Needing a series sweep to continue to establish its case for a postseason berth, Stanford baseball fell short of that goal this weekend against Washington State (23-27, 13-14 Pac-12), putting itself into a state of limbo regarding its position in the national ranks. In the team’s final regular season series at Sunken Diamond, in front a combined audience of 7,561 — the largest crowd for a three-game series this year — the Cardinal (26-23, 13-14) took the first two games of the series, 5-2 and 9-4, but dropped Sunday’s matchup, 10-1.
“Anytime you have a chance to sweep a team, especially in the Pac, it’s important to do that,” said senior third baseman Alex Blandino. “Today, we came out and were hitting some balls hard right at people, which didn’t really fall our way. It was a close game there for a little bit but we let it get away. It’s tough to drop a Sunday game, but we’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
While sophomore starting pitcher Logan James had another strong outing, allowing just two runs over seven innings, the Cardinal offense could not get anything going against Cougars junior starting pitcher Tanner Chleborad. Over seven innings, Chleborad allowed just three hits and one run, inducing 11 ground balls and striking out four along the way. Stanford stranded six runners on base in the game and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
After James departed with a 2-1 deficit in the top of the eighth after throwing 117 pitches, the Cardinal bullpen imploded, perhaps along with the team’s playoff chances. Washington State blew open the game with a five-run eighth inning and a three-run ninth inning, with all of the runs coming off of freshmen relievers who could not find the plate. Chris Castellanos, Tyler Thorne, Chris Viall and Griffin Weir combined to throw just 44 percent of their pitches for strikes and allowed six runs on six hits and three walks, as the Cougars took a 10-1 advantage to salvage the final game of the series.
However, Stanford dominated the first two games of the series, both at the plate and on the mound. Freshman Cal Quantrill allowed just one run over eight innings on Fireworks Night on Friday, and junior John Hochstatter earned his sixth consecutive win as he battled through 6.1 innings and allowed three runs on Dean Stotz Day on Saturday. The starting rotation of Quantrill, Hochstatter and James has been dominant over the last four weekend series, as they’ve combined for an 8-2 record and a 2.71 ERA over their last 11 starts.
“We’ve really gotten good starting pitching, and that’s why we’ve been able to win two out of three these past weekends,” said head coach Mark Marquess.
“It’s been huge having two guys like that have come out and solidified their spots in the starting roles,” Blandino said. “I was really impressed with [Hochstatter] yesterday. I don’t think he had quite his best stuff compared to his other starts of late — he’ll be the first one to tell you that — but he battled and gave us a great start. Same thing with Logan James. He struggled at first to find the zone a little bit but he put together a pretty darn good start.”
On Friday, Stanford got out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to two RBIs from Blandino on a first-inning sacrifice fly and a third-inning double. A few innings later, sophomore Zach Hoffpauir continued his hot streak with a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the sixth, giving the Cardinal a 4-1 lead that they would protect for the rest of the game.
The offensive production on Saturday came in the form of three long balls from junior Wayne Taylor, freshman Tommy Edman and Blandino. Overall in the series, Blandino went 5-for-8 with five RBIs and two runs scored, also extending a career-long reaching-base streak to 19 consecutive games. Junior Austin Slater also extended a career-long hitting streak to 13 games, a span in which he has hit .472 (25-for-53) and has raised his season batting average to a team-high .348.
Stanford now faces four must-win games in its final week of the season, which kicks off tonight at Sunken Diamond against Pacific in a rematch from April 29, a contest in which Stanford squeaked out a 3-2 win. First pitch for the team’s final home game is set for 5:30 p.m.
“We have a chance [at the postseason]. It’s just a matter of other factors that really are out of our control,” Marquess said. “But what we can control is that we have four games left, so hopefully we can win a few of them.”
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.