Cal 5, Stanford 4 (18): Weirdest game ever?

Stephen Piscotty, one of the country's best hitters, finished 0-for-8. Stanford and Cal combined to bunt 10 times in a game that saw 35 hitters left on base. A mere 125 at-bats, 569 pitches (91 from Stanford's closer), and six hours after Mark Appel's Friday night first pitch at Sunken Diamond, Cal outlasted Stanford 5-4 in 18 innings at Sunken Diamond.

And in case anyone doesn't think this game was unusual, there was a point during which Stanford wildly celebrated a walk-off victory, but the Cardinal didn't win the game.

The moment in question came in the bottom of the 12th inning with Stanford down to its final out trailing 4-3. With two runners on, pinch hitter Brett Michael Doran (one of the six players to occupy the No. 7 hole in the Cardinal lineup) drilled a ball down the left field line. As it made its high arc into the Stanford night, it initially appeared that it was going to stay fair. It hooked violently, though, and ended up about two feet foul.

The only problem was that home plate umpire Billy Speck emphatically ruled that the ball was fair. After a split-second of confusion, Austin Wilson dashed home to score the winning run and a chaotic celebration ensued when the Cardinal poured out of their dugout. Here's the sequence.

That's when Cal complained about Speck's call. Coach David Esquer lobbied third base umpire Tim Vessey hard, even though Vessey was positioned at second base for the play and, therefore, had a much worse angle of the drive down the line. After a very brief meeting, the crew overturned the call. Stanford's celebration was over.

(Note: I've seen a team celebrate a win before having it taken back in a timed sport, a la football or basketball, before having it retracted because of a clock issue. But this was the first time I've seen a team stripped of a win after mobbing in baseball.)

Doran was forced to return back to the plate, though he was given a few minutes to patch up his disheveled uniform and work out any kinks. He had just been the focal point of the celebratory mobbing, after all. The pinch-hitter was able to tie the game nonetheless on a weakly hit roller past the pitcher to the right side. Wilson tried to end the game by scoring all the way from second base on the play, but he was gunned down to end the inning.

The big slugger immediately slammed his helmet down in frustration (if you ask me, an acceptable reaction to such an emotionally-charged inning) and was ejected by short-fuse umpire Speck. With Wilson gone, the resulting void in Stanford's lineup stalled the team's attack. Six frames and a second seventh-inning stretch later, 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda delivered his first hit in the 18th to break the tie and give Cal the 5-4 win.

And with that gut punch, Stanford was eliminated from Pac-12 title contention. The club is cornered entering today's match-up against Cal. The Cardinal are almost certainly now out of contention for a national seed. NCAA Tournament Regional hosts are announced before Sunday's game, though. So Stanford almost certainly must win Saturday, or else Senior Day may well be the last 2012 game held at Sunken Diamond.

Friday's 18-inning marathon, the longest in Stanford-Cal history and tied for the longest in Bears history (Stanford media relations was unable to confirm that it was the longest in Cardinal history) depleted Mark Marquess' bullpen. Closer A.J. Vanegas will be unavailable the rest of the weekend after throwing 91 pitches, as will key reliever Dean McArdle, who threw 81.

Just another Stanford-Cal game, right? Video replays clearly show that Dwight Garner was down during the now-famous "Play" during the 1982 football Big Game, though officials missed the call and awarded Cal the victory. You'd think the decision-makers could throw Stanford a bone and not overturn a missed call in the Cardinal's favor, right?

Not on Friday night. So, they'll do what John Elway and Co. badly wanted to do back in '82: they'll reset and play again the next day. That's the beauty of baseball.


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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