Mark Appel’s eight-inning performance Friday night is being called a masterpiece by some. By Appel’s standards it was just a day in the life.
What has made Appel such a tough competitor through four legendary years at Stanford is not just the sheer velocity or the outstanding stuff. It’s the sharp command that makes the man the most anticipated pitching prospect to emerge from Stanford in some years.
As the svelte right-hander earned his 10th win of the season, he didn’t have quite the command that has become synonymous with his heralded Friday-night outings. Appel threw 123 pitches Friday, 79 strikes. He hasn’t labored as much in over a month – since April 19 when he threw 124 pitches, 77 for strikes – in earning a 4-3 win over Arizona.
But Appel knows how to play ‘em close. All but two of his starts this season have been decided by a scoring differential of two runs or less. A historic night in which he overtook Kyle Peterson and Justin Wayne to become Stanford’s all-time strikeout leader was no different. The Cardinal triumphed 2-1 over UCLA in what was essentially a must-win situation, and in comeback fashion no less.
With the win, Appel also matched his single-season career high, after posting a 10-2 record last year. The win also moved him into a tie for sixth all-time in Stanford history with 28 career wins. Whether or not he gets a shot moving further up the list is now in the hands of his teammates; as well as the NCAA selection committee. The Cardinal entered into their final regular-season series with their backs against the wall, needing to take the series from No. 8-ranked UCLA in order to have a chance at earning a berth in the postseason field of 64. A series sweep wouldn’t hurt.
What’s all but certain tough: Stanford won’t be hosting any postseason baseball this year. With the Cardinal sitting on the cusp of fourth place in the Pac-12, Sunkenn Diamond certainly won’t be considered for a Regional tournament bid. If the stars align, there’s a remote chance Stanford could host a Super Regional.
For all intents and purposes though, the Cardinal know they are winding down their home schedule with their regular-season finale against UCLA. By virtue of this, Friday’s game carried the weight of being viewed as the final home appearance of Appel’s career.
And whether or not the numbers matter to Appel, the emotion of winding down one of the most storied pitching careers in Stanford history certainly does.
“This one’s I guess a little different,” Appel said. “Honestly, I shouldn’t be approaching games any different. I should play every one like it’s my last. But this one very well might be my last. So it definitely did hold a little extra value. Every game is important. But I’m just glad we won.”