Evidently Stanford’s recipe for success against Pepperdine is to play from behind.
For the second straight day, the Cardinal ran up a four-run deficit. And for the second straight day, they came from behind to win.
Stanford made a statement Sunday in claiming the Regional Playoff series at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal – hitting .291 as a team – can swing it. And their five-run fourth inning showed they know they can.
With the win, Stanford advances to next week’s Super Regional at Florida State. The Seminoles can hit too. Buster Posey’s alma mater surpassed the 400-run plateau for the season in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Samford, sweeping through their Regional Playoff series.
Be confident that Florida State is looking to make a statement. The last time the two teams met, Stanford breezed to a 16-5 win in the opener of the 2008 College World Series. The Seminoles went two-and-out and Stanford 2-2; both afterthoughts to many West Coast baseball fans amid Fresno State’s Cinderella National Championship season.
Four years later, Stanford has turned its roster over completely. Gone are Jason Castro, Drew Storen, and Toby Gerhart. Now, the Cardinal boast the likely top pick in today’s MLB draft in ace Mark Appel, and two arms that have the potential to ultimately be better pitchers than him in Brett Mooneyham and A.J. Vanegas.
But this year’s Stanford team is driven by their starting nine. The Cardinal lineup scored 22 runs on 30 hits through their three-game regional sweep, while every starter had a chance to contribute some heroics.
In Sunday’s 8-7 comeback victory, Austin Wilson and Alex Blandino shared the spotlight. Wilson entered into play hitting at a 1-for-8 clip. Blandino was 3 for 8, but with an unglamorous three singles. Trailing 4-3 in the fourth, though, the two powered the biggest inning of Stanford’s postseason thus far.
With the bases loaded and two out, Wilson smoked a two-run single up the middle to give Stanford a 5-4 lead. Blandino took the next pitch downtown with a majestic three-run home run to left, upping the lead to 8-4.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Stephen Piscotty settled in to improve to 6-2 with a gutsy win. Keep in mind, Piscotty projects as Stanford’s top draft pick among position players, while hitting .318 with a team-best 55 RBIs. But, Piscotty is also a finalist for the John Olerud Award – given to the best collegiate two-way player in the nation – as the right-hander has been the saving grace of the back end of the starting rotation.
Piscotty surrendered four runs in the first by virtue of five very loud hits. But, the junior turned it around big time, setting down 11 straight Pepperdine hitters starting with the final out of the first inning. By the time another Waves batter reached in the fifth, Stanford was in command of an 8-4 lead.
Pepperdine made it interesting, plating three in the seventh to close it to 8-7, and chasing Piscotty from the game. But, junior right-hander Sahil Bloom entered with the tying run on base to close the door on the rally, and ultimately the game, by going 2 2/3 innings to earn his second save of the year.
With the loss, Pepperdine finishes its year with a 36-23 overall record. The Waves staged an improbable comeback earlier in the day to end Fresno State’s season. Trailing 5-2 to the Bulldogs in the ninth, Pepperdine scored six times in the final frame, capped by a go-ahead grand slam by designated hitter Matt Forgatch.
The Super Regional schedule is yet to be released. Play in the head-to-head, best-of-three series is expected to begin at Florida State either Friday or Saturday.