Marcus Brakeman lived up to his name. Unfortunately for Stanford, there wasn't much else in the form of good news.
The Cardinal's improbable, thrilling run to the decisive game of the Nashville Super Regional ended in sloppiness and frustration Sunday afternoon. Vanderbilt punched its ticket to the College World Series in Omaha with a 12-5 win. Stanford now enters the offseason on a note of disappointment after turning a wretched start around into a fun finish.
The turnaround, though, was noteworthy.
With freshman dominating key spots in the rotation following the departure of no. 1 pick Mark Appel, Stanford labored to an 11-16 start against the toughest part of their schedule. The team matured in time to deliver a 24-10 finish that featured a postseason berth, regional championship, and -- at long last -- a super regional victory in the Southeast.
The Bootleg documented the magical postseason moments here, here, and here. But the well finally ran dry this past weekend. Stanford fell one win short of returning to Omaha for the first time since 2008.
The Cardinal simply ran out of gas Sunday. The Commodores ambushed starter Logan James to the tune of four early runs. By the time the first inning was over, Vanderbilt led 5-0 and had already tapped into Brakeman, Stanford's second pitcher.
Brakeman stabilized the situation, allowing only one run until he tired in the seventh inning. In the meantime, Stanford's offense roared back to close the deficit to 6-5, but that was all the Farm Boys had left in the tank after an exhilarating weeklong stretch that featured four comebacks in elimination games and three dramatic go-ahead home runs, including two stunning walk-off shots. At least one of those is now etched into program lore.
The wheels came off for Stanford in the seventh. The Cardinal, who burned through a total of eight pitchers during this game, struggled to throw and catch the ball as Vanderbilt poured on six insurance runs in the late frames to put the game away.
Stanford enjoyed fine performances from Danny Diekroeger (3-for-4) and Alex Blandino (2-for-4, 2 RBI) in what may well have been the duo's final performance in a Stanford uniform. Both were favorably drafted this past week; Blandino went in the first round, giving the program a first round selection in each of the past four drafts.
Aside from that, though, only Brakeman's outing fell in the positive column for Stanford. The sophomore cauterized some serious early Cardinal bleeding, but Vanderbilt's aggressive onslaught just never seemed to let up. The top three hitters in the Commodores lineup combined for 11 hits. That wreaked serious havoc on the bases, and there was no Cal Quantrill available to clean it up for Stanford on Sunday.
Quantrill will be around next year for the Cardinal, though, and that's where this team's 2015 hopes begin. Stanford will try to build around some young arms next year, and he'll be the headliner. Offensively, the big bats of Blandino, Diekroeger, and Slater will be missed, but Stanford will still have a physical, talented roster capable of producing runs. Two-sport star Zach Hoffpauir will likely be a centerpiece of the 2015 lineup, but for him, the 2014 football season comes first.
Stanford on the Final Day of MLB Draft
Round 11, Pick 339 - A.J. Vanegas (Dodgers)
Round 16, Pick 471 - Wayne Taylor (Mariners)
Round 24, Pick 722 - Dominic Jose (Yankees)
Round 30, Pick 909 - Brant Whiting (Dodgers)
Round 37, Pick 1101 - Sam Lindquist (Mariners)
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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