By Jeremy Rubin
In its purest form, there are three parts to baseball — throwing the ball, hitting the ball and catching the ball — and the team that can do them the best most often wins. Last weekend, Stanford excelled at all of them.
Behind stellar pitching, hitting and defense, the ninth-seeded Cardinal demolished eighth-seeded Texas Tech 15-3 and 9-0 in the brutal June heat of Lubbock, Texas with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. With the wins, Stanford swept the best two-out-of-three super regional and punched its ticket to the College World Series, which is set to begin on June 19.
The Cardinal didn’t even need to take the field before setting the tone to open the series in Friday’s contest. Batting second, senior 2B Tim Tawa knocked a 2-0 pitch over the fence in left field to give Stanford a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. The damage was not done, however, as five straight Cardinal batters reached in quick succession via a double, walk and three singles to give senior RHP Brendan Beck a 4-0 lead before he took the mound in the bottom of the first.
Beck then promptly retired the first three Red Raiders batters in order on just eight pitches while picking up his first strikeout, setting the tone for the rest of his afternoon.
For the next four innings, both teams were quiet at the plate. Aside from a solo home run, Beck was flawless, giving his team’s bats enough time to wake back up after the first inning outburst. They did just that starting in the sixth inning, as Stanford piled on 11 runs over the final four frames to run up the score. Every starter reached base and also either scored or picked up an RBI.
Senior 1B Nick Brueser and freshman 3B Drew Bowser each hit home runs and paced the team with three hits each. Along with sophomore catcher Kody Huff and senior RF Christian Robinson, Brueser and Bowser made up the heart of the order and the four players went a combined 10-19 with eight runs and 11 RBIs at the plate.
Not to be outdone, Beck set a new career high of 13 strikeouts on the bump, finishing his start with 7.1 innings of two-run ball. From there, senior LHP Austin Weiermiller closed out the final 1.2 innings of the 15-3 win.
Back on the field for Game 2 less than 24 hours later, much like the temperature — which was again over 100° F — the Cardinal remained blazingly hot in all facets of the game.
Junior RHP Alex Williams was called upon by head coach David Esquer ’87 to make the start for Stanford. This time playing as the home team, he once again ensured Stanford set the tone in the top of the first, striking out the side to open the ballgame.
In the bottom of the inning, sophomore CF Brock Jones connected on an offspeed pitch in the zone for a home run to right center to give the Cardinal an early 1-0 lead. Freshman DH Tommy Troy followed up the homer with a two-run shot of his own in the following inning to give Williams a 3-0 cushion.
Jones would not be outdone at the plate, however. Following an RBI single from Robinson in the fifth which extended the lead to four, Jones came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning. He worked a 3-1 count before driving a fastball over the right center fence for a grand slam to blow open the game.
Jones completed the hat trick in the eighth with his third home run of the day, this time slightly more toward center field.
Jones, freshman LF Eddie Park and sophomore SS Adam Crampton each finished with multi-hit games at the plate.
While the Cardinal offense once again was firing on all cylinders, Williams kept pace with his team’s bats over the course of the game. He threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout while striking out 10 Texas Tech players to lead Stanford back to Omaha and the College World Series for the first time since 2008.
The team, newly-minted graduates and all, will now head to Omaha, Neb. as one of the final eight teams remaining for the 17th time in program history.
Its first game of the 2021 College World Series will come on June 19 against North Carolina State at 11 a.m. PT.