Q&A: Alex Blandino and Mark Appel

STANFORD - Sometimes, being wrong is great. Arizona State entered the weekend playing markedly better baseball than Stanford, and many thought, The Bootleg included, that the Sun Devils would win the weekend series.

Well, on a warm Friday evening at Sunken Diamond, everything changed. Stanford finally re-discovered its early season offensive form, and it didn't happen against the Sisters of the Poor. That series-opening 18-hit domination came against Brady Rodgers, who had entered the game as the most statistically dominant pitcher in the nation. Stanford rattled off 17-5, 8-7, and 9-5 wins to sweep the Pitchforks and steer the ship back toward Omaha.

Alex Blandino and Mark Appel were perhaps the two biggest contributors. Blandino's eight hits on the weekend included three home runs and a walk-off knock, while Appel persevered through lingering fatigue from last week's 149-pitch effort to set the tone and defeat the Sun Devils on Friday.

Here is some perspective from two of the Stanford stars of the weekend:

Mark Appel

Brady Rodgers entered the game Friday with some absurd numbers (55 strikeouts, seven walks, 1.12 ERA). Did you have fun competing against him again?

It was a lot of fun. It was awesome. I know him from the summer through Team USA. He's such a competitor and a great guy. It's always fun to match up with a guy that good.

Well, whenever you hook up with Rodgers it seems that a surprising amount of runs cross the plate. It was 12-10 last year, and 17-5 this year. Did you feel good out on the mound with that offensive support?

Honestly, I didn't feel like my usual self. It was one of those games where I just needed to battle and compete and put up zeroes. They got a few runs early on, but our team picked us up. Blandino had two huge home runs, and we started putting up 3-4 runs per inning. That helped me a lot. It was awesome.

You mentioned that you didn't feel like your usual self. Did the unseasonable heat have anything to do with that?

It did, but just a little bit. You have to prepare yourself and adapt. You have to make sure you don't rush warming up, so that you can rest and drink some water. But besides that, everything's the same. The ball doesn't get slippery from sweat or anything. I just went out and played baseball.

You did throw 149 pitches last Friday. Do you think that also affected how you felt on the mound today?

I'm not going to lie, my arm felt a little tired. But like I said, it was one of those games where I just needed to compete. I feel like I did that, and our guys put up 17 runs. I don't think any pitcher can complain about that kind of support.

Well, speaking of that support, it had been awhile since your offense put on that impressive of a display in a weekend game. From the press box, your hitters' approaches looked great. Was there an aggressive vibe in the dugout?

Absolutely. We knew we were going to get a great game from Brady Rodgers. It was just one of those games where if one guy got out, we knew that the next guy was going to pick him up. The bench was in it. The guys on field were in it. It was a great team effort.

Seventeen runs and eighteen hits only happen because of a team effort, but Alex Blandino was remarkable with two home runs. How does he do it as a freshman?

He's amazing. I don't think feels that he has any pressure on him, which is awesome. Because he just goes up there and takes some beautiful swings. When he connects, it is going to go a long way. So it's just awesome to see him out there, even though he didn't start at the beginning of the season. And Danny Diekroeger is playing well, and [Brett Michael Doran] is playing so well off the bench too.

Alex Blandino

What a weekend for you Alex. Eight hits, including three home runs and a walk-off. Which knock felt the best for you?

I'm going to have to say the walk-off. Being able to win a game like that is always an awesome experience. [Eighteen hits and then] 17 hits off those pitchers, we really fought hard. That was great to see.

Last week, you told me that one of your keys to generating so much power is your ability to backspin almost everything. But that can't be it. What are the other secret ingredients to this hot streak?

[Laughs] Mainly, I've been working on separation with Brock [Ungricht, assistant coach]. So I'm seeing pitches up and seeing good pitches to hit. It's all coming together.

Well, what did you see on the walk-off [a sharp bouncer down the left field line]?

[Arizona State closer Jake Barrett] had been challenging with fastballs early in the count. So I was looking for a fastball, and he threw one middle-in. I didn't hit it as hard as my home runs, but I'll take one down the line in that situation.

You're only a freshman, but you've made the biggest offensive contribution to this Stanford team in a must-win series. How does make you feel?

It's always been my dream to come and play here, and I can't be any more pleased with what's going on right now. Being a Cardinal, and being able to help the team win, it's all awesome.

It was hot this weekend. You're from the Bay Area so you're not used to this kind of weather in April. How did you adapt?

Yeah, it's the hottest that it's been in a while. I'm sure Arizona State felt more at home than we did today. We battled through the heat, through the adversity, even though they wouldn't go away [the Sun Devils came back to tie the Saturday game in the ninth inning]. These were great wins for us.

About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.

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