Stanford Tames The Titans, Part IIAt The Ballpark
Ahhhhh, LOVE these two rivals. Fullerton and Stanford. No. 17 vs. No. 13.
It’s always great to see these two hook up for an early season weekend series, which they have often done in the last 15-20 years. Two great West Coast programs with a long history of NCAA Tournament, College World Series and national championship appearances going head to head. It’s like equivalent of college football’s Florida-Florida State or USC-Notre Dame. We need series like these.
For the second day in a row Stanford took down the Titans at Sunken Diamond, this time by a 5-3 score. But I’m sure that doesn’t sway these two. It seems pretty simple. These two programs have each other on speed dial when it comes time to schedule non-conference games for the next year or two or three.
Makes me wonder… Why don’t more national powers do this? It’d make our sport so much more fun in the months of February and March. I look around at some of the series around the country this opening weekend of college baseball and I think, God this week’s schedule is mostly terrible. Yeah, I know there is no exhibition season for Division I, but there is nothing like two big rams bucking heads to test their will from the first pitch of the season.
That’s partially why I had to go a little hither and yon to find games to check out for this first weekend. The Louisiana-Texas series in Austin is probably my favorite mid-major vs. Power Five conference matchup and then this showdown between the Titans and Cardinal are two of the very few intriguing places to be this weekend.
Well that, and the fact that Kendall called dibs on the Surprise Classic in Phoenix, Aaron went to see Virginia, UNC, Rice, UCF and USF getting together in the middle of Florida and Etheridge was lucky enough to go to that epic Mississippi State-Southern Miss series. That left me with very few matchups worthy to venture out to see, especially in SoCal. So I had to get the Easton Lear Jet out.
I know not every weekend can be like what we’ll have in the first weekend in March, but damn. We’re all so geeked at the opening weekend of our beloved sport and for *most* intents and purposes it is giving us lemons.
I feel like a disappointed parent here looking at a D-minus on his child’s report card… Son, I know you can do so much better.
FULLERTON-STANFORD, GAME TWO
We’ve seen this scenario before. Stanford pitcher Kris Bubic picking on the Titans and frustrating them to no end. It was exactly 365 days ago that Bubic took the mound at Goodwin Field on opening day and laid the hammer on Fullerton, holding them to just three hits and gaining 10 strikeouts. The only problem was, he gave up one run and his Cardinal teammates couldn’t muster much at the plate to match it, thus resulting in a 1-0 loss.
Bubic, a part-time bullpenner and part-time mid-week starter as a freshman, came into last season’s game against Fullerton *literally* under the radar. What I mean is when the Titans’ Connor Seabold was on the mound, every scouts’ radar gun was pointed at him, watching his every move. Then, when Bubic took the mound, the scouts would put their radar guns away and sit on their hands. No B.S. I saw that first-hand.
Well since that opening night a year ago, Bubic has become hot property. He ended 2017 by getting wins in his last seven starts and had an ERA of 2.79. Then he went to the prestigious Cape Cod League and was named the Pitcher of the Year last summer. You bet your sweet arse those scouts are picking up their radar guns when he strides to the mound now.
Today was no different. Once again the Cardinal fireballer confounded the Titan bats with a bevy of changing speeds, silencing them to the tune of three hits and giving up one run without issuing a walk. He told me after the game that since last season he has developed more of a breaking ball and that he has leaned on that a bit more this season than he did last season. But unlike most of his outings as a sophomore, Bubic wasn’t allowed to pitch to his normal pitch count, getting pulled after five innings.
“Kris is actually about a week behind,” said new Stanford coach Dave Esquer. “He missed some time at Christmas with an injury so he’s a little behind now so we didn’t want to give him anything more than 65 to 70 pitches today and his count was getting up there.”
And Bubic was in no mood to argue.
“I still felt good,” he said. “I was throwing my curve ball a lot more against them this year. I felt like I could’ve gone another inning or two. But it’s the first game of the season so there’s no need to risk blowing your arm out at this point in the season.”
Unlike last year’s 1-0 loss, this time Bubic had his teammates bats behind him. In what was the decisive second inning, Kyle Stowers sliced a screamer down the first base line, scoring Brandon Wulff and Andrew Daschbach, while stretching his luck to turn what looked like a double it into a triple. Showers would end up scoring himself on an RBI double by Tim Tawa a batter later. And then Tawa would score on a groundout by nine-hole hitter Jesse Kuet.
That made the score 4-0 after two frames, and in the end that would be enough for the Cardinal. But it still wouldn’t be easy.
