Let’s all extend a hearty welcome back to the Stanford offense. For once, the pitching wasn’t the only story of the game. The offense backed Brett Hanewich by pounding out 13 hits and scoring 8 runs in the rubber game of the three-game series against USC to push the Cardinal (14-8, 4-2 Pac-12) to a 8-1 victory over the Trojans and a third straight series win.
A newly rejuvenated Mikey Diekroeger led the charge with another three-hit game to make it six hits over the last two games of the series (four doubles, a home run and a single), at one point reaching safely in seven straight at-bats.
Tommy Edman also had some great at-bats from the left side to go 3-for-3 and raise his batting average to .305, Alex Dunlap had 3 RBIs and freshman Brandon “The Big Bad” Wulff had the best game of his young career, going 3-for-3 with three RBI singles and a sacrifice fly to drive in a career-high 4 RBIs.
"I was really hoping for [a game like this],” Wulff said. “The Washington State series wasn't my best effort at the plate, and the whole week leading up to this series, I worked every single day with Coach Brock in the morning, working to get my swing back to how it used to be. It paid off today."
As for what exactly he meant by how his swing “used to be” (insert “Stanford swing” joke here), Wulff elaborated that he was just working on staying through the middle and “getting back to basics.” The big power righty looked like he leveled out his swing a little and smacked three laser beams into center field for his sacrifice fly and two of his RBI hits.
Another interesting tidbit from Wulff’s outing was that his sacrifice fly came swinging away on a 3-0 pitch – a call that came from the dugout, and not just because of Wulff’s well-regarded power potential.
“Nine likes to say, 'I don't know why everyone takes on a 3-0,’” Wulff said, indicating that Marquess’ inclination on those counts is actually to trust his hitters to make good contact and be the aggressor – when you know exactly what pitch is coming, why not try to put a good swing on it?
The stellar days at the plate from Diekroeger, Dunlap, Edman and Wulff backed a wild yet somehow very effective Brett Hanewich, who walked three and hit five batters (!!!!) but still only allowed 1 run on 4 hits through 7.0 full innings of work to pick up his third win of the season, thanks in large part to his hard slider that kept USC’s hitters guessing and flailing wildly all afternoon.
"My slider was really biting well when I wasn't getting lift and getting out of the box,” he said. “I kept them off-balance for the most part with all of my pitches.
As for the hit batters (I mean, I seriously can’t remember the last time I ever saw one pitcher plunk five guys in a game), it wasn’t just one pitch that wasn’t working for him all afternoon – he said it was just one of those inconsistencies where he was opening his front side too soon on some pitches and his slider didn’t break as much as it should have in some deliveries.
“I think I hit them with all my pitches,” he said with a grin.
Though Hanewich’s well-documented control issues kept Trojans on the bases all afternoon, the defense came through in a big way to bail him out, turning five double plays as Hanewich seemingly induced important ground balls at will. (“It was a good strategy,” Hanewich joked after the game.)
Speaking of the defense, the Cardinal didn’t commit an error all weekend and now stand alone in first place in the nation with just 10 errors all year. Given that Stanford finished 10th of 11 teams in the Pac-12 last season in fielding, this is a remarkable turnaround that has played no small role in the team’s success this year.
Chris Viall came on to pitch the last two innings and struck out four with a fastball that hovered at 94 but touched as high as 96 and a hard breaking ball at 81-83, a great bounceback from his blown save at San Jose State on Monday.
After an RBI groundout gave USC an early 1-0 lead, Wulff’s sacrifice fly in the second knotted things up before he gave Stanford the lead by plating Matt Winaker with an RBI single in the fourth that led to a really tight play at the plate in which Winaker barely got in under the tag despite the throw beating him home. A single from Dunlap brought Wulff home for a 3-1 Stanford advantage.
Stanford piled on three more in the fifth with another RBI single from Wulff and a 2-run double from Dunlap before pulling away for good with two more in the seventh on Wulff’s third RBI single and an RBI double from Edman to stretch the lead to 8-1.
The Cardinal will hope their bats keep talking when they travel across the Bay on Tuesday evening to take on the Bears in a non-conference midweek matchup at 7 p.m. Andrew Summerville or John Hochstatter should be on the mound for the Cardinal.
· Stanford put its leadoff hitter on base in six of the eight innings (five hits, one walk).
· By going 1-for-5, Quinn Brodey has now hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games.
· Still no official timetable on Cal Quantrill, though he’s reportedly starting to throw live batting practice now.
· Marquess sat the team down after the 1-0 loss on Friday and told them, “It's not a lack of effort. We just need to get the ball in play and be tougher mentally.” Looks like his pep talk succeeded.
· This marked the first time all year Stanford has scored 8 or more runs in consecutive games.