For the second straight inning, Stanford had put its leadoff hitter in scoring position, and for the second straight inning, Stanford didn’t have a run to show for it. Frustrations were mounting for the Cardinal, who were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in their last two games.
Then, in the first-base dugout, junior Colton Hock beckoned for his teammates to gather in a circle around him. He paced, he gestured, he pointed and he energized as he gave a fiery speech to pick up the scuffling No. 8 team in the country.
Whatever he said, it worked.
Stanford plated nine runs from the sixth inning on and launched three homers to finally make an ineffective BYU pitching staff pay for its mistakes as the No. 1 seed Cardinal staved off elimination and pulled away to a 9-1 victory over No. 3 seed BYU behind a vintage brutally efficient performance by senior lefty Chris Castellanos.
The result eliminated BYU from the NCAA Stanford Regional and set up a nightcap rematch between Stanford and No. 2 seed Cal State Fullerton in the first game of the regional final on Saturday night.
The game went just about as well as it could have for the Cardinal under the circumstances. Castellanos pitched his second career complete game on 111 pitches, only allowing one run on four hits, which allowed Stanford to preserve its entire bullpen for the night game, while the bats finally breaking out of their slump could provide positive momentum against Fullerton’s tough pitching staff.
After being limited to two hits through the first five innings against BYU starter Maverik Buffo and his 6.16 ERA and .313 opponents’ batting average, Hock’s speech seemed to light a fire under the Cardinal’s bats.
Stanford knocked 10 hits the rest of the way, including homers from Quinn Brodey (his third of the postseason), Jack Klein (his second of the postseason) and Daniel Bakst, who finished with three hits and a team-leading three RBIs. Both Klein and Brodey finished a hit shy of the cycle.
The breakthrough came in the sixth, when Stanford got its leadoff hitter in scoring position for the third straight inning. This time, the Cardinal finally got the job done, with a Brandon Wulff RBI groundout tying the game before Klein’s two-out homer gave Stanford the lead for good.
They pounced all over BYU reliever Riley Gates in the seventh for three more runs, followed by three more in the eighth when the Cardinal batted around, highlighted by a two-run single from Bakst.
If this was the last time Castellanos pitched in a Stanford uniform, he might have saved his best for last, pitching the second complete game of his career in an elimination game against a BYU lineup with only two hitters batting worse than .317.
He only made one major mistake out of his 111 pitches, when he allowed a line-drive homer to designated hitter Colton Shaver in the fifth inning to give BYU a 1-0 lead. But he just kept rolling, retiring the next 11 Cougars in a row while the offense got to work behind him.
Though Castellanos allowed two hits in the ninth inning, the game was far out of reach by then, and a sharp liner off the bat of Brock Hale drifted into Jack Klein’s waiting glove in center field for the 27th and final out with runners on the corners to end BYU’s season.
“Not only does he have really good stuff, but he’s also a bulldog,” said BYU head coach Mike Littlewood about Castellanos’ outing. “You could tell he wanted to finish that game.”
The Cardinal will likely send freshman Erik Miller to the mound for the nightcap against Cal State Fullerton at 6 p.m., which will be carried on an ESPN3 broadcast.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.