No. 11 Stanford baseball (9-2) swept a Friday doubleheader against No. 24 Cal State Fullerton (5-4), but could not pick up the series sweep as the Titans won 6-5 in walk-off fashion on Sunday.
This was the Cardinal’s second double header in the past seven days after splitting a matchup with UNLV, but this time Stanford came away with 4-3 and 8-1 victories.
Stanford’s pitching opposition in the opener was Tanner Bibee, who entered the game with a 2-0 record and a pristine 13 innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Against the Cardinal, however, Bibee surrendered four earned runs and suffered his first loss of the season. Even a season-high nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings was not enough to overcome the Cardinal.
“Game one was definitely a battle,” head coach David Esquer said. “I credit our guys for staying patient and coming through with some big hits late in the game.”
Junior outfielder Kyle Stowers hit an infield single with one out in the first inning, but was doubled up after a lineout off the bat of sophomore infielder Tim Tawa. In the bottom half, Stowers exited the game with an injury after the first batter. A collision in left center field on a fly ball that turned into a Hank LoForte triple meant Esquer went to his bench much earlier than expected, bringing in senior outfielder Alec Wilson.
Brett Borgogno singled through the left side to bring LoForte home, but a 6-4-3 double play cleared the bases for starter sophomore RHP Brendan Beck. Despite two more singles, Beck was able to limit the damage to one Titans run.
In the second inning, Wilson committed the first of a season-high three errors for the Cardinal as Stanford doubled its season total. Entering the series with four errors, the Cardinal added another error in both games against Fullerton to bring the team’s fielding percentage to 0.978.
The error put the runner, Jordan Hernandez, on second, and Beck did not help himself with a failed pickoff attempt later in the inning. Beck, nevertheless, was able to throw Hernandez out at third on a bunt attempt and induced a strikeout to finally escape the jam when LoForte flied out to center.
Beck was unable to escape another jam in the fourth as the bottom of the order came through for the Titans. Hernandez and Mitchell Berryhill recorded singles, and Jackson Lyon grounded out to senior third baseman Nick Bellafronto to drive in the run and put the Titans up 2-0.
Aided by three double plays, Bibee had faced the minimum possible hitters until Stanford broke through with two runs in the sixth. Christian Robinson walked on a full count and Bellafronto singled to set up runners on the corners. Robinson scored when freshman infielder Brandon Dieter grounded into a fielder’s choice. Junior catcher Maverick Handley’s double into the right-field gap brought Dieter home and tied up the game.
Beck retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings to keep the Cardinal in the game. The starter matched a career high 6.2 innings pitched allowing just the two earned runs with six strikeouts.
In the top of the seventh, senior outfielder Brandon Wulff tanked a homerun to straightaway center. “Wulff and Matthiessen have been carrying a load offensively,” Esquer said.
The pair have accounted for 32 percent of the team’s RBI, 29 percent of hits, and 36 percent of total bases. Wulff and Matthiessen have each reached base safely in all ten games – Maverick Handley is the only other Cardinal to do so.
Pitching with a lead for the first time, Beck let up a leadoff single, with the runner advancing to second on a failed pickoff attempt by Handley. A strikeout followed by a groundout meant there were two outs and on a runner on third. At this point, Esquer went to junior RHP Zach Grech out of the bullpen. A single by Borgogno plated the unearned tying run.
Stanford scored its winning run in the top of the eighth inning on a two out rally. Handley tripled and Wilson walked to put runners on first and third. Handley finished 3-4 with run an RBI and the winning run. “Maverick Handley is really starting to swing the bat well,” Esquer said.
Tawa, who had been hitless to that point, singled on two strikes to score Handley. After finishing last season batting .296, Tawa is hitting .191 through the first twelve games. “You love to see Tim Tawa come through with the game-winning hit,” Esquer said.
