When all is said and done, splitting a four-game series with the #23-ranked team in the country is a pretty good outcome. But the truth of the matter is that Stanford had a chance to take this road series, and was just one run short on Friday of doing so. The Cardinal were this close to really messing with Texas in Texas.
Still, all in all a good effort for Stanford. These two teams, both traditional college baseball powers, seem evenly matched with inconsistent offenses and (mostly!) good pitching. Both teams won and lost a close game; both teams blew out the other team once over the weekend.
The Cardinal (5-3) return back from this road trip ranked #28 per Collegiate Baseball, and have held their own with two other ranked teams (Cal State Fullerton and Texas).
If you had told us both of those things two weeks ago, we wouldn't have believed you.
Stanford pitching was, on balance, pretty effective. The rotation provided mixed results, as Tristan Beck and Chris Castellanos struggled. But Kris Bubic shined in his debut as a starter, and Brett Hanewich was, as always, solid.
The real story of this series was the bullpen. Aside from Joey Starling, Cardinal relievers provided 17.1 innings of scoreless relief. Throughout the weekend, the bullpen put Stanford in a position to hold the lead or come back, and that's all you can really ask for.
Thursday: Stanford 1, Texas 0 (12 innings)
Three innings of additional free baseball that culminate in a Stanford victory? Yes, what a way to start off a great series between these two teams!
Fresh from earning a save against UC Davis in his first career appearance, freshman Kris Bubic made his first collegiate start against the Longhorns. He certainly did not give Coach Marquess any reason to doubt the decision to start him. He started out in strong fashion, striking out the first batter he faced in 3 pitches. The Archbishop Mitty product added two more strikeouts to strike out the side in the 1st.
Second batter = strikeout— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) February 26, 2016
Third batter = strikeout@KrisBubic strikes out the side in the first inning of his first career start
Meanwhile, Stanford's bats were mostly quieted by Texas. The Cardinal did not register hit until Matt Winaker's 5th inning single. Centerfielder Jack Klein followed up with a single, but Stanford's best scoring opportunity before extra innings was squandered when both runners were stranded.
Bubic continued his strikeout spree, with strikeouts making up 7 of the 13 outs he earned. When Marquess pulled him in the 5th inning, Bubic had allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks in 4.1 scoreless innings.
Even more spectacular than Bubic's start (which was itself mighty impressive) was the relief effort provided by Colton Hock. Hock lasted longer than the starter he replaced, striking out 8 in 5.2 innings of work. He scattered 6 baserunners (3 walks and 3 hits). His scariest moment came when he loaded the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, but he was able to hold the Longhorns scoreless.
The path to victory for Stanford was laid in the 12th inning. Alex Dunlap lead off with a single, and Klein got on base when his bunt resulted in a Longhorn throwing error. Tommy Edman bunted both runners over, and Mikey Diekroeger cashed in the winning run with an RBI fielder's choice.
It was an impressive effort by Stanford pitching. Along with Chris Viall, Bubic and Hock combined for 12 shutout innings, with 18 strikeouts, 5 hits, and 6 walks.
Friday: Stanford 3, Texas 4
The life of a freshman starting pitcher is not easy. You were in high school literally months before, and now you're standing on the mound facing the #23 college team in the nation.
If last week's debut allowed Tristan Beck to make a name for himself (he was named a Pac-12 player of the week, for Heaven's sake!), Texas reminded us that he is a freshman. An immensely talented freshman, but a freshman nonetheless.
Beck kept the Longhorns off the bases until the 3rd inning, adding to a streak of 14 straight scoreless innings for the season. The first two batters reached base with a walk and a hit batter. A bunt led to a Diekroeger throwing error, scoring Texas's first run. That's when the wheels really fell off the wagon train.
Three more runs scored thanks to an RBI fielder's choice, a passed ball by catcher Alex Dunlap, and an RBI single. Rather than allow the damage to compound itself, Mark Marquess sent Beck to the showers after he closed out the 3rd inning.
Stanford reliever Keith Weisenberg did everything he could to give the Cardinal a chance to come back. He pitched 4.2 scoreless innings of relief, scattering 4 hits and striking out 7 Longhorns.
