Where Stanford's CWS Hopes Died

I witnessed the massacre and its aftermath in person this weekend. It came as quite the shock after Stanford baseball's torrid start to the 2012 campaign. One extremely important lesson to be learned: stay out of the South come June.

Season-ending losses are always accompanied with a particularly empty feeling, especially for someone who has been consumed by a fun, memorable team as their radio broadcaster and beat writer. They also come with a mandatory time for reflection. That means that it's time to take inventory after this weekend's unceremonious last act: the Tempest in Tallahassee.

For Stanford baseball, nightmares have become reality in consecutive postseason trips to North Carolina and Florida. The American Southeast can officially be deemed the Cardinal's house of horrors.

Worrisome questions surrounded the team as it ventured to Seminole country for the 2012 NCAA Super Regional. In the end, every single concern turned out to be a legitimate one.

Was Florida State's high-powered offense, one that entered the series with a collective .402 on base percentage, as good as it looked on the stat sheet? Answer: even better. All nine garnet and gold starters seemed to be impossible outs for most of the Super Regional, and they quickly eclipsed their 17-run Friday output with an 18-run Sunday bushwhacking.

Stanford pitchers in Game One's drubbing: 12 walks, five hit batsmen. There wasn't something slipped in their drinks, was there? One naturally wonders just what caused this spectacular 35-runs-in-two-games implosion. Sure, the Cardinal bullpen wasn't great in 2012, but it also wasn't arson-squad bad - until this weekend.

Did the June Tallahassee humidity drench the life out of the unaccustomed Cardinal pitching staff? Routinely spectacular Mark Appel delivered three sharp innings to open the set against Florida State before running into a brick wall of mugginess. The man who once lit up the radar gun with 97 mile-per-hour fastballs even as he approached 150 pitches lost his handle on the ball before he threw number 70.

Losing control against Florida State's lineup is tantamount to standing directly over a campfire and pouring gas all over the flames. It'll blow up in your face. The Seminoles, far and away the NCAA's team walk leader, took Stanford's free passes and set up a run factory. Consider Super Regional weekend the Industrial Revolution.

How did Dick Howser Stadium's raucous, borderline insane crowd affect the Cardinal? Every player that I talked to said that it was the loudest atmosphere that they've ever played in. Even Seminoles head football coach Jimbo Fisher was on his feet riling up the audience. Several thousand randomly sang "Oh Canada" in perfect unison. The place was a complete nuthouse. Even if Stanford's attention to final exams, the three-hour time difference, and humidity hadn't already caused the Cardinal wagon's wheels to begin wobbling, that crowd would've made sure they'd come careening off their axles.

Trust me, I've seen my share of wheels coming off before - think 2002 World Series - but never on such an epic scale. It was downright shocking, because I was convinced that Stanford was too good to have this happen to them. They were too talented to get beaten by 27 runs over the course of only two games.

Looking back on the carnage, it's apparent that this series - given the convergence of rough factors - was a monumental chore for Stanford. Had it been played at Sunken Diamond, this match-up may well have taken a 180-degree turn. Imagine the humidity replaced by cool, dry nighttime air. Imagine the Seminole madhouse swapped in favor of the Cardinal gallery. Imagine Dick Howser's short right field porch traded for a spacious outfield that would have taken this weekend's home runs and turned them into routine fly balls.

At this point, with the season over, Stanford can only dream of such advantageous scenarios. Ironically, the Cardinal lost their chance at hosting a Super Regional over two weeks ago on their own home field. That's when Cal beat them in 18 innings to quash any hope of a national seed. The very next day, the Farm Boys dug their own Tallahassee grave when the Golden Bears butchered them 15-5. That was the loss that likely earned them the brutal Super Regional pairing with the Seminoles, in effect a death sentence.

Earlier disappointing defeats contributed to the deadly postseason draw. Considering the fact that 40 regular wins likely would have put the Cardinal in national seed territory (they finished with 38), two midweek setbacks at the hands of San Jose State also proved to be crippling. It was the stomach-turning Cal loss, though, that was the beginning of the end.

This 2012 Stanford club was so close to paving a clear road to Omaha, but just quite couldn't get that job done. The final record, 41-18, was excellent. But this was an extraordinarily talented, winning baseball team that messed around with fire because of its occasional regular season struggles. They ended up getting burnt in a gruesome ending because of it.

So, with two straight years of postseason failure in the Southeast behind them, the preliminary 2013 club message is stronger than ever: staying West is best. It means most to host.

David Lombardi was KZSU's Stanford baseball play-by-play announcer and Bootleg beat writer throughout the team's memorable 2012 campaign. On a more positive note, he'll take a look at the best moments of the Cardinal season within the next few days. In the meantime, you can check him out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com.

The Bootleg Top Stories