The Cardinal bats went silent in the desert, mustering only a .171 average over the course of three forgettable games. As a result, Mark Marquess, who had previously shied away from putting the offensive wheels in motion on the bases, started pulling the trigger in his team’s 5-2 series-opening win over Washington.
Aside from stealing three bases on the evening, Stanford let loose on a number of hit-and-runs. Some of those designed plays moved Husky middle infielders out of position, diffused double play grounders, and extended Cardinal offensive attacks.
The change to an aggressive mentality on the bases, though, was a marked departure from this season’s initial Stanford strategy. Keep in mind that the club had stolen only 12 bases on the season entering Thursday’s game, a figure that paled in comparison to league-leading Arizona’s 44 swipes.
“I’ve been expecting us to start running more,” catcher Wayne Taylor said. “We have a lot of guys who are really fast.”
That speed was clearly evident at Husky Ballpark. Alex Blandino even nabbed third base without a throw late in the game in a play that highlighted the freshman’s impressive “feel” for the game of baseball. (He’s going to be a great ballplayer, by the way.) Marquess called hit-and-runs in a number of situations, particularly when Kenny Diekroeger - who displays phenomenal bat control - was at the plate.
“[Washington starter Aaron West] was around the strike zone all day, so we capitalized,” Blandino said. “We were just trying to make contact.”
For Stanford, though, it was about more than making contact. The Cardinal put the wheels in motion as part of their method to fire up an attack that hasn’t played at ‘juggernaut’ level since the team’s finals break. Early in the year, Marquess’ squad had been lighting up the scoreboard just by mashing the ball, so getting fancy on the bases hadn’t been necessary.
Now that tougher times have hit, though, Thursday’s series opener presented the perfect opportunity to open it up.
So, the future is a promising place for the Farm Boys. This Stanford lineup is due for another hot streak. Just imagine how productive the Cardinal will be when they start swinging the bats and running simultaneously. That’s a scary thought for opposing pitching.
Marquess’ winning change of approach was commendable, as was Stanford’s perfect zero-error defensive effort - albeit on a predictable artificial surface this time around. Still, both improved facets of the game show that the Cardinal is rapidly adapting to win in this highly competitive Pac-12 conference.
Tune in Friday at 5 p.m. PST and Saturday at 1 p.m. PST(kzsulive.stanford.edu, 90.1 FM) to find out if Nine’s boys can maintain the good play in the Emerald City.
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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