Weisenberg's effort was almost validated. Stanford slowly chipped away at Texas's lead. In the 1st inning, second baseman Nico Hoerner's RBI groundout scored Quinn Brodey, who led off the inning with a single. In the 6th inning, Tommy Edman manufactured a run after reaching on a dropped strikeout: he scored after an error on a pickoff throw, a groundout, and an infield single. In the 8th, Diekroeger drove in a run with an RBI double to left.
But the comeback attempt fizzled when the Cardinal went down 1-2-3 in the 9th to finish a run behind Texas.
Saturday: Stanford 0, Texas 9
Let's not waste much time on this game. It was probably not a coincidence that this nightmarish game occurred the same day that Hillary Clinton walloped Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary, 74 percent to 26 percent. After the results started pouring in, Bernie told reporters that, "In politics, on a given night, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose." So it also goes with Stanford Baseball. The Longhorns pounded the Cardinal while tossing a shutout.
Chris Castellanos, who was so good in his last turn in the rotation, surrendered 9 hits and 7 runs in 6 innings. Sigh. Let's move on.
Sunday: Stanford 11, Texas 1
This game was an offensive showcase, so let's quickly discuss the pitching. Workhorse Brett Hanewich pitched 6.1 strong innings, surrendering just 5 hits and 1 run. Relievers Tyler Thorne and Chris Viall pulled a reverse Jack Morris, refusing to pitch to the score and allow runs in a blowout (they combined for 2.2 shutout innings).
Okay, now that we've covered that, let's talk about the lineup.
The Cardinal drew first blood in the 1st inning. Walks by Edman and Dunlap, and a single by Nico Hoerner, loaded the bases with 2 outs for Matt Winaker. The patient first baseman singled to drive in the game's first 2 runs. Texas starter Connor Mayes allowed a third Stanford run by balking with Hoerner on third.
Texas held Stanford scoreless for the next four innings, but the dam broke again in the 6th. Freshman outfielder Brandon Wulff, who had registered his first collegiate hit in the 4th inning, hit a double. Bryce Carter singled to cash him in, running Stanford's lead to 4-0. It became 5-0 after Tommy Edman wailed a double into the gap to score Carter.
In the 8th inning, Stanford relentlessly dropped a three-spot on the Longhorns. Carter delivered once again, singling in the sixth run of the game. Not about to let Carter outshine him, third baseman Mikey Diekroeger drove in runs #7 and 8 with a double.
The game officially entered "laugher" status in the 9th inning when outfielder Jonny Locher swatted a three-run shot to left-center field to make the Cardinal lead 11-1.
T9: An offensive explosion here in Texas Jonny Locher w/a 3-run blast and its 11-1 Cardinal! pic.twitter.com/dRteUx5Tr1— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) February 28, 2016
While this was one of those games where nearly everyone on offense shined (everyone but Jack Klein reached base at some point), the efforts of Tommy Edman are worth highlighting. Edman notched 2 hits (one of them a double) and walked twice, driving in 1 run and scoring 2 himself. Oh, and he stole a base. That's precisely the kind of production the Farm Boys want out of their leadoff man.
Three Trees for the Weekend
1: Starter Kris Bubic had brief outing, but he still held the Longhorns at bay. If he can keep striking out batters at a high rate but be more efficient with his pitches, he has a chance to join Tristan Beck as a freshman breakout candidate on the mound.
2: Keith Weisenberg and Colton Hock went beyond the call of duty for relievers, with each pitching nearly a quality start's worth of innings in Thursday's extra innings victory and Friday's squeaker of a loss, respectively. Both did everything they could (save drive in actual runs) to give the Cardinal a chance to win. After the weekend, Hock was honored as Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for his efforts.
3: Who else would it be? Mikey Diekroeger once again led the Stanford offense, going 4-for-16 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI. Diekroeger continues to be the focal point of the lineup, and it's no coincidence that when his bat falls silent, the Cardinal are hard-pressed to score runs.
Special Mention: Freshman second baseman Nico Hoerner continues to impress at the plate. He scored 3 runs and went 4-for-16 with 2 RBI. Given his production thus far and his pedigree, Hoerner has star potential at an up-the-middle position.
Up Next: The Cardinal return to the Sunken Diamond to take on St. Mary's in a midweek game on Tuesday, March 1 at 5:30 PM.