In a battle of aces, sophomore Mark Appel came out on top Thursday night, guiding the Stanford baseball team to a 7-4 victory over UCLA.
Buoyed by three Cardinal home runs, the righthander battled out seven full innings while only giving up three runs as Stanford (18-12, 4-6 Pac-10) won its first conference game in two weeks over the No. 11 Bruins (20-13, 9-4).
“[The win] gives us a lot of confidence going into the weekend,” Appel said, following the win that moved his record to 3-4. “Especially after we had a tough weekend last week, we’re just hoping to ride this win into tomorrow and Saturday to give us a big series win.”
The Bruins had star righthander Gerrit Cole on the mound, who flashed a fastball that reached up to 98 miles an hour, but the Cardinal hitters stayed patient and consistently drove his pitches the opposite way, setting up two critical home runs.
After freshmen Brian Ragira and Lonnie Kauppila reached on singles in the bottom of the second inning, senior catcher Zach Jones drilled a home run over the left field fence to give the Card a 3-0 lead early on.
Appel gave up two runs in the third and another run in the sixth that tied the game at three, but the Cardinal took a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning when freshman right fielder Brian Guymon brought home sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger with his first-ever RBI in a Stanford uniform.
The Cardinal continued to blast away at Cole in the 8th inning, as sophomore right fielder Tyler Gaffney ripped a two-run shot that gave the Cardinal a 6-3 lead.
The homer also knocked Cole from the game, an impressive offensive feat against a pitcher with a 2.22 ERA, three complete games this season and a resume that makes him an expected top-five pick in this summer’s MLB Draft.
Third baseman Stephen Piscotty followed his fellow sophomore’s feat with a home run of his own, blasting the first pitch from Bruin reliever Mitchell Beacom deep over the lights in left field to extend the Stanford lead to 7-3.
UCLA scratched out one more run when Diekroeger dropped a fly ball with two outs in the eighth, but junior lefty Chris Reed came in and put a lid on the Bruins’ chances, striking out three in the final two innings to secure the Stanford win.
Despite outpitching Cole on Thursday night, Appel credited his offense with giving him the support he needed, especially after losing a 1-0 decision to Oregon State last Friday.
“I always try to play as if it’s a one-run game, but having those big hits definitely brings momentum to our side,” Appel said. “I knew they were going to pick me up this week.”
The win stops a five-game Pac-10 losing streak for Stanford, but despite getting the win over Cole and snapping the skid, the most difficult test for the Cardinal might be yet to come.
Junior righthander Trevor Bauer takes the hill Friday night for the Bruins against Stanford junior righty Jordan Pries, and the Cardinal offense will need to continue its hot hitting from Thursday if it hopes to pull out a victory over Bauer.
In his three seasons in Westwood, Bauer is the all-time strikeouts and wins leader in UCLA baseball history, and he boasts a 1.47 ERA and a 7-1 record this season.
Pries, however, has a solid record of his own, carrying a 4-3 record and a 3.26 ERA coming into Friday’s contest.
The Cardinal continues its three-game set against the Bruins at 5:30 p.m. Friday night at Sunken Diamond.