After a series victory at Washington State to turn its recent skid around, the rejuvenated Cardinal (14-9, 3-3 Pac-12) returned to the friendly confines of Sunken Diamond on Monday night for a weeknight matchup against Cal (16-13, 5-4 Pac-12). Despite the bats falling close to completely silent against Golden Bear pitchers that had been struggling this season, the Cardinal was able to cash in on a timely home run to scrape by the Bears by a final score of 4-3.
Last night marked the second meeting of the season between the cross-bay rivals. In their first meeting in late February, it was the Bears’ hitting that failed to materialize, as four Cardinal hurlers combined to shut the Cal squad out while allowing only five hits. Their counterpart on the mound, Cal lefty starter Chris Muse-Fisher, could only record one out as the Stanford hitters greeted him with four hits and a sacrifice bunt to score two runs in the first inning.
This time out, the tables were turned. Muse-Fisher, making his first start since the rivalry game of late February, entered the contest with a season ERA of 7.71 in only 9.1 innings pitched. The southpaw pitched much better this time around, giving up only two hits, walking one, and striking out three Cardinal hitters in three innings of work.
Muse-Fisher made only one big mistake in his outing. Unfortunately for the sophomore, that mistake was tattooed over the left-field fence.
Sophomore right fielder Austin Slater, Stanford’s leader in extra-base hits, took full advantage of a strike three wild pitch and a walk in the third inning to put two Cardinal on with no hits by clubbing the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence, giving the Cardinal a 3-1 lead on its second and final hit of the game.
“I’d hit a fastball the at bat before, so I was thinking that they might start me off with an off-speed pitch and they did,” Slater said. “It was a changeup down and in, I was looking for it, and I just turned on it.”
The Cardinal scraped another run onto its lead without notching a hit just one inning later when it strung together a walk, sacrifice bunt, wild pitch and a full-count sacrifice fly from sophomore center fielder Dominic Jose.
The four runs and two hits by the fourth inning accounted for all the offense the Stanford hitters could muster. But it was just enough to reward a solid effort by the pitching staff with a victory.
“A lot of guys were squaring the ball up, you know, hitting it right to guys. I feel like there were a couple of guys that usually could have had two or three hits today, but you know, that’s just how the game is sometimes,” Slater said. “Sometimes the hits just don’t fall.”
The Cardinal pitching staff did its job to protect the lead, scattering eight hits and holding the Golden Bear offense to three runs despite a shaky defense behind it that committed three errors. Cal left 12 runners on base, showing that it had plenty of opportunities to score runs but was unable to capitalize on enough of them.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher John Hochstatter earned his first win of the season, giving up two earned runs in four-plus solid innings of work. The southpaw fanned three Bear hitters but was chased after he opened the fifth inning by allowing two runners to reach.
Sophomore David Schmidt, junior Sam Lindquist, and junior AJ Vanegas kept the Bears at bay for the remainder of the evening, combining for five innings in which they gave up only four hits and one unearned run. Vanegas was able to hold on to the lead in the ninth inning, leaving the tying run stranded on third as he froze Cal third baseman Chris Paul with a called strike three.
The Cardinal next travels down to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the struggling USC Trojans. Stanford has now won three of its last four games after dropping six of seven.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 “at” stanford.edu.