Stanford hitters spent most of the preseason schedule facing some of the best college pitchers in the game and the Cardinal freshmen pitchers were still acclimating themselves to college baseball.
Wayne Taylor and Alex Blandino each hit a home run and drove in three runs as Stanford topped visiting Washington State, 9-4, in a Pac-12 Conference game Saturday.
Austin Slater drove in two runs for the Cardinal (13-13 in the Pac-12, 26-22 overall), which won for the seventh time in nine games and clinched its third consecutive series.
The Cardinal goes for the series sweep Sunday in a noon game against the Cougars.
Stanford ended the first half of its season with an 11-16 mark. The Cardinal has won 15 of 21 since and remains in contention for a postseason berth, with five games remaining, as a result.
"The first few teams we played had some of the best pitching we've seen all year," Taylor said. "That helped coming into the Pac-12, which also has some good pitching. We're getting hot at the right time and we have to treat each game like it's the most important one."
Stanford starter John Hochstatter (9-1) struggled for the first time all season, though coach Mark Marquess will happily take the result every time.
"He has pitched very well for us," Marquess said of his junior left-hander. "He and Logan James started the season in the bullpen and are now pitching real well."
James (2-2, 4.71) makes the start Sunday as Stanford has not needed to rely on its freshmen pitchers as much. Freshmen pitchers started the first 27 games of the season.
"Our whole game struggled early," Marquess said. "Now we're swinging the bats better and playing good defense. We played a lot of tough teams in the conference early and we're a better team now."
Hochstatter's reemergence as a quality starter and the return of closer A.J. Vanegas, who recorded his sixth save against the Cougars, solidified the pitching staff and seemed to help awaken the offense as well.
"At this point we're in a position where we need to win every game," Taylor said. "We've talked about the importance of playing every game. I haven't looked at the standings lately and don't know where we stand. I do know we need to win."
Taylor's home run leading off the third put Stanford on the board after Washington State had taken a 2-0 edge.
Blandino slammed his 10th home run of the season, a three-run shot well over the left field fence, to put Stanford ahead. Tommy Edman also hit a home run in the game.
Danny Diekroeger added two hits for the Cardinal, which won its fourth straight series from Washington State and is 9-2 over its past 11 games against the Cougars.
Track and field
Stanford junior Brianna Bain won her third consecutive Pac-12 Conference women's javelin title and teammates Jessica Tonn and Joe Rosa swept the 10,000-meter races to highlight Stanford performances Saturday on the first day of the conference track and field championships at Washington State.
Bain threw 173-11 to lead a 1-2 Stanford finish, with freshman Megan Glasmann in second at 164-8.
After a runner-up finish last year, Tonn won her 10,000 in a personal record of 34:09.13 and Rosa captured the men's title in 29:16.71.
After the first day of the two-day competition, Stanford is fourth in the women's competition with 29 points, and the men are seventh with 25 points.
No. 2 Stanford had its final tune-up before the IRA National Championships on Saturday as they competed at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships on Lake Natoma.
Stanford raced two boats in the Women's Open 8+ event during the morning session. The varsity eight put on a show in front of the large crowd. The race announcer at one point said the Stanford A boat was "like a flying fish out of water."
Despite a headwind slowing the overall times, the varsity eight finished a remarkable 50.3 seconds ahead of the Stanford B boat with a time of 7:04.9. The B boat took second ahead of Colorado with a time of 7:55.2.
"Our mindset for this race was to focus internally on our boat and see what we could do," said junior MacKenzie Crist. "We wanted to have a race that we would feel confident in heading in to IRA's. We did a good job of having a steady race to accomplish that goal."
The win for the varsity eight was the fifth straight and eighth overall this spring.
In the afternoon session, Stanford had three boats race in the two heats of the Women's Collegiate 4+. The Cardinal had not raced in a fours race the entire spring, but wanted to get a trial run in before racing in the IRA National Championships.
The A boat was in the first heat and took second place behind the USC openweight four. In the first 250 meters, Stanford stood in third place, but then started walking and moved past Sacramento State for the second spot.
"This was our first race as a four and was really a dress rehearsal for IRA's in two weeks," said coxswain Allison Nguyen. "I was really happy with our result and am proud of everybody in the boat. We have a great point to work off of the next two weeks."
The B and C fours competed in the second heat. The B boat finished in second place behind Washington's openweight and the C boat took fourth overall behind Cal's openweight.
Stanford will go through its final preparations for the IRA National Championships the next two weeks. The IRA Nationals will be held May 28-31 in West Windsor, N.J.
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