A deft, left-footed kick from outside the box by freshman Corey Baird found an opening to the far post that not only lifted the Stanford men's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over visiting Oregon State on Sunday but also lifted the 10th-ranked Cardinal into first place in the Pac-12 Conference with one match remaining.
Stanford (5-1-3 Pac-12, 12-2-3 overall) visits California next Sunday for a 1 p.m. match to be televised on the Pac-12 Networks with a chance to clinch its first Pac-12 title in 13 years.
"It's the same business as normal; keep playing the way we're playing," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "We have to go to Cal and they're a great program. We're in a good position, but obviously it's another very tough game. We again have to prepare the right way and look forward to competing as always."
The Cardinal is one point ahead of UCLA and two points up on Washington. A victory would guarantee the title while a tie would leave the door open for both the Bruins and Huskies, who each have a game left. UCLA hosts San Diego State and Washington hosts the Beavers next Sunday, also at 1 p.m.
"Every game you look at and you hope to do your best in each one, but you have to definitely say these are two massive wins at home," said Gunn, whose team beat Washington on Friday. "The conference race is on. To do what we did this weekend was absolutely magnificent."
Baird, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, scored the game winner with less than seven minutes to play and 19 seconds after receiving a questionable yellow card.
He picked up the dribble at midfield and wove his way through the Oregon State defense and took his shot from just outside the box,
Baird was given an assist for Stanford's first goal, in the 67th minute, for creating the opportunity for Eric Verso.
Jordan Morris took the ball into the penalty box and Verso redirected a touch pass just out of reach of the Beavers' goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
Oregon State tied the game in the 78th minute on a penalty kick after a Cardinal player was called for a handball.
Stanford is undefeated (5-0-3) in the eight matches since its 3-1 loss to the Huskies in the opening week of the conference season.
After outshooting the Beavers by an 8-6 margin in the first half, the Cardinal exploded for a 17-5 shot advantage, 9-4 on goal, in the final 45 minutes.
Sunday's win marked Senior Day for Zach Batteer, Matt Taylor, Austin Meyer, Bobby Edwards and Jimmy Callinan, as the quintet was honored before the game with their families. That group has led a program which has improved every year under their guidance, starting from a 6-10-2 mark in 2011 to today's top-10 12-2-3 Stanford side.