Resiliency, clutch hitting and a strong bullpen allowed No. 13 Stanford to overcome an early deficit to Pepperdine and sweep the opening Regional tournament at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal put together an eight-run day to support Stephen Piscotty on the bump and staved off the Waves' late-game push in front of 2,361 loyal locals (pictured right).
Stanford will travel to Tallahassee to take on No. 3 Florida State University in the school's ninth-ever appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals. Another winning weekend will clinch a berth in the College World Series in Omaha.
Pepperdine's bats started off hot, putting a four spot on the board in the top of the first inning. Right fielder Tony Cooper first drew blood by following Austin Davidson's double with an RBI single to left. The Waves set the table once more for Floyd Given, who doubled in a pair of runs. DH Matt Forgatch, whose grand slam kept Pepperdine alive against Fresno State, stayed red hot as he capped the rally with an RBI single.
Stanford, down four runs to Pepperdine for the second consecutive day, began chipping away at the lead.
The big break came in the form of a five-run fourth inning. Right Fielder Austin Wilson singled in a pair of runs, followed up by Alex Blandino's monster three-run home run. The freshman third baseman had a game-high four RBI. Piscotty helped his own cause with a two-hit day, an RBI and a run scored.
In the hunt for his fourth straight win, Piscotty (5-2) ran into some trouble in the seventh inning. Joe Sever knocked in one with a double, and Cooper collected RBI 2 and 3, putting his team down one.
Sahil Bloom came in for relief with 2.2 shut-out innings and a Cardinal victory.
However, the game would not have been complete without some late-game dramatics.
Senior SS Zach Vincej hit a home run-sized blast to left in the ninth inning that tailed left for a loud strike rather than game-tying heroics.
Stanford Wins 5-4 over Pepperdine on Saturday
Down four early, sophomore Brian Rigera hit his fifth home run of the season to put Stanford on the board. The old adage of sometimes it's better to be lucky than good proved true, as Stanford closed a three-run gap on a disastrous three-run wild pitch.
Rigera came scrambling home from third on Pepperdine starter Scott Frazier's wild pitch. Catcher Miles Silverstein, who had retrieved the ball, tried to stop his throwing motion to catch the trailing runner and instead lost his grip on the ball. Eric Smith came in on the fumble, and as the ball squirted toward the left, it careened off an unaware Rigera and went out of play for a dead ball and a third unearned run.
Kenny Diekroeger made the Waves pay for the mishap, with his RBI double down the third base line in the eighth inning. Closer A.J. Vanegas (4-0) struck out the side to capture the win and get starter Brett Mooneyham, who only lasted 2.1 innings, off of the hook.
How far will the Stanford Cardinals go in the NCAA tournament?
Stanford Delivers 9-1 Beating to Fresno State on Friday
College pitching sensation—and now Pittsburgh's first-round draft pick—Mark Appel (10-1) sought vengeance against the Bulldogs, who tagged him for his first loss and two of his remarkably low three HR allowed all season.
Appel shined, throwing a complete game with 11 Ks and only one earned run. Fresno State just couldn't keep up with his combination of fastballs and sliders, which had them mercilessly flailing either off their front foot or simply too late.
Fresno State manager Mike Batesole was wildly impressed by Stanford’s ace:
"I'm pretty sure he could have won a big league game today. That was fantastic the way he was able to pitch backwards when he wanted to. And then a couple times you got some young hitters out there who look for the breaking ball and he was right on time at 97 [mph]."
The offense came from two-run fifth, a three-run sixth and a four-run eighth. Austin Wilson had three RBI despite only having one hit. Diekroger also had a solid day, with a pair of hits and a pair of RBI. He got things done with the glove as well, stealing a hit up the middle from Jordan Luplow.