It was all smiles for Stanford’s baseball team on Sunday afternoon, as freshman Cal Quantrill’s dominant 126-pitch shutout — the Cardinal’s first since Mark Appel ‘13 went the distance on Mar. 28, 2013 — capped off the team’s first series win of the season.
“It was a great job and he got stronger as the game went on,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “He was stronger in the last three or four innings than in the first five or six.”
Although Kansas entered the three-game set ranked in the top-10 nationally in multiple major offensive statistical categories (including batting average, slugging percentage and total scoring), Stanford’s pitching dominated Jayhawk hitters throughout the series, allowing just four earned runs over 31 combined innings (1.16 ERA). The Cardinal starters were particularly effective, as they did not allow an earned run over 19 innings pitched.
While Stanford was just a sacrifice fly away from taking Friday’s game in extra innings twice, it battled back from the 4-2 13-inning loss to take the next two games in the set, 5-4 and 1-0, to head into their two-week break on a high note.
Friday’s extra-inning marathon started out as a pitchers’ duel, with neither team getting a run across the plate until the eighth inning. Freshman Brett Hanewich got the start to open the series and had his best outing of the year under the lights.
Hanewich was dominant early, retiring the first 10 hitters he faced by throwing strikes and getting into advantageous counts. He lowered his ERA to 1.93 after tying his longest outing of the season by going 5.1 innings, allowing no runs and just three hits.
Sophomore Marcus Brakeman replaced the freshman starter in the sixth inning with runners on second and third and only one out, but was able to get out of the jam to hold the Jayhawks scoreless through six.
Kansas was also threatening in the seventh with runners on first and second and one out, when a fly ball hit by sophomore Jacob Boylan to left looked like it would give them the lead. But senior left fielder Brett Michael Doran ranged back and made an over-the-shoulder catch, starting a garden-variety 7-6-4 double play to once again spare the Card.
In the eighth, Kansas rallied with two outs after a walk surrendered by Brakeman was followed up with an opposite-field RBI triple. An error scored both Jayhawk players, giving Kansas a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinal were down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth and looked like they were in business after a leadoff double from freshman Alex Dunlap. A perfectly placed bunt by freshman Tommy Edman advanced Dunlap to third, and Marquess then sent up senior Brant Whiting in a big pinch-hit opportunity. Whiting delivered with a game-tying single on a two-strike count to send the game into extras.
“With two strikes, I just had to battle. I got a good pitch to hit, and put it in play,” Whiting said. “It’s a different mindset…but I’m always prepared [to pinch hit] — we all have to be because we’re all trying to help the team win.”
But from then on, the story for Stanford was simply one of missed opportunities. The Cardinal loaded the bases in both the 11th and 12th innings, first with one out and then with no outs. Yet both times, they weren’t able to score the winning run from third. Stanford left 13 runners on base in the game, eight of them in scoring position.
Stanford’s five defensive errors, nine walks allowed and a hit by pitch — all unforced errors in areas the players could control — also set the team back in game one, a seemingly ongoing trend this season. 49 percent (32 of 65) of opposing hitters that have scored against the Cardinal this season have reached base via a defensive error, walk or hit by pitch.
Kansas took a two-run lead in the top of the 13th and then shut out the Card in the bottom half to take the series-opening win.
On Saturday, the Cardinal offense took advantage of early Kansas miscues — a combination of walks and a hit by pitch allowed by their starter in addition to multiple defensive errors. They scored one in the first, one in the second and three in the third to hand freshman starter Chris Viall a 5-0 lead.
The freshman was forced from the game after 4.2 innings when an error by sophomore shortstop Drew Jackson opened the floodgates and led to three unearned Kansas runs. Viall was able to get out of multiple jams — not allowing an earned run — despite surrendering four hits and four walks.
While Kansas later narrowed the gap to 5-4 and threatened in the ninth against freshman Tyler Thorne, who was called in for the save opportunity, a 6-3 double play with one out in the top of the ninth secured the Cardinal victory.
The series finale was also a pitchers’ duel, as both starters pitched complete games and a single run was enough to provide the margin of victory. It came in the bottom of the fourth, when senior first baseman Danny Diekroeger, who leads the team with 12 runs scored and a .500 on-base percentage, led off with a single and was eventually singled home by Dunlap with two outs.
Quantrill provided the Cardinal with their best start of the season, throwing a complete-game shutout in which he allowed just four hits and struck out seven. A lot of his recent success has been a product of effectively mixing his pitches, especially his breaking ball early in counts.
“The slider for me is a first-year pitch, so it’s taken some time to get used to how and when to use it,” Quantrill said. “[Pitching coach Rusty Filter] has done a great job of working it in early…to put [opposing hitters] in counts where they weren’t ready for the heater, which worked well.”
For Quantrill, the first Stanford freshman to start an Opening Day game since 1988, this season has been a progression, even after just five starts.
“It’s college baseball — it was a little different. Maybe the adrenaline, maybe I was getting a bit worked up, but I’m good,” he said. “I’ve got those [first couple of starts] behind me, and now I feel like we’re ready to get on a roll here and start turning around the season.”
Contact Jordan Wallach at [email protected].