Nightmare Start, Stabilized Finish
For the first three innings of Friday's Super Regional opener, Stanford played like a team that was dealing with two cross-country trips (on slow airplanes) in two days, rigorous final exams, and the foreign 90 percent humidity of the South.
Vanderbilt 10, Stanford 0.
Hello, top half of the fourth inning.
The situation improved over the final six frames. The Cardinal showed encouraging signs of acclimatization, outscoring the Commodores 6-1. One can safely assume that the team's finish will be Mark Marquess' point of emphasis as the club moves back to the elimination game situation in which it has seemed to be most comfortable. Stanford won three of those in a row to win the Bloomington Regional, including two straight in dramatic comeback fashion over host Indiana.
They'll now have to repeat that feat against Vanderbilt, though the situation is complicated by the fact that Stanford players now happen to be in the middle of a rigorous final exam stretch (the Commodores are done with school, thanks to the semester system). Friday starter John Hochstatter, who walked five batters in one disastrous inning of work, took a Multivariable and Linear Algebra final exam following the early afternoon game. Cal Quantrill, tomorrow's pitcher, has a Physics test waiting for him before he takes the mound in Saturday's must-win contest.
From Stanford's perspective, there's some good news to salvage from that, though: Quantrill is the Cardinal's ace, and he's still available for the biggest game of the season tomorrow. The Cardinal didn't have the same luxury in 2012, the last time they were blown out to open a Super Regional. That year, Mark Appel pitched the 17-1 Friday shellacking, and that left Marquess out of reliable bullets facing elimination on Saturday.
This time around, one senses a strong belief coming from Stanford that the team can compete to force a decisive game three situation behind Quantrill. If it comes to that, the Cardinal may be short a reliever: Friday's dire circumstances forced them to spend projected Sunday arm Brett Hanewich, who did a fantastic job stopping the game's bleeding, but required 92 pitches to do so. Regardless of that potential complication, Stanford would be trilled to reach the weekend's end, and the ballclub would take its chances behind Logan James and possibly even Hochstatter again, since the junior lefty threw only 45 pitches before his removal today.
Either way, there's an optimistic vibe emanating from Stanford's camp heading into Saturday that hasn't existed during the Cardinal's past two Southeast Super Regional trips, which both ended in disaster. Friday's six-run offensive outburst certainly helped stem Vanderbilt's tide and pull momentum back into the visitor's dugout. Now that the Cardinal feel they've stabilized the situation, they have a chance to build on last weekend's heroics.
"Today put a sour taste in our mouths," Danny Diekroeger said. "We're looking forward to coming out tomorrow."
Three Players Drafted
The final Saturday pick of the MLB Draft certainly didn't put a sour taste in Diekroeger's mouth. The St. Louis Cardinals selected him with the last slot of the tenth round, and that should help relieve potential stress that might have conflicted with tomorrow's game (Rounds 11-40 are Saturday). The Cardinals are certainly happy with the last Stanford player they picked: Stephen Piscotty, who was drafted in 2012, is hitting nearly .300 in AAA now.
Stanford ensured its fourth consecutive year with a first round pick when the Cincinnati Reds took third baseman Alex Blandino at no. 29 overall Friday. The San Francisco Giants selected outfielder Austin Slater in the eighth round. Remember, the Giants also took Stanford first baseman Brian Ragira last year.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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