The Titans would mount a charge, plating runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull back within two runs. And Andrew Quezada’s first start wasn’t all bad for the Titans. He ended up going 5.1 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs (all earned), but he was steadier than the stat sheet would show. And don’t worry Titan fans, he’s only going to get better.
“I thought Quezada had a pretty good game,” Vanderhook would say afterward. “But I don’t think our two-strike pitches from our starters have been very good at all. Most of the runs we’ve given up have been with two-strike counts where the leverage has been on our side. It’s like if you’re playing football and you’ve got fourth and a foot and then you jump offsides. It’s like the Oakland Raiders when they were 1-and-15.”
After Bubic’s departure, four Stanford relievers helped lock down the win in Jacob Palisch, Zach Grech, Daniel Bakst and Jack Little, who stayed on long enough to pick up his first save. All of which made the new skipper wearing Cardinal very happy.
“When you’re cuttin’ your teeth early in the season against an opponent like Fullerton, you’re not easing into the season here,” Esquer said. “Coach Vanderhook always has his team ready to play and you saw it today, we couldn’t shake them. I mean this is a team that just won’t let you win. They’ll fight you till the end. They’re tough.”
But despite the high praise, CSUF’s Vanderhook was a little frustrated at his team’s baseball IQ, I guess you could say.
“I told my guys that they are not playing the game,” ‘Hook said. “Yesterday we self-destructed in pitching, today we self-destructed in running the bases. We’re missing signs… and it’s not like I’ve given them a lot of signs. We’ve given them three this weekend and we’ve missed two of them.
A couple more images from today’s game on The Farm:
IT WAS SWEET REVENGE.
Hey, Stanford owed the Titans here. Last June, it was the Titans that came to The Farm and put a pair of whippings on the Cardinal, not only to end their 2017 season, but also bringing to an end the 41-year coaching career of Hall of Fame mentor Mark Marquess. So if SU had a little bit of a chip on its collective shoulders this weekend, that is why. With today’s 5-3 win, the Cardinal have clinched the weekend series vs. Fullerton.
THE NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
Last June, after coach Marquess took his final turn as head coach, it was announced that Dave Esquer would be hired as the next head coach for the Cardinal. The minute I heard that I said to myself, “Good. There could’ve been no other choice if you ask me.” Esquer had spent the previous 18 years at Cal and done a really good job there despite numerous drawbacks and handicaps that come with that program. He was also a former player under Marquess, starting his career as a walk-on before ascending to the starting shortstop position on their national title winning teams in 1987 and 1988. Not only that, but I’ve come to find coach Esquer is also one of the genuinely nicest guys out there to cover, from a work standpoint. Just a good dude through and through. I once asked him, “I can’t imagine you yelling at your players, do you do that?”
NOT CHANGING THE CARDINAL
I asked coach Esquer after the game if he was doing anything different in his new job at Stanford than what he had been doing in all those years at Cal. He said…
“First of all, this is not a reclamation project,” he said. “I don’t have to come in here with a bunch of different ideas or anything. They have had a good culture here for a long time, with a good work ethic and good discipline. These guys know how to work hard, they always have. A lot of it is about establishing relationships, moving forward and gaining their trust a little bit. Our job is just to keep moving in a positive direction.
“To be honest, these guys have a big chip on their shoulders after losing a home Regional last year, so they are self-motivated because of that.”
Duke Kinamon, the All Pac 12 candidate missed his second game in as many tries this weekend. Apparently, Kinamon suffered a groin injury of some type during warmups of Friday night’s game and never did see the field. Bummer. He combines with SS Nico Hoerner to make for one of the best double play combos in the country. No word on his possible return.
When I asked coach Esquer about it he said that it was an oblique injury and he just tweaked it before the Friday game.
“it was just a weird thing where he moved wrong,” Esquer said. “It’s unfortunate because no one has worked harder to get out on the field than he has. This sport can be a cruel when something like that happens.”
AROUND THE NATION
A quick glimpse of things that caught my quick glimpse
The best from around college baseball today
1- Southern Miss.
We’re just gonna keep the Eagles here until somebody proves otherwise. Hell, we should etch it in stone for posterity, because for the second day in a row – in front of another energized Pete Taylor Stadium home crowd – USM took down big brother Mississippi State, this time by a 7-4 score. Oh mercy me. Finding this series to be hard to believe.
2- Jake Brodt, Santa Clara
You might wanna sit down for this one. The Broncos cleanup man pulled off one of the rarest of the rare in our sport today by hitting TWO grand slams in ONE inning as SCU beat Boston College 20-9. Santa Clara trailed 9-6 at the singing of “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” but the big Bronco strapper blasted a pair of grand salamis in the bottom of the seventh to make this one a no-doubter. In all, Brodt went 3-for-5 with 10 RBI. Nothing here is a misprint.
3- The Bohm-Maker of Wichita State
For the second day in a row Alec Bohm went crazy at the dish, this time he hit a pair of doubles and added two walks with three RBI, in a pair of games. So yes, Bohm went 4-for-6 with four doubles, four walks and six RBI in a pair of wins over McNeese State, 10-7 and 7-2. Yesterday, as you might’ve seen on social media, the Shocker three-hole hitter clocked a no-doubter home run that went airborne for what seemed like seven minutes, clearing two fences at McNeese State’s Joe Miller Park. If Bohm isn’t the national player of the week, I don’t think they should hand out that award any longer.
– Arkansas runs roughshod.
The Razorbacks pounded Bucknell 32-4. But maybe this “dishonor” should go to the Bison pitchers, who not only allowed 22 hits, but also 15 walks, two wild pitches and three plunkings. This game must’ve taken five hours to play. The Hogs hit six home runs on the day and the UA pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts too.
– Indiana pitching
A day after losing a 6-3 game to Oklahoma, the 23r-ranked Hoosiers saw two pitchers – Pauly Milto and Tommy Sommer – combine on a two-hitter as IU skunked Big 12-based Kansas State. The two pitchers combined for three walks and seven Ks to even their record at 1-1.
– FGCU Jogs Off Again
For the second time in three games against Eastern Michigan, the Eagles of FGCU won a game in jog-off fashion to add pain to the EMU hearts. This time it was Gage Morey, who sliced an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Eric Gonzalez from second to account for the 12-11 win.
– Toral Toral Toral
Highly regarded Miami freshman Alex Toral did something only two other Hurricanes had done in their freshman seasons by homering in his first collegiate at-bat in an 8-5 win over Rutgers. Toral joined Zack Collins in 2014 and Yonder Alonso from 2006 to pull the four-bagger trick in their initial D1 at-bat..
– Owen for Tulane, again
For the second straight night, junior catcher Acy Owen got a game-deciding hit as part of a win over Wright State. But tonight’s effort was a little more special as he notched a walk off double to score Kobi Owen in the 10th inning, giving the Green Wave a 6-5 win, which also clinched the weekend series. On Friday night, Acy Owen blasted a solo home run as part of a 4-3 win.
The worst from around college baseball today
1- Welcome to the Ouch List.
When I put my Ouch List out tomorrow night (oh you KNOW it’s never too early for the Ouch List), go ahead and add Oklahoma to that roster of sad sack teams already. Today was a Double-Ouch as OU lost a pair of games, 6-5 to No. 20 South Alabama and then 4-3 to Coastal Carolina. And to make it worse, both losses came in extra innings. Aye caramba! USA scored an unearned run in the bottom of the 12th to down the Sooners early this morning. Then, later on, Coastal also scored an unearned run in the bottom of the 10th to escape with a win over OU. So that’s two losses, both in jog-off fashion for Oklahoma. Damn.
2- More painful near-misses for upstarts and upsets
– Louisiana, looking for revenge from Friday night’s tough loss to Texas, had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning in Austin only to see the Longhorns rally from behind and beat the Cajuns 5-3. UT slugger Austin Todd did the damage with a two-run shot over the left field wall to account for the winning runs.
– Rhode Island couldn’t get a win with All American Tyler Wilson on the mound yesterday, but nearly pulled a stunner at Texas A&M today, taking a 3-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth. But sure enough, a two-run Zach Deloach single up the middle plated the two winning runs for the Aggies.
– USC Upstate blew a chance to stun No. 8 Kentucky by allowing the Cats to come back from a 5-0 deficit and score in four of the last five innings for a 10-inning 6-5 win.
3- The worst way to lose a game?
Other than a Bill Buckner gaffe through the legs or a jog off grand slam, what would you think is the worst way to lose a game? Okay, there’re probably many you could name, but mine would probably be a bases-loaded plunking. That’s how Old Dominion dropped a 5-4 decision to Oakland in the bottom of the ninth when ODU reliever Corey Klak plunked Grizzly eight-hole hitter Jordan Jackson with the bases juiced.
– Zack Hess, LSU
This was a big experiment for 2018, moving Hess from his fireballing relief role and settling him into a starters role. Today, it didn’t work. Hess lasted just 2.1 innings vs. Notre Dame giving up eight runs on five hits and six walks.
– LSU, in general.
Ouchie-mama Tigers. For the second day in a row LSU was outplayed by a team that has had three (3) outdoor practices all season so far. Today, Notre Dame didn’t blow a late lead, holding on to down the No. 8-ranked Tigers 10-5, getting out-hit along the way 12-7. This just shouldn’t be happening.