No. 8 Stanford baseball (28-13, 15-6 Pac-12) escaped the weekend with a series win over the UCLA Bruins (24-15, 10-9-1 Pac-12), winning two out of three games to maintain its first-place position in the Pac-12 standings. After dropping a series on the road in Eugene, Ore., last weekend, the Cardinal were able to rebound and remain in a strong position to host a super regional.
Stanford was in command throughout most of the first game, leading at all points during the game. But UCLA would not fail to make it a scare. After the Cardinal tallied runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings to make it a 3-0 game, the Bruins drove in two runs in the top of the seventh inning to cut into the lead. However, thanks to the experienced bats of junior outfielder Eddie Park, junior first baseman Carter Graham and sophomore outfielder Braden Montgomery, the Cardinal were able to bring home three more runs to give themselves a four-run cushion.
However, the Bruins would once again respond at the top of the eighth, getting on top of senior pitcher Quinn Matthews early in the inning. UCLA would score two more runs to make it a 4-6 game, and after a scoreless bottom of the eighth by the Cardinal, it was setting up to be a thrilling finish. After a strikeout to begin the ninth, UCLA hit back-to-back singles to get men on first and third with just one out. Stanford head coach David Esquer decided to make a change, substituting junior relief pitcher Ryan Bruno in for junior relief pitcher Drew Dowd. Bruno drew a fly-out to right field, which brought home one run, before forcing another pop-out to end the game.
In the second game of the series, UCLA was able to generate offense throughout the entire contest, scoring runs in five different innings. Despite some early offense by the Cardinal, including a solo home run by freshman catcher Malcolm Moore, the Bruins put runs on the board with a bevy of walks, singles and sacrifice flies. After five innings, UCLA was in front 5-2 and later increased its lead to five at the top of the eighth inning. The Cardinal started to crawl their way back into the game with a timely home run by junior third baseman Drew Bowser and an RBI single by Carter Graham, but the Bruins refused to relinquish their lead, adding an extra insurance run at the top of the ninth inning to win by a score of 9-6.
The third game of the series started out much like the second game. UCLA took an early lead thanks to an array of singles, walks, and extra-base hits. In the middle of the fifth inning, the score stood at 7-3 in favor of the Bruins. However, the Cardinal responded with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the lead in half. After an RBI single by Graham in the bottom of the sixth, the score stood at 7-6. After a scoreless seventh inning by both teams and a scoreless top of the eighth by UCLA, the energy in the ballpark was palpable, as fans waited for Stanford to break through.
After a couple of walks and a single, the bases were loaded with one out and junior Alberto Rios up to bat. All Rios needed to see was one pitch, as after being down 0-1 in the count, Rios unloaded on a ball in the zone, knocking it out of the park to make it a 10-7 game. That was all she wrote for the Bruins, as they were unable to muster enough offense to comeback and the Cardinal were able to clinch yet another Pac-12 series win.
Up next, Stanford will head to Tempe, Ariz., to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (29-15, 14-6 Pac-12). The Cardinal and Sun Devils are the top two teams in the Pac-12 rankings, and the series could determine the Pac-12 standings leader for the foreseeable future. The first game of the series starts at 5:30 p.m. PT on Friday and will be televised on the Pac-12 network.