Forty-one games into its regular season, Stanford’s baseball team (21-20, 9-12 Pac-12) has crossed the .500 threshold for the first time this year, reaching its high-water mark after taking two out of three against UCLA (23-21-1, 10-11) in southern California. While freshman pitchers entered the series having thrown 57 percent of the Cardinal’s innings thus far, the older arms dominated the Bruins’ offense this weekend, spurring Stanford to 5-0 and 5-2 wins on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, after it dropped Friday’s contest 7-2.
“It’s big,” said head coach Mark Marquess. “You want to win the league, but realistically that’s not going to happen for us, so we have to try to win every game that we can. Every win that we can get is big for us.”
The Cardinal find themselves in an odd position, as they own an average regular season record and a sub-par conference record, yet were still ranked 34th in last Monday’s RPI release due to their strength of schedule. With 12 games remaining in the regular season, they need to maintain around a .500 record to remain in consideration by the selection committee for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Cal Quantrill got the series off to a rough start on Friday night, allowing six runs in the bottom of the first inning after Stanford had jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top half. Eleven UCLA hitters stepped to the plate, as they had six hits, including four singles, and a walk in the rally.
That was all the Bruins needed, as their ace, sophomore James Kaprielian, shut down the Cardinal bats. He allowed just one run on five hits and struck out 10 over 6.2 innings. Stanford stranded 11 runners in the game and went 2-for-11 (.187) with runners in scoring position in the 7-2 loss.
Though Quantrill was able to settle in after the first, allowing just one more baserunner over the next four innings, the start continued a downward trend for the freshman. Over his last four starts, he is 0-3 with a 5.70 ERA (15 ER/23.2 IP) after going 2-0 with a 0.70 ERA (3 ER/38.1 IP) over his previous six starts.
Junior John Hochstatter, on the other hand, has emerged over the last month as the Cardinal’s go-to starting pitcher after being put in the bullpen to start the season. He threw his second consecutive complete game on Saturday, this one a five-hit shutout. He took advantage of the conference-leading defense behind him, inducing 15 ground balls as the Cardinal went errorless in the contest.
Entering this weekend, Hochstatter ranked third with a 1.05 ERA in conference games, which improved to 0.83 after his Saturday start. He has won each of his four starts this season, allowing just four earned runs over 28.2 innings for a 1.26 ERA.
On Sunday, sophomore Logan James made his first start of the season, replacing freshman Brett Hanewich in the rotation, at least temporarily. James, who had pitched four shutout innings against Pacific in his last outing on Tuesday, continued to pitch well, holding the UCLA offense to one run over four innings.
The well-rested bullpen finished the last five innings strongly, as senior A.J. Vanegas and freshman Christopher Castellanos allowed just one run for the remainder of the game. Vanegas, who was making his first appearance since allowing his first earned runs in a loss last Saturday against Cal, got the call with runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth. He retired three straight, stranding the runners and maintaining Stanford’s 2-1 lead at the time. Vanegas finished with three scoreless innings and Castellanos escaped a jam in the ninth to secure a 5-2 Cardinal win and series victory.
The Stanford offense held up its end of the bargain, too, in the final two games of the series. It tallied 20 hits and went 6-for-15 combined with runners in scoring position on Saturday and Sunday. Two-out hitting was also key for the Cardinal, as they went 5-for-13 with four RBIs in those situations on Sunday.
Senior Alex Blandino rocked his conference-leading seventh homer of the year on Sunday, while sophomore Zach Hoffpauir went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the game as part of a 5-for-10 weekend. Junior Austin Slater went 4-for-4 with two runs scored.
“My swing felt good. Honestly, when I stepped in the box, I wasn’t thinking about much,” said Slater, who went 7-for-11 with two RBIs in the series. “I’m just seeing the ball really well.”
Next up for the Cardinal is a matchup against Santa Clara on Tuesday at Sunken Diamond before they head to Arizona for a weekend series against the Wildcats.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.