Gavin Velasquez came on for the Titans after the Tawa hit, allowing just one hit and no runs in 1.1 innings of work. Despite making no noise whatsoever through the first five innings, the Cardinal offense came alive to score in three consecutive innings to pull ahead. “You could see our guys getting more comfortable as the night went on, and they’re well prepared for situations like this,” Esquer said.
Grech came back to shut out the Titans in the home half of the eighth before junior RHP Jack Little came in to close the bottom of the ninth. Little walked the lead-off, but sat the next two Fullerton batters down. A weak grounder to Tawa at short was the final out, as Little picked up his third save of the season and Grech earned the win, his second.
Stanford doubled down in game two for a Friday sweep.
After going down in order in the first inning, Matthiesen doubled to right field to start a three run second inning. Bellafronto had the only other hit in the inning, although it featured four walks, including two with the bases loaded.
In the fourth, Handley singled home Robinson after his double and Wilson lined a single into right field to score Bellafronto after his walk.
Pitching behind a lead, Palisch did not allow a hit through the first 3.1 innings, and allowed his only run in the fifth. Palisch earned the win with 5.0 innings pitched, four strikeouts, and three hits. Sophomore LHP Austin Weiermiller struck out two in a scoreless sixth, then handed the ball off to sophomore RHP Carson Rudd for the last three.
Wilson finished with a career-high four RBI, Handley drove in three, and Bellafronto scored three times, as the Cardinal dominated 8-1.
Although Stanford went down to Fullerton eyeing the sweep, it was not to be on Sunday.
“Today is nothing to be too upset about,” Esquer said after Sunday’s contest. “Things just didn’t go our way at times.”
Through the first four innings, only two Cardinal players had reached base. Matthiesen was hit by a pitch in the second inning and Wilson doubled to lead off the fourth.
By that time, the Titans had already put three on the board. In the third, a Borgogno double was sandwiched by single from LoForte and Valenzuela, and a groundout brought home a second run. In the fourth, a two out walk, a wild pitch, and a balk added the third run and chased starter junior LHP Erik Miller. In his third start of the season, Miller went 4.0 innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits and three walks.
“We didn’t play well for the first four innings, but we flipped the script and made a great baseball game out of it,” Esquer said.
Robinson doubled to right in the fifth, and Handley came up clutch with a two out double to bring the game within two.
Matthiesen entered to start the fifth, throwing 3.0 shutout innings to keep Stanford in the game.
Andrew Daschbach hit his first home run of the season to right center to lead off the seventh inning. Despite singles from Bellafronto and Dieter to put two runners on with one out, Fullerton brought in a new pitcher to escape the jam.
Stanford made changes in the top of the eighth to spark the offense. Sophomore infielder Nick Brueser pinch hit for Tawa and walked, then senior infielder Duke Kinamon pinch ran. Matthiesen singled and Daschbach was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A. Robinson ground out scored one and tied the game, but it was Bellafronto who had the huge swing to double and put the Cardinal up two.
“I credit guys like Nick Bellafronto, Nick Brueser and Duke Kinamon for stepping up late in the game,” Esquer said.
Bellafronto, who had started the last four games at third base and had just recorded his first career multi-hit game in Game 1 led Stanford offensively with a 2-4 afternoon.
The lead was short lived.
Two runners were on after a double and walk, and junior All American RHP Jack Little was brought into the game. A walk loaded the bases and a strikeout was the first out of the inning. A sacrifice fly and a single recaptured the lead for the Titans with two runs attributed to Matthiesen.
Stanford could not get any offense going in the top of the ninth, providing Fullerton the opportunity to win the game in the home half. Little got to two outs, but Valenzuela singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by Dieter, who had moved to shortstop. Now in scoring position, a Jairus Richards single walked the game off for the Titans.
“I saw a fastball down the plate, and got lucky enough for the ball to drop in,” Richards said.
Stanford’s six runs allowed were a season high.
Stanford will host No. 22 Texas in the only four-game series of the season with first pitch at 6:05 pm on Thursday.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu