A back-and-forth weekend in Corvallis didn’t exactly end the way the No. 7 Stanford baseball team had envisioned.
When junior shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, down to his last strike, tied Sunday’s contest against No. 20 Oregon State at 4-4 in the top of the ninth, it seemed that the Cardinal would have enough momentum to capture the rubber game and return home with a series win. But instead, Beaver third baseman Ryan Dunn singled off the glove of junior Jake Stewart in left-center field in the bottom of the tenth to clinch another close win for Oregon State.
Instead of keeping pace with conference leader No. 12 Oregon, which beat No. 16 Arizona in two of three in Tucson this weekend, the Cardinal (29-14, 11-10 Pac-12) falls into a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with Washington and the very same Beavers that halted Stanford’s recent Pac-12 charge yesterday. All three teams trail the Ducks by three and a half games with only three weeks to play.
Though the Cardinal can lay blame to some pitching anomalies — the flu-induced scratch of redshirt junior lefthander Brett Mooneyham on Saturday or the unexpected (and unsuccessful) start by junior righthander Sahil Bloom on Sunday — it was Stanford’s hitting that fell short in both losses. The Cardinal only got 13 combined hits over the three games in the first eight innings, rallying to an impressive win 8-2 on Friday night before mounting two more late comebacks that just weren’t enough to secure a second victory.
Junior leftfielder Stephen Piscotty paced the squad with his 7-for-12 hitting clip on the road trip, but was eventually credited with yesterday’s loss despite 4.2 innings of solid work.
Junior righty Mark Appel gave up six hits in as many innings to start the series on Friday, but he kept the Beavers off the board into the seventh, when three base knocks in a row spelled a late 2-0 lead for Oregon State.
“Mark looked great,” sophomore rightfielder Austin Wilson told GoStanford.com. “It kind of stunk because the first couple of innings we couldn’t support him.”
But that support showed up in full force in the final two frames. Piscotty and sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira each singled to lead off the eighth against sophomore starter Ben Wetzler. After Wetzler was yanked, Wilson followed with a triple to tie the game at two and freshman third baseman Alex Blandino tacked on a double to give the Cardinal its first lead.
A failed bunt and two straight strikeouts ended the push, yet Stanford wouldn’t be stuck at three runs for very long. With two on and one out, Ragira made it 4-2 with his third hit of the afternoon and a Wilson fielder’s choice pushed a fifth run across. Back-to-back doubles from Blandino and fellow freshman Dominic Jose extended the lead to five runs and a single by junior catcher Eric Smith capped the scoring at 8-2.
“It shows how we never, ever stop battling,” Wilson said. “Down 2-0…we put some more runs on and didn’t let them come back.”
Stanford would be looking for a miracle again on Saturday, with a platoon of six pitchers throwing in Mooneyham’s absence and letting Oregon State build a 4-0 lead through seven innings. Freshman lefty Jace Fry walked Jose to lead off the eighth and gave him second base on a wild pitch, but Jose would advance no further with the Cardinal flying out three straight times to end the inning.
Piscotty drew another leadoff walk in the ninth, helping set up another key RBI double from Blandino to make it 2-0 with one out. It was Stanford’s only extra-base hit of the afternoon and just the fifth hit of any kind given up by Fry, who quickly got out of the jam to improve to 5-3 on his impressive rookie season.
Bloom was the surprise starter on Sunday, replacing struggling freshman John Hochstatter and sophomore A.J. Vanegas, who had pitched in relief of Appel on Friday night. But the junior’s first start of the season didn’t last very long, as he gave up three runs — all of them coming with two outs — in the first two innings and quickly gave way to Vanegas.
Stanford nearly drew even in the sixth, with Piscotty and Ragira singling with two outs to make it 3-2. But Beaver righty Dan Child limited the damage and got his team out of the inning, allowing Oregon State to tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth and seemingly put the game in the books.
The Cardinal had some more drama in store for its hosts, however, as Wilson was hit by a pitch and Blandino singled to also get on with no outs. Down 4-2, Smith then belted a fly ball to deep right field that was not quite hard enough to get to the fences but still moved Wilson to third. Jose followed with RBI groundout to cut the margin in half.
Behind 0-2 in the count with two outs, Diekroeger fought off a pitch and then knocked one into right field to keep Stanford alive. Piscotty sent the game to extra innings with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth and got on base with one out in the tenth, but Ragira grounded into a double play to give the Beavers a chance to win the game.
Junior centerfielder Joey Matthews singled with one out to begin the threat, and a perfectly placed infield single down the third-base line by freshman rightfielder Dylan Davis moved him into scoring position. Piscotty got a second out but walked the next batter to load the bases for Dunn, whose ensuing single won the series for Oregon State.
Stanford will not play a midweek game this week, getting a chance to recuperate before hosting Washington State (23-20, 9-11 Pac-12) this coming weekend. The series opener at Sunken Diamond will start at 6 p.m on Friday.