Junior centerfielder Jake Stewart had already singled, doubled and homered when he came to the plate in his fourth at-bat on Tuesday night, needing a triple to complete the first cycle of his Stanford career.
Instead, he added his second home run of the evening to polish off one of the best games he’s played on the Farm.
Stewart went blow-for-blow with Santa Clara on Tuesday night, as No. 14 Stanford equaled its longest winning streak of the year with its eighth straight victory to stay hot heading into its final regular-season series. Stewart’s full-count, two-run homer in the eighth inning was a huge boost for the Cardinal (37-14, 17-10 Pac-12) in its 10-5 win over the Broncos (25-26, 4-17 West Coast Conference).
“I was just trying to get on base every single time I was up,” he told GoStanford.com. “That’s what the leadoff hitter’s job is, and I was just trying to do that all day.”
Stanford closes out its nonconference season with an impressive 20-4 record, including a near-perfect 10-2 mark in midweek games.
The Cardinal still has its sights set on the close race for the Pac-12 title as it prepares to host Cal this weekend. Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA all trail Oregon by two games and are one back of Arizona, meaning that a series win against the Golden Bears would guarantee the Cardinal at worst a third-place finish. With the Ducks squaring off against competitive in-state rival Oregon State–which dominated one of the teams’ two midweek meetings this year–Stanford is by no means out of contention for its first conference title since 2004.
Even though last night’s win won’t help the Cardinal move up in the standings, the all-around effort had to be pretty encouraging for head coach Mark Marquess. Besides Stewart’s heroics, freshman designated hitter Dominic Jose and sophomore rightfielder Austin Wilson each had three hits, with the former doubling twice and the latter netting a two-bagger of his own.
After a moderately productive four-hit weekend against Utah, Stewart didn’t give Bronco starter Tommy Nance any time to settle in, blasting the first pitch of the game for his fifth homer of the season.
“I was looking for a fastball somewhere in the zone that I could put a swing on,” Stewart said. “Luckily I got one up in the zone that I could drive somewhere.”
Stewart and sophomore second baseman Danny Diekroeger then opened up the third with back-to-back walks, but Stewart was thrown out at home on an infield grounder and only Diekroeger came around to score.
Santa Clara cut into that tenuous 2-0 lead in the bottom half of the third on an error by Wilson–just the fifth of the season for the .970 fielder–but Stewart helped break things open in the fifth when he got on base to lead off an inning for the third time. He later scored on a single by sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira, with Wilson tacking on a fourth run on his ensuing double and freshman third baseman Alex Blandino making it 5-1 with a hit of his own.
The Broncos got their second run off junior righthander Sahil Bloom in the bottom of the fifth, and climbed back within striking distance when designated hitter Quinton Perry tattooed freshman righty David Schmidt’s second pitch in relief for his fourth home run of the year.
Stewart responded with a leadoff double and came around to make it 6-3, but Santa Clara sophomore Kyle DeMerritt came back with a double of his own to spark a two-run Bronco rally in the bottom of the seventh.
A double play in the eighth seemed to set up Santa Clara for a comeback, but Stewart’s two-run jack with a full count extended the Cardinal lead to 8-5.
“We try to keep those rallies going with two outs and nobody on,” Stewart said. “The wind was blowing out and it was helping me out a little on that one.”
Stanford added two more runs in the ninth–marking the first time all game that the team had scored without Stewart coming to the plate–on a two-run double by Jose. Hitting from the right side in response to a Bronco pitching change, Jose was thrown out at third trying to extend the play, but a scoreless bottom of the ninth clinched the 10-5 win.
Redshirt sophomore lefthander Garrett Hughes (2-1) got the win after his scoreless, two-inning start.
The Cardinal now has two days of rest before it hosts Cal (27-24, 10-17). Stanford won both conference games in Berkeley last year, with the finale cut off due to rain with the Cardinal leading 7-1 in the fourth inning.