No. 2 Stanford baseball‘s (31-5) Tuesday night affair with Pacific (14-23) was not for the offensive-minded, as the Cardinal defeated the Tigers 4-1 in a brisk and chilly Sunken Diamond.
“Well, that was like pulling out teeth out tonight,” Stanford head coach David Esquer said of the game. “I give our guys credit. I’ve probably played 100 games with that kind of feel and lost like 99 of them. Our guys kept pushing through…that was probably more will than talent tonight.”
The bullpen arms came up huge for Stanford, pitching eight shutout innings and striking out nine.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Austin Weiermiller started for the Cardinal but his appearance was short-lived due to his inability to keep the ball in the zone. Weiermiller only pitched 2.0 innings and walked three batters.
Sophomore closer Jack Little had a perfect 9th to close out the game, throwing 13 pitches and striking out the side for his 12th save.
Freshman relief pitcher Carson Rudd unexpectedly came in after an injury to sophomore relief pitcher Daniel Bakst in the 7th. Rudd had a good appearance, accruing a career-high three strikeouts and allowed zero runs.
“We really didn’t have Rudd in our map,” Coach Esquer said. “I thought [his performance] was the biggest moment of the game.”
“I saw Daniel holding his finger and Coach said ‘run down to the pen’ and then the umpire said ‘come out onto the field,’” Rudd said of his impromptu relief. “It was a little nerve wracking. It worked out pretty well.”
The Cardinal offense struggled to produce against Pacific’s subpar pitching. Stanford scored four runs, but only had three hits, as the rest of their runs came off errors by the Tigers defense. Senior second baseman Beau Branton continued his great stretch of hitting by having the only RBI hit of the game for Stanford.
Weiermiller’s command was shaky from the very beginning, only throwing 19 of his 37 pitches for strikes. He allowed a runner in the 1st and 2nd but great defensive plays from Branton and freshman center fielder Christian Robinson saved Weiermiller.
However, Weiermiller allowed a single and a walk on four pitches to start the top of the 3rd and was quickly relieved by sophomore righty sidearmer Zach Grech. Grech took over with runners at the corners and no outs, but he was able to keep the Cardinal unscathed by striking out his first two batters and inducing a fly out to center field.
The offense had as much success as Weiermiller had in the first three innings. Branton was able to draw out a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 1st, but the threat of scoring was neutralized as freshman designated hitter Tim Tawa struck out and junior shortstop Nico Hoerner hit into a double play.
Then, with one out in the 2nd, sophomore left fielder Kyle Stowers singled up the middle for Stanford’s first hit of the game, but it was for naught as the next two batters couldn’t create hits.
As easy as Grech made his first inning, he immediately ran into trouble in the top of the 4th, hitting Pacific’s Tyler Ryan with no outs. Ryan stole second base, but an error by senior catcher Bryce Carter allowed him to advance to third.
A single by the Tigers’ best hitter Alex LeForestier would score Ryan to break the ice and give Pacific a 1-0 lead.
Grech would limit it to one unearned run in the inning.
The Cardinal offense would respond in the bottom half of the inning by tying the game on sophomore first baseman Andrew Daschbach’s sac fly, which scored Tawa. However, Stanford left meat on the bone as the Cardinal could only get the one run despite having runners on third and second with no outs.
Grech was on to start the 5th and he again allowed the first hitter to reach first base, but this time on a walk. Grech got the first out on a fielder’s choice, which wiped out the runner reaching second base. He got the second out on a fly out, but he would walk the next batter to end his evening.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Will Matthiessen came onto the mound and walked the first batter he saw to load the bases. The 6-foot-5 righty forced LeForestier to pop out to get out of the inning.
The Cardinal bats repaid Matthiessen in the bottom of the 5th. Carter walked to start the inning and senior third baseman Jesse Kuet pinch ran for Carter. After a strikeout and a groundout, Branton came up to plate with Kuet on second. Branton laid a single to center field to score Kuet and to take a 2-1 lead.
After a shutout 6th inning by Matthiessen, Hoerner reached third base on an error by the Pacific left fielder, who lost the ball in a cloudy Palo Alto sky. Daschbach and Stowers failed to score in the shortstop, so Hoerner took matters into in his own hands and took home on a wild pitch. The score gave Stanford a 3-1 lead.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Daniel Bakst took over for Matthiessen in the top of the 7th, but he appeared to be injured after slipping on the forceout at first base. He was immediately replaced by freshman Carson Rudd. Rudd would strike out the next two betters to end the top half of the inning.
Rudd took care of business as well in the 8th with a quick 1-2-3 inning.
The Cardinal added more insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, as a fielding error allowed junior pinch hitter Christian Molfetta to reach third base. Two outs later, he would score on a wild pitch to take a 4-1 lead.
Little came in at the top of the 9th to shut the door on the Tigers, which he did promptly, striking out all three batters.
The Cardinal play host to rivals Cal for a three-game series beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. PT. Every game in the series will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana “at” stanford.edu