowd got the start and went four strong innings of one run ball before turning the ball over to classmate Brandt Pancer with men on first and third with no outs following an error and a base hit. Pancer worked out of the jam, but not without giving up a single to allow an additional unearned run to be credited to Dowd.
Senior Brendan Beck, typically a starter, was then brought out of the pen. He worked out of a jam of his own caused by three hits, a walk and an error by striking out the side, but not before two runs (one earned) came around to score to make it a 4-4 ballgame. The Cardinal had three errors in the game, an uncharacteristically poor defensive showing.
Stanford flipped the script back in the next half inning, however, as singles from sophomore shortstop Adam Crampton and Tawa, two walks and a hit by pitch pushed three additional Cardinal runs across.
A late four-run rally in the top of the eighth from Fresno State put the Bulldogs up 8-7 and within just six outs of securing the win. Much like it had been all game, though, quality at-bats and timely hitting proved to be the difference for the Cardinal. In the bottom half of the inning, Crampton got the offense going with a base hit and was bunted over to second by junior Austin Kretzschmar. Tawa, who finished 3-for-5 with six RBIs on the day, then connected for his second home run of the day to put the Cardinal back on top. Two more runs from a Martinez single was all fifth year pitcher Zach Grech needed to close out the 11-8 win.
Stanford’s luck ran out on Monday, as the team was unable to string enough timely hits together and fell 3-2 at Sunken Diamond to Sacramento State. The Cardinal again struck first with two runs in the top of the second, but the Hornets shut the team out the rest of the way. Crampton finished with two hits, the only Stanford player with a multi-hit game.
The team elected to pitch-by-committee, starting with junior Alex Williams, who was making his first appearance of 2021. He threw a scoreless first and was followed up by freshman Joey Dixon, who also went one inning. Pancer was then called upon to do much of the heavy lifting, and he delivered. Over 4.1 innings of work, he scattered five hits to maintain the lead, but walked the first batter of the seventh before handing the ball off to senior Austin Weiermiller.
Weiermiller got two outs, but not before giving up a two-run double to tie the game at two, forcing Grech to enter the game in the seventh to finish off the inning. Grech struck out the last batter of the seventh and sent the Hornets down in order in the eighth, but lost the zone in the ninth. He hit the first two batters he faced, one of which scored following a single off the bat of Sacramento State’s Matt Smith to give the Hornets a walk-off, 3-2 victory. With that loss, Grech moved to 3-1 on the season.
The Cardinal’s next action will be a conference series on the road against Washington State. First pitch is set for Thursday at 4 p.m. PT.