When Stanford fell behind 7-4 late Friday night at Beiden Field, its offense failed to aggressively retaliate to a deficit for the first time all season. Bulldog reliever Justin Haley chopped down 10 trees in a row to end the game 7-4, and the Cardinal looked vulnerable for the first time in 2012.
It turns out they were saving payback for the weekend proper.
Another weekend, a new hiccup, but the same old story: Stanford baseball continues winning and answering preseason uncertainties surrounding the team – even though there weren’t many question marks to begin with.
One concern had been Stanford’s relatively young bullpen, which hadn’t been tested throughout the first two weeks of the season, simply because the Cardinal had been thrashing its opposition with video game-like production. In Sunday’s rubbermatch, Stanford relievers finally had the chance to pass a test.
When freshman starter John Hochstatter, who has been phenomenal through his first three career outings, began to tire in the sixth inning, Dean McArdle inherited a dicey situation. However, he registered a clutch strikeout of Justin Charles with the bases loaded to preserve Stanford’s 5-2 lead.
All told, McArdle retired eight of the 10 Fresno State batters he faced, part of the Cardinal bullpen’s one-hit effort following Hochstatter’s exit with one down the in fifth inning.
Freshman David Schmidt was electric in the ninth again, although the Cardinal’s lead had already ballooned to seven at that point. With his nasty sinker that reaches over 90 miles per hour on the radar game, it’s now clear that Schmidt has the stuff to assume the closer’s role. Over the coming weeks, Mark Marquess will learn if he also has the appropriate mental complexion for the job.
Defensively, Stanford was solid. Though, after Mark Appel and Eric Smith’s brain lapses on Friday night, the Cardinal weren’t always spectacular. The steady presences of Lonnie Kauppila and Kenny Diekroeger in the middle of the infield cannot be overlooked, especially after watching the far inferior Fresno State middle infield struggle mightily through the weekend.
Brett Mooneyham’s performance can’t be ignored either. The San Joaquin Valley native twirled a Saturday gem in his return home, going seven shutout innings while striking out 13 Fresno State batters. The Bulldogs’ first hit came in the sixth inning when Patrick Hutcheson laid down a surprise drag bunt for a base hit, a move Mooneyham thought was “weak.”
Jolts of offensive power came from new sources on each day of the series. It was particularly encouraging to see Kauppila deliver a 2 for 4, 2-RBI Sunday after going 0 for 8 throughout the set’s first two days. There are no easy outs in a Stanford lineup that will go down as one of the truly special ones in school history.
As for the team as a whole, it’s becoming more complete with each passing week, and its murderous recovery from Friday’s loss may become a tone-setter for the rest of this 2012 season.
A midweek trip to St. Mary’s (Tuesday, 2 p.m. PT, kzsulive.stanford.edu, 90.1 FM) won’t be a cakewalk. The Gaels are coming off a road win over No. 11 Arizona State. Following that, this weekend’s home series against Rice will be Stanford’s toughest test of the season yet. All indications, though, suggest that the Cardinal are ready for it.
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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