Sometimes ho-hum is good. Stanford’s series opening 4-1 over UCLA lacked most of the Telenovela-like plot twists and Hitchcockian suspense that marked Tuesday’s road win over Cal, but as an official conference game it was actually more valuable than the Cardinal’s triumph two days earlier. Chris Castellanos, perhaps looking to take his frustration over his Dodgers’ first loss of the season, stepped to the mound and put the UCLA bats in the deep freeze. CC pitched 7 innings, giving up only one earned run on five hits while striking out five and walking one.
Catcher Alex Dunlap had the best view of Castellanos' effort. "He did a great job. I always love it when he pitches. He's a master of keeping guys off balance."
That final line stayed at one earned run because once more the Cardinal bullpen came in did the job. After Castellanos departed with two on and no out in the bottom of the eighth, Tyler Thorne came in and got a fly out and a strike out. After walking the bases loaded, Thorne escaped danger by inducing Erik Persico to fly out to Brodey in left.
In the ninth, Colton Hock came in, struck out two, and set the Bruins down in order to preserve the win and net his third save of the year. Hock now has 35 strikeouts against 11 walks on the year. That’ll play.
Alex Dunlap got the Cardinal off to a good start by blasting a Griffin Canning fastball off the protective netting in left field. That shot gave Stanford a 2-0 lead, after which the Cardinal’s pitching and defense went to work and did its thing. About his blast, Dunlap said that he was looking for a fastball based on it being his first at-bat of the game. He got one, and he didn’t miss it.
"As of late, I feel like my swing's been a little bit off, and it might have been evident in the box scores. But tonight, I really felt like I was using my hands in the box."
Stanford now sits at 5-2 in Pac-12 play after dropping its first nine games in conference action in 2015. Dunlap spoke candidly about the growth of what is still a young squad that had five underclassmen in its starting lineup last night.
"I think we were really down on ourselves last year. We had high expectations as we do this year, but we're certainly prepared to come out every day. We have really great chemistry. I think last year, once we lost the first few games we kind of let it sink in and let it get real heavy, but we've been bouncing back. We lost the first game of each series the past two weekends but then we come back and get two to win the series so I think it's evident that we're really mentally strong this year and ok with kind of letting go out here and having fun."
Coach Marquess reminded his squad after the game that they are still not even halfway through conference play, and the formula from Game One against the Bruins is one that has proven to be repeatable in 2016: Strong starts, just enough offense, and a lights out bullpen. Many a team has ridden that formula to lofty heights, and Stanford is certainly trending in that direction.
Stanford hands the ball to Tristan Beck tonight, hoping to clinch the series.