Things looked grim for the Marquess Nine late Sunday afternoon in Tucson. Down 5-1 headed to the eighth, the Cardinal had already locked up its first series loss in Pac-12 play thanks to two games of offensive frustration. But the Cardinal dusted themselves off and fought back to avoid a roadie sweep with a three-run eighth and a two-run ninth to top Arizona 6-5.
Wildcat charity helped Stanford get off the deck in that eighth inning. Bobby Dalbec, who had been cruising, walked Matt Winaker to start the frame and then plunked Mikey Diekroger to put two runners on and nobody out.
Quinn “The Bro” Brodey followed with a single up the middle to plate Winaker, at which the Tucson Charitable Fund emptied its coffers. After an Alex Dunlap pop out, a passed ball moved runners to second and third, and then an error from third baseman Kyle Lewis allowed Diekroger to score and Brodey to advance to third. That set up a Jonny Locher RBI groundout to second and eventually the stage for the Cardinal’s ninth inning rally.
In that ninth inning, with the Cardinal down to their last out, a #BroBomb off the wall in deep right center ended up as an inside the park homer to score two and put Stanford ahead 6-5. Colton Hock came out for his second inning and continued to pitch well. He worked around a Wildcat single and closed down a big win for Stanford. The Cardinal move to 7-5 in the Pac-12, good for a fourth-place tie.
Friday and Saturday night saw two solid starting pitching performances go for naught. Tristan Beck went five innings and gave up only one run on Friday night while allowing just three hits, walking three and uncharacteristically striking out only two on the night. The very next night Chris Castellanos gave the Cardinal 7.2 innings and while he gave up four runs, Stanford again did very little with the bats. Stanford combined for 11 hits total in the two games, went 3-15 with runners in scoring position, and found themselves on the wrong end of twin 4-1 scores.
So Stanford moves on, still a much improved team from 2015, and still with some upside. Ultimately, it’s all going to come down to Stanford’s hitting. The Cardinal pitching staff at this point stands as the class of the Pac-12. Stanford’s 2.68 team ERA stands as the best mark in Pac-12 play by almost a full run, and this is all happening with Cal Quantrill still lurking.
This week Stanford plays another game “that counts but doesn’t count” against Cal on Tuesday night, before hosting Arizona State over the weekend. The Sun Devils will arrive at Sunken Diamond struggling with a 5-9 record. The hitting has been middling (6th in batting average) and the pitching has been wretched (9th in ERA), so this is a big chance for Stanford to regain some momentum before the better teams in the conference start to show up on the schedule.