For a Cardinal team in need of a pick-me-up after a sweep at the hands of the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, a weeknight matchup against the nonconference Saint Mary’s Gaels was just what the doctor ordered. The No. 25 Cardinal (24-15, 9-9 Pac-12) roared back to life against a shaky Saint Mary’s (17-27, 8-7 WCC) pitching staff and jumped out to an early lead that it never relinquished, cruising to a 9-1 victory at home.
The events unfolded in a manner eerily reminiscent of the game against San Jose State a week ago. In that contest, the Cardinal put up nine runs the first inning and chased the Spartan starter before he recorded a single out.
Senior starting pitcher Kelsey Outram was the unfortunate victim of this week’s first-inning outburst by the Cardinal offense. Outram, like San Jose State’s Daniel Chavez before him, did not record an out as the first five Stanford hitters all reached base against him before he was pulled in favor of freshman Gary Cornish.
One of those first five hitters was junior first baseman Brian Ragira, who continued his torrid hitting with a huge three-run home run to left — his team-leading eighth of the season — that put the Cardinal up 3-0 early.
Even after the pitching change, the hit barrage continued as sophomore third baseman Alex Blandino and junior catcher Brant Whiting each smashed RBI singles to increase the lead to 5-0 after only an inning of play.
That was part of a 4-for-4 day for Whiting at the plate, who raised his batting average to a team-best .405 with his continued hot hitting.
“I’m just seeing the ball pretty well right now, getting good pitches to hit and putting good swings on them,” said Whiting. “I credit that a lot to the coaching here, you know, being able to work on it every day.”
The Gaels’ bats, on the other hand, never materialized against a Stanford pitching staff that suffered from control issues at times but was largely dominant. Sophomore John Hochstatter, making his first start after a hotly contested suspension for hitting a batter, pitched three sparkling innings before laboring through a fourth inning plagued by problems getting the ball into the strike zone.
In that fourth inning, Hochstatter hit a batter and walked two others, including one with the bases loaded, to force in a run. That run proved to be the only one that the Gaels’ hitters could muster throughout the whole contest.
“I think he’s feeling really good out there,” Whiting said about Hochstatter. “He was looking really good tonight, hitting his spots really well, throwing all four of his pitches for strikes. It was huge for him, having a successful outing after four games off, basically. We’re going to need him this next weekend [at Arizona State], so it was really good seeing that out of him.”
Stanford was able to tack on four more runs for good measure in the home half of the third inning when senior designated hitter Justin Ringo, who has been extremely successful out of the leadoff spot, added two more RBI with a deep double to right to bring his total to 30, good for second on the team.
Junior right fielder Austin Wilson provided the rest of the scoring with a two-run single that looked to be a harmless, inning-ending ground ball to second base but took a bad hop and eluded Saint Mary’s sophomore second baseman Darian Ramage as it bounced into right field.
After the eventful third inning, however, the Stanford offense went cold, knocking only two more base hits. Freshman righty Jacob Valdez entered the game for the Gaels with two outs in the third and was lights-out over 4.1 scoreless innings in which he scattered only three hits.
However, Saint Mary’s was simply unable to play catch-up as freshman Bobby Zarubin hurled three scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen, which closed out the game in a relatively quiet manner.
This was a victory that the Cardinal desperately needed to regain its momentum heading into a tough, do-or-die series against Arizona State (28-12-1, 11-7 Pac-12), one of the toughest teams in the conference.
“It’s real good getting this win, kind of getting that sour taste out of our mouth [after the Oregon series],” said Whiting. “It doesn’t matter what the team is, a win’s a win. It’s just good that we were able to swing the bats tonight.”
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.