No. 2 Stanford Baseball (45-15, 21-9 Pac-12) won the Palo Alto regional of the NCAA baseball tournament on Monday evening to advance to the Super Regional round next weekend. It marks the Cardinal’s 13th appearance in the Super Regionals in school history.
In the opening game of the regional on Friday, Stanford faced off against No. 4 seed Binghamton (22-30, 15-15 America East). The Cardinal put on a great display of all around-hitting in the game, compiling four home runs, five doubles and 11 singles.
After Binghamton scored a single run in the top of the first inning, Stanford promptly responded by going on a 10-run streak in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore third baseman Drew Bowser started off the scoring spree by doubling to left field, which drove home junior catcher Kody Huff. Soon after, other hitters in the Stanford lineup like sophomore infielder Carter Graham, junior second baseman Brett Barrera and freshman outfielder/pitcher Braden Montgomery plated runs to give Stanford a 6-1 lead. Then, when Bowser stepped up to bat for his second time in the inning, he hit a big fly with the bases loaded to put Stanford up 10-1.
This deficit was too much for Binghamton, which was a team that scraped into the tournament by winning their mid-major conference tournament. The final score for the game was 20-7 in favor of Stanford.
After advancing past Binghamton, Stanford received their first test of the postseason by going up against the Texas State Bobcats (47-14, 26-4 Sun Belt). Texas State, who was ranked No. 11 in the final season edition of D1 baseball’s rankings, pounced on Stanford early, as junior left fielder Jose Gonzalez hit a solo shot to put the Bobcats up 1-0.
While Stanford tied up the game in the second inning after sophomore left fielder Eddie Park hit an RBI single to center field, the Bobcats generated more offense in the middle of the game. Gonzalez hit another solo home run, which put Texas State back in the driver’s seat. After Gonzalez’s second homer, third baseman Justin Thompson hit a double, and then DH Wesley Faison hit a two-run home run to extend the Bobcats lead to 4-1.
The Bobcats generated offense when they needed it, but the story of the game was their pitching, as pitchers Levi Wells and Tristan Stivors combined to give up just two runs to the potent Stanford offense. In the end, the Bobcats won the game 5-2.
Facing the prospect of elimination, Stanford had its back against the wall for the remainder of the regional.
In the third game on Saturday, Stanford played UC Santa Barbara (44-14, 27-3 Big West). The Gauchos jumped out to an early 4-3 lead at the end of five innings. However, as seen numerous times throughout the season, no lead is safe against this Stanford team.
In the sixth inning, junior outfielder Brock Jones hit a two-run RBI double to give Stanford a 5-4 advantage. The Cardinal scored another run in the sixth after a fielding error by Gauchos shortstop Jordan Sprinkle. Although Santa Barbara managed one more run, the Cardinal eventually went on to win the game 8-4, setting up another game with Texas State.
This game might be remembered as the “Carter Graham” game for a long time, as many believed prior to the game that Graham would not play due to injuries suffered earlier in the series. However, Graham had two home runs in the game, including a three-run shot, to help the Cardinal win 8-4. This win set up a regional-deciding third game between Texas State and Stanford that took place on Monday.
In an effort to advance, Texas State decided to start its star closer Tristan Stivors on the mound on Monday night. This decision paid off, as Stivors had a phenomenal performance, giving up just one earned run through seven innings. On the other hand, the Cardinal decided to bullpen their way through the game, bringing in six pitchers to pitch on the mound. Through eight innings, both team’s managers seemed to have made the right decisions, as the score was 1-1 going into the ninth inning.
In the top of the ninth inning, Montgomery took the mound for the Cardinal as the relief pitcher. After walking his first two batters, Montgomery got Bobcats shortstop Dalton Shuffield to fly out and struck out Justin Thompson. However, after Gonzalez was intentionally walked, Wesley Faison hit a single to plate two runs and put the Bobcats up 3-1. Stanford seemed unlikely to make up this deficit, as its bats had been struggling all night.
But as has happened many times this year, just when you might think the team is dead in the water, it makes much-needed clutch plays for a comeback.
With zero outs in the bottom of the ninth, Bowser hit a solo home run to cut the Bobcats’ lead down to 3-2. Following Bowser, second baseman Tommy Troy hit another solo shot, which tied the game at three apiece. After Texas State made a pitching substitution, Park hit a single to left field, which put the winning run on base. After a groundout and walk, two men were on first and third. Head coach David Esquer put in freshman infielder Trevor Haskins to pinch hit for sophomore pitcher Brandt Pancer. After battling to make it a full count, Haskins pulled a hanging curveball through left field to give Stanford a walk-off win.
Looking ahead, Stanford will host UConn (48-14, 16-5 Big East) at Sunken Diamond in the Super Regional round. The Super Regional format is a best 2-of-3 series. First pitch for the series is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT.