Widgets Magazine

Baseball gets off to rough start on opening weekend

“Not much.”

That’s all that Stanford baseball head coach Mark Marquess gave the media Monday afternoon when asked about the positive things his team could take away from its opening weekend of play, which it came out of with a 1-3 record.

(The Stanford Daily)

Matt Winaker was a rare highlight last weekend, hitting .333 and scoring twice as the Cardinal went 1-3. (NICK SALAZAR/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal did not seem to be playing their best throughout most of the weekend. The pitching staff gave up way too many free bases over the course of the weekend — 16 walks and three hit batsmen over the four games, compared to five walks and seven hit batsmen surrendered by Stanford’s opponents. And yes, the young Stanford starting lineup showed some nerves, struggling to string hits together on offense and committing some crucial errors on defense.

Two-out walks surrendered by the Cardinal pitching staff came back to bite them in the season opener on Friday night. After junior Logan James walked the No. 9 hitter in the seventh inning, Indiana leadoff man Casey Rodrigue smashed a two-run homer over the right-field wall, giving the Hoosiers a 3-1 lead. They never looked back and went on to win the ball game 4-2.

Freshman two-way player Quinn Brody made two of the team’s four throwing errors in the 10th inning of Saturday night’s 4-3 loss to Indiana. And the Cardinal recorded just four hits in Monday’s 11-1 loss to Cal, as Bears freshman starter Matt Ladrech just mowed down the Stanford hitters over seven innings of work.

“We’re young. We have a lot to improve on, but it is the first weekend. Nerves are still there for a lot of guys — a lot of the freshmen getting in,” said junior Drew Jackson, who returned to his starting spot at shortstop after missing the end of the 2014 season with a finger injury. “Our hitting hasn’t clicked yet.”

“[The freshmen] got their feet wet. A lot of the position players got to play, a lot of guys got to pitch. And some good things from them,” Marquess said. “But the flip side of that, it’s all about doing enough to win, and we obviously haven’t done that.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the No. 22 Cardinal, however. Their first three starting pitchers all gave strong efforts — each of the three games in the Indiana series were decided in the seventh inning or later.

Sophomore Cal Quantrill allowed one run over 5.2 innings on Friday afternoon, junior Marcus Brakeman allowed two runs — one earned — over six innings on Saturday and senior John Hochstatter allowed three runs over seven innings on Sunday. The only starting performance that didn’t keep Stanford close was freshman Keith Weisenberg’s on Monday; he surrendered a grand slam to the fourth batter of the game, Cal’s Brett Cumberland, who went on to tally seven RBIs in the game — one shy of matching a school record.

At the plate, freshman first baseman Matt Winaker went 5-for-15 (.333) and emerged from the extended weekend with a four-game hitting streak. And sophomore second baseman Tommy Edman showed some flashes of hitting that made him one of the most valuable players of the team’s postseason run last year — he had two hits and two RBIs in the Cardinal’s 4-3 win over Indiana on Sunday.

As predicted, with just three starting position players returning from the 2014 season, freshmen had a large impact over Stanford’s first weekend of play. Jackson reminisced about his first games as a freshman two years ago after Monday’s game against Cal, and related to some of the jitters that this year’s crop has been experiencing.

“The nerves are just out of this world: first college at-bat, first college game. After you get the first few games behind you as a freshman, you feel much more comfortable and you can play your game,” he said. “I definitely felt like I was playing out of my shoes when I was at Rice that first weekend. I was not really being myself and I learned from it for sure.”

Last year, the Cardinal went through some similar growing pains early in the season, when 32 of their first 34 games were started by true freshmen on the mound. It doesn’t help that Stanford plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation, starting with a non-conference slate that matches them up against Cal State Fullerton next week, then Rice and Texas after that.

For Marquess, it’s a matter of execution.

“[We’ve got to] keep doing what we have been doing. The work ethic has been fine, we just need to improve upon the execution and hopefully get some more hits, pitch a little bit better.”

The Cardinal head to Cal State Fullerton next Friday, where they will play their second three-game series of the season.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Jordan Wallach

Jordan Wallach is a Senior Staff Writer at The Stanford Daily. He was previously the Managing Editor of Sports, a sports desk editor for two volumes and he continues to work as a beat writer for Stanford's baseball, football and women's volleyball teams. Jordan is a junior from New York City majoring in Mathematical and Computational Science. To contact him, please send him an email at jwallach 'at' stanford.edu.