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
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
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
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
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
Where Stanford's CWS Hopes Died
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