After a tough three-game set at Rice in which it could only muster four runs, the Cardinal offense desperately needed a pick-me-up in its home opener against Cal.
An erratic Golden Bear pitching staff that had a hard time finding the strike zone all evening was a welcome turn of events for the No. 15 Cardinal (2-2), which was able to down the Bears (3-1) 5-0.
The offense started hot, teeing off of Cal starter Chris Muse-Fisher by greeting him with three straight singles, including an RBI base hit from star second baseman Danny Diekroeger.
Designated hitter Austin Slater’s RBI single only three batters later chased Muse-Fisher, who only recorded one out on a sacrifice bunt.
Golden Bear reliever Michael Lowden prevented further damage in the first by inducing a double-play grounder from junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila.
For the rest of the night, the Cardinal offense was more subdued but was all too happy to scrape together runs from the plentiful opportunities that a wild Cal pitching staff provided.
In the third inning, Cal reliever Collin Monsour drilled Diekroeger in the middle of his back with one out, the first of three hit batters on the night for the righty.
A wild pitch by Monsour that bounced 20 feet into the air and eluded catcher Andrew Knapp allowed Diekroeger to scoot all the way over to third base. A sharp groundout by first baseman Brian Ragira brought Diekroeger home in a bang-bang play. Although Knapp did a nice job blocking the plate, the umpire ruled that Diekroeger slid in just under the tag.
The wildness continued in the fourth inning as two more hit batters and a single set up a bases-loaded walk by third baseman Alex Blandino. The fourth run of the evening for the Cardinal ended the night for Monsour. The reliever had a disappointing performance, going 1.2 innings and giving up two runs on only two hits but also handing out two walks and a staggering three hit batsmen.
Senior Justin Ringo, continuing his strong hitting from the Rice series, added an RBI triple in the 5th inning to stretch the lead to 5-0. Coming in as a pinch hitter, Ringo swatted the first pitch he saw down the first base line and into the right field corner, scoring Lonnie Kauppila all the way from first base.
Thus far in the young season, Ringo has been the most consistent hitter on the team, leading the squad with an impressive .364 batting average.
Slater also had a solid day at the plate, collecting the first two hits of his career en route to a 2-for-3 performance in which he also drove in a run.
Wednesday night also marked another dominant performance from the Cardinal pitching staff, which has only given up 10 runs in four games and is now riding a 16-inning scoreless streak.
Four Cardinal pitchers combined for a five-hit shutout, highlighted by the performance of sophomore David Schmidt, who benefited from the increased offensive output as he earned the win. Schmidt delivered 3.2 strong innings while giving up only three hits and walking one batter.
“Anytime the bats come alive and we open up an early lead, that’s big for the pitching staff,” Schmidt said. “It just lets us go out there and relax and make pitches. You want to do it for your teammates, when they’re putting runs up on the board, you realize you’ve got to put it away and it really motivates us.”
Junior Sam Lindquist threw two dominant innings to wrap up the victory for the Cardinal. The big righty struck out four of the seven hitters he faced and only allowed one runner to reach base on a wild pitch after a strikeout.
Stanford will need its pitching staff to continue to deliver strong performances that put the offense in a position to win games. The batters will also need to improve their consistency so that the team can win even on days when the pitching is less dominant.
After the four-hit outburst in the first inning, the Cardinal only mustered three hits in the remaining eight innings on Wednesday. Had it not been for the constant mistakes of the Cal pitchers, it could potentially have been a much closer game.
Stanford hopes to build off of this victory as it prepares for a three-game series over the weekend against Fresno State. The Card will hope that its first series at home at Sunken Diamond will jump-start its winning ways.