Sports

Stanford pitchers are finding the strike zone more often

 

The season is three games old, a mere five percent of regularly scheduled contests, and Stanford's baseball team already seems to have recovered the swagger that led to 29 trips into the NCAA tournament and 16 to the College World Series.

Sunday's 4-3 nonconference loss to visiting No. 22 Cal State Fullerton? Forget about it. Six different pitchers took the mound for the Cardinal over the weekend and have a 1.67 ERA to show for it. Pitching like that gets a team deep, deep into postseason.


Chris Viall
That's a staff currently without two of the top pitchers in the country and a couple of aces up its collective sleeve. Brett Hanewich, who led the team in starts (13) and innings pitched (78 2/3 innings) last year, will make his debut Monday night at UC Davis.

"We have a lot of junior leaders on this team," said Cardinal sophomore hurler Andrew Summerville, who gave up three runs on five consecutive hits in the second inning and then retired the next 10 in a row. "They set an example; they set the tone. And you haven't seen him yet but (freshman) Kris Bubic is another guy you'll see."

Three successive quality recruiting classes has added pitching depth, strengthened the defense and has given the Cardinal a surprising strong bench.

Titans' freshman starter Colton Eastman took a 4-0 lead and a perfect game into the sixth inning. After setting down the first 16 in order, it took a pair of pinch hitters and Tommy Edman to end his day.

Sophomore Beau Branton broke up the perfecto with an inning single off the end of his bat that acted like a screwball. Alex Dunlap followed with a double off the center field fence and Edman poked a RBI single through the infield.

The Titans bullpen slammed the door the rest of the way, though continuing to battle at the plate bodes well for the Cardinal.

The emphasis on pitching is by design. Last year's staff averaged a walk every 1.77 innings. Against Cal State Fullerton, it was one walk every 13.5 innings.

"I think we got too carried away with trying to be too cute on the corners last year," Stanford catcher Bryce Carter said. "This year the focus has been keeping the ball down and letting the defense work."

Neither Summerville nor junior Chris Viall walked a batter Sunday. In fact, Stanford pitchers have not given up a base on balls the past 20 innings, a span of 75 batters.

"The pitchers have been working hard on their command and each of them have improved with experience," Carter said. "And the two freshmen have been impressive. All through the fall and winter, they never showed any weakness. There was no sign of frustration."

Stanford has won five of its last six meetings with the Aggies. Three of those games were decided by one run.

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