Cardinal cap Texas sweep with 13-run inning

I've announced many Stanford baseball games, dramatic moments and blowouts alike, but no KZSU Cardinal experience has come close to matching Stanford's fourth inning tour de force Sunday.

The home team piled up 13 runs in one frame. They batted around not once, but twice. They sent 18 hitters to the plate. Not only did they turn Sunday's game into a video game performance, they made it look like one with cheat codes turned on.

And no, it didn't happen during an exhibition game against Cuesta College, though that would have still been impressive. Stanford inflicted this absurd damage against Texas, the winningest program in college baseball history.

This offense, folks, can officially be called a juggernaut.

The Cardinal improved to 7-0 behind their first-ever sweep of Texas, downing the Horns 5-0 on Friday, 6-2 on Saturday, and 15-1 in the Sunday capper. The team's success also marked a watershed moment for the program, as it officially took the all-time series lead against the powerhouse Longhorns operation, 28-27-1.

A week after outscoring then-No. 10 Vanderbilt 35-13 over the course of three games, Stanford blasted soon-to-not-be-No. 7 Texas 28-5. Monday's national rankings may not reflect it, but on what planet is Stanford baseball not the No.1 team in the country? Current top dog Florida has already lost a game, and they've played four relatively close games against lightweights Bethune-Cookman and William and Mary. Barring voter bias, the Cardinal have clearly played their way into the top spot.

Back to Stanford's shellacking of Texas, though. I had trouble tracking the carnage of the 13-run fourth inning on my scorecard, just because it wouldn't all fit. The Cardinal cranked out nine hits in that frame, including Stephen Piscotty's booming bases-loaded double off the left-center field wall. In a fitting twist that displayed just how deep this Stanford lineup is, Brian Ragira, the Cardinal's leading hitter (.462) coming into the game, happened to be the one player who didn't contribute to the shelling.

"This lineup is really, really good," Kenny Diekroeger told me before the season. "It has a certain swagger to it that is really special."

I finally know exactly what Kenny meant when he said that.

Almost lost in this entire offensive pounding, though, is how well Stanford has clicked in other facets of the game. After stellar performances by Mark Appel and Brett Mooneyham on Friday and Saturday, freshman John Hochstatter was masterful again Saturday, this time in his first career start. The crafty lefty surrendered only one run; he used his dazzling breaking ball to keep the Longhorns off balance for 6.1 frames just a week after throwing 6.1 no-hit innings in his collegiate debut. Texas didn't record a hit until two were retired in Sunday's third inning. Hochstatter had officially pitched nine complete no-hit innings to kick off his Stanford career.

The kid is dealing. It's safe to say that the Cardinal have found their Sunday starter.

Defensively, the team has enjoyed gems as well. Shortstop Lonnie Kauppila is picking it at a professional level, Jake Stewart is laying out for balls in center field, and Austin Wilson is showing off his cannon in right field.

On the basepaths, the Cardinal are displaying a killer instinct that collects an extra 90 feet whenever physically possible. That's true even when Stanford leads by 14 runs: see Tyler Gaffney's brilliant bluff from third on Friday and Diekroeger's aggressive double Sunday.

Mix this club's killer offense with a starting pitching staff that has been lethal so far, and the result is an opportunity for true greatness in 2012.

There's one more pressing question to answer, though. The bullpen hasn't been truly tested yet, just because the other facets of the Cardinal's game have been so dominant. Next weekend's road trip to Fresno State may finally give Stanford baseball the opportunity to discover what it has in terms of pitching relief.

For now, though, preseason questions surrounding the Cardinal are vanishing at a rapid and dominant pace.


About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.


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