The Sun Devils brought the dessert heat with them to Sunken Diamond, and the climate boiled over into a cooker of a baseball game Saturday, as Stanford walked off with a dramatic 8-7 win.
Stanford third baseman Adam Blandino scorched a line drive down the third-base line to deliver the clutch RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Blandino was 3 for 5 with a home run and four RBIs in the game, adding to a recent tear in which the freshman has gone 7 for 12 with four homers and 10 RBIs over his last three games.
With the win, Stanford can now overtake Arizona State in the Pac-12 standings with a series sweep on Sunday. Ranked No. 10 in the nation, Stanford (7-7 in conference, 24-10 overall) is in fifth place in the conference standings, percentage points behind the fourth-place Sun Devils (9-8, 24-15), currently ranked No. 20. UCLA, Oregon, and University of Arizona entered play Saturday in a three-way tie for first place.
Stanford starter Brett Mooneyham looked dominant early on. Since starting the year 5-0, the big left-hander had dropped three in a row while struggling with his control, walking 11 in 17 innings over the three-game slide.
But, two extra bullpen sessions during the week aimed at tightening up his mechanics served Mooneyham well. He allowed just two hits the first two times through the order, and settled all 16 at bats through the first four innings on five or less pitches. However, while he walked just one through six innings of work, he grew a bit erratic as the afternoon wore on, hitting three batsmen.
Still, when Stanford broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a four-run rally to cap Arizona State starter Trevor Williams’ worst start of the year, it seemed the Cardinal might secure a win for the struggling Mooneyham. The bullpen could not stave off the Sun Devils’ offense, though.
Arizona State rallied back yet again with three in the seventh, and one more in the ninth to tie it at 7-7. However, an all-out effort by Stanford left fielder Stephen Piscotty on the game-tying double by Michael Benjamin prevented the go-ahead run from scoring for the Sun Devils.
With Piscotty shading towards the left-center alley, Benjamin’s double was crushed down the left-field line. The tying run scored easily in the person of catcher Max Rossiter. But, Piscotty showed off some fleet-footed hustle to cover the ground and hurry the ball back to the infield, keeping the back runner in check at third.
Piscotty has served as Stanford’s third baseman for most of the year. But, a slew of injuries have caused Cardinal head coach Mark Marquess to shake things up defensively. Regular center fielder Jake Stewart, who has been out a week with a leg injury, is still day to day. And, shortstop Lonnie Kauppila was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury last weekend against Oregon.
Stanford sophomore A.J. Vanegas notched the win in relief after blowing the save in the ninth. The right-hander’s record improves to 3-0. Vanegas was scheduled to start Sunday’s game. However, he was electrifying over two innings of relief, topping out at 97 mph with his fastball. Stanford’s Sunday starter is now listed as TBA.