Baseball downs Pepperdine to win Regionals

Bring on the packed Southern ballpark and 100 degree thunderstorm humidity. Stanford baseball has punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament Super Regional in Tallahassee after sweeping through the first round of the postseason at home.

For the second straight night, a quick-striking Pepperdine squad punched the Cardinal in the stomach. Both times, though, Mark Marquess' boys struck back with furies that quickly vaporized 4-0 deficits.

"I got knocked down," Sunday starter Stephen Piscotty said. "But I wasn't going to give up."

"It's probably the biggest game I've ever played in my life."

That resilience should come in handy this weekend, when Stanford ventures into the muggy Deep South for a titanic clash with Florida State. Both the Cardinal and Seminoles have been ranked No. 1 in the country this season. Both teams also swept through their respective Regionals.

Stanford, though, had to grind through theirs against an inspired Pepperdine squad that was still buzzing at game time. Just two hours before Sunday evening's first pitch, the Waves had erased a 5-2 ninth-inning deficit against Fresno State and staved off elimination with a jaw-dropping grand slam. They carried the momentum over into their game with the Cardinal, pounding the home team for four runs right after the opening pitch.

No big deal.

"We could hit," Brian Ragira said. "I mean, if they wanted a slugfest, we were willing to go for that. We were confident we could come back."

Well, the Waves would have been crazy to have wanted a slugfest given the way that this Stanford lineup is gelling. But they got one anyway, and the Cardinal retaliation was swift.

Piscotty helped himself out with a rocket off pitcher Matt Maurer into center field, Ragira ripped a double of his own, and Austin Wilson shortened his swing to go back up the middle and give Stanford a 5-4 lead. Alex Blandino then unleashed his lightning-fast bat and bolted a majestic drive into the left-field trees.

Eight straight runs in the blink of an eye. 8-4 Stanford. No bases-clearing wild pitches necessary.

More importantly, the Cardinal showcased their bullpen depth to close out Pepperdine. After Piscotty tired, Sahil Bloom provided 2.2 stellar innings of Regional-sealing relief. The junior, who made only 12 appearances in each of his first two seasons on the Farm, has pitched in 20 games in 2012. All 38 of his pitches Sunday were sinking fastballs that took the sting out of Pepperdine's bats.

Stanford needed Bloom's performance badly a night after closer A.J. Vanegas threw 75 pitches in his spectacular effort. The Cardinal will likely need multiple pitchers to step up in the coming Super Regional with severe heat and humidity forecast in Tallahassee, Fla. Starters often lose over 10 pounds of water weight in such sweaty conditions, so Stanford's mettle will be tested.

If the Regional was any indication, though, the bats are certainly ready to help. They'll have their hands full against a fine Florida State pitching staff, one that stands between the Cardinal and the hallowed grounds of Omaha.


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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