In the second game of the season, freshman pitcher Quinn Mathews made his first collegiate start against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. The rookie is considered one of the top left-handed talents from California.
“I found out Thursday night at 8 p.m. when I was going to make my first start,” Mathews said.
In preparation for his career debut, Mathews arrived at the Sunken Diamond well ahead of Saturday’s 2 p.m. start time. A product from Aliso Niguel high school, Matthews said since transitioning to college none of his pregame rituals — such as lacing his right shoe before his left — have changed.
Whereas in high school he would go about his day then show up to the park when it was time to warm up, at Stanford he’s around his teammates all day from hours before first pitch through the final out.
“I had a pregame meal with my teammates, which was different,” Mathews said. “I spent a lot more time in the locker room and I took a nap as well. The rituals aren’t any different, just a different environment overall.”
Mathews was in a jam early in the first inning on Saturday, allowing three singles and hitting a batter. With bases loaded and nobody out, pitching coach Thomas Eager came out to settle down his starter. After the visit, Mathews struck out a batter before forcing the next into a double play to end the inning — and just like that he was out of trouble with just one run given up.
“He told me to relax and keep making my pitches,” Mathews said.
Mathews ran into trouble throughout his start and most frames were a grind, but he lasted through four and a third innings. He allowed a run in the second and third, both on RBI singles.
Matthews had a nice fourth inning where he struck out a batter to end the inning, leaving a runner stranded. In the fifth inning he recorded an out, allowed another RBI single, and was then pulled for freshman Nate Fleischli.
Mathews finished his start allowing four runs and striking out three. Although Fullerton had 11 hits against Mathews, 10 of them were singles. His final line doesn’t fully reflect his first start on the bump for the Cardinal.
“I have been extremely pleased with Mathews,” Esquer said. “He had [been] pretty dominant against us in practice, and I think we could have definitely been tougher on him in practice to get him ready for this. Fullerton did a nice job of not getting greedy and hitting the ball into the holes.”
A subpar debut doesn’t doom a career. Justin Verlander, who is considered one of the best pitchers in the MLB right now and a potential hall of famer, made his first MLB start in 2015. Like Mathews, Verlander also allowed four runs in his first start at the next level. Now, he’s a World Series champion.
Contact Gerzain Gutierrez at gerzain ‘at’ stanford.edu.