After a nail-biting series against Cal State Fullerton last weekend, No. 2 Stanford baseball (5-2, 0-0 Pac-12) was able to win in a more relaxed manner this week, sweeping the Rice Owls (2-5, 0-0 Conference USA) in its first home series of the 2023 season.
After struggling in his first start against Cal State Fullerton, senior starter Quinn Mathews pitched better against Rice, giving up just two runs in six and a third innings. However, the Cardinal bats also remained quiet, tallying just one run through five innings. With the Owls leading 2-1 at the bottom of the sixth with one out, junior second baseman Drew Bowser reached second base thanks to an error by the Owls’ second baseman. During the next at-bat, another throwing error at second base allowed Bowser to score and knot the game up at 2-2.
After sophomore catcher Charlie Saum walked and senior shortstop Owen Cobb grounded out along with advancing runners to second and third, the Owls made a pitching change, bringing in reliever Matthew Linskey. Unfortunately, the move failed to pay off for Rice, as junior left fielder Eddie Park drove the ball to left field and knocked in two runs, giving Stanford its first lead in the game. After a solo home run by infielder Pierce Gallo at the top of the seventh, the Cardinal added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the inning to buffer their lead. That was all freshman pitcher Matt Scott needed, as he failed to give up a hit during the last two innings and secured Stanford’s first win of the series.
On Saturday, the two teams would play a double-header due to the potential for inclement weather on Sunday. During the first game, Stanford jumped on Rice from the beginning, with the team piecing together a couple runs in the bottom of the second inning to make it a 2-0 game. While Rice responded with a run of its own in the fifth inning, the Cardinal bats went on a tear down the stretch, plating nine runs from the fifth to eighth innings. A team effort catalyzed by third baseman Tommy Troy’s home run and Park’s two-run double to center field allowed the Cardinal to blow the door wide open. In the end, the Owls were unable to keep up with Stanford’s offense, as they lost the game by a score of 11-1.
The third game featured a better effort by Rice, as it was a thriller until the final few innings. The Owls dealt the first blow in the game, with first baseman Drew Holderbach knocking in a run to bring home Gallo in the first inning. But the Cardinal answered promptly, as junior first baseman Carter Graham hit a grounder to the shortstop to plate Troy. After Graham’s at-bat, Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Braden Montgomery smashed a ball to right field to bring Stanford its first lead at 2-1. After Rice tied the game at the top of the second, Park hooked a two-run home run to right field to retake the lead for the Cardinal.
After the Owls assembled two more runs to once again tie the game, the bats went quiet for both teams. However, the offensive drought ended in the eighth inning, when Owen Cobb tripled to center field and brought home freshman pinch hitter James Nati and pinch runner Henry Gargus. Alex Rios added insurance with his RBI single to make it a 7-4 game. A team effort from the bullpen allowed Stanford to walk away with the win and clinch its first sweep of the young baseball season.
Up next, Stanford will play Pacific in a midweek match-up before hosting Cal State Bakersfield for another non-conference series over the weekend. First pitch against Pacific is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. PT in Stockton, Calif. on Wednesday.