Where there's a Will there's two ways | June 7, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 7, 2019

Where there's a Will there's two ways

Matthiessen a big contributor on the mound, at the plate

by Rick Eymer

Junior Will Matthiessen didn't arrive at Stanford thinking he would lead the team in batting. In fact, his freshman year consisted of three defensive appearances and one plate appearance. He walked.

Matthiessen was recruited to fill a role with the Cardinal pitching staff. It was his West Linn High teammate Tim Tawa who was expected to provide some offensive punch.

Both former Lions will be in the starting lineup when No. 11 Stanford (45-12) plays its first Super Regional game in five years at noon Saturday against No. 6 Mississippi State (49-13) in Starkville in a best-of-three series that will determine a berth in the College World Series.

Matthiessen made an immediate impression on the mound, opening his college career with 16 2/3 scoreless innings. He made 20 relief appearances overall, going 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA and recording three saves. Matthiessen struck out 32 and walked nine in 38 2/3 innings.

As a sophomore he hit more than he pitched, starting 23 games as a designated hitter and making 13 relief appearances.

This year has been a revelation.

Matthiessen leads the Cardinal in several offensive categories, including batting average (.322), hits (67) and RBIs (52). He's third in runs scored (46) and home runs (12).

As a pitcher, Matthiessen is 6-2, with a 3.71 ERA in 15 appearances, including eight starts.

On the eve of the Stanford Regional, Matthiessen was named one of five finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award by the College Baseball Foundation.

The winner will be announced the day before the CWS opens and will be honored in conjunction with All-Star Game festivities in Cleveland in July.

Matthiessen then produced an all-tournament performance to help the Cardinal win a regional for the first time since 2014.

He started Saturday's game against Fresno State, allowing a run on six hits over five innings. He was the only starter not to walk a batter during the weekend. He did not get a decision.

As a hitter, he batted .368 (7-for-19), sixth among qualifying hitters. He was second with seven hits, six runs and a pair of home runs, third with five RBIs and tied for first with 14 total bases.

"I enjoy doing both," Matthiessen said. "It's no problem working on both. I just stay extra."

Matthiessen showed his potential during a six-game, 11-day stretch of his sophomore season in which he hit .550 (11-for-20) with six of his seven home runs and drove in 14 of his 23 RBIs.

An injury slowed him down for part of the season and he finished with a .293 average in 32 games.

"I knew I was going to take on a heavier role this year," he said.

He's flourished in the dual role. After 38 relief appearances, he made his first college state, in a Tuesday game against Fresno State. He's been part of the rotation ever since.

"Will did a nice job of going five innings against a tough lineup," Stanford coach David Esquer said. "It was a stalemate for five innings."

Monday's championship victory came down to Brendan Beck and Jack Little, who retired the final 13 Bulldogs in order to preserve the 9-7 victory.

"We pieced it together until we could get to Beck," Esquer said. "We needed every pitch, every ounce of energy. The goal was to get to Brendan and finish with Jack."

Stanford also received some offensive help from an unlikely source. Christian Robinson, the ninth hitter, drove in four runs on two hits.

"We want him to turn the lineup, to get on base," Esquer said. "We count on our No. 1 hitter (Kyle Stowers) to drive in runs. This time, Christian drove in the runs. There are moments when guys rise up."

His first hit came when Nick Bellafronto was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs in the second.

"It's definitely nice when they put someone on ahead of me and I can make them regret it," Robinson said. "I just stay with my approach."

He also drilled a two-run double with two outs in the fifth, capping a six-run inning that gave the Cardinal a 9-5 advantage.

Maverick Handley, named the tournament's MVP, hit a pair of home runs and drove in three runs. After hitting two all season, he had three in the tournament and handled the Stanford pitching staff.

Beck, Matthiessen, Kyle Stowers, Tawa and Brandon Wulff were also named to teh all-tournament team.

"They wouldn't go away," Robinson said. "It was not going to be easy but I think we showed we can be a tough team."

Cody Jensen made his second start of the season for the Cardinal and went an inning-plus before handing it off to Jacob Palisch (5-2), who gave up three runs on three hits, walking two and striking out four.

Zach Grech got two outs and Beck, the game one starter, took the ball and retired 10 straight, giving him 10 1/3 scoreless innings for the weekend, allowing three hits and striking out eight. Little struck out the side in the ninth for his 12th save.

"They did what they do," Handley said of Beck and Little. "They pound the zone, mix speeds and put it wherever they want. When Jack's fastball is on, it doesn't get hit."

Stowers found out he was drafted, by the Baltimore Orioles, during the top of the fifth inning.

"A couple of players came up and told me it would help calm him down when he knew he got drafted," Esquer said. "I was all for that. It was nice to share the moment with Kyle."

Handley added: "I'd want to know the second I got drafted. It felt like we all got drafted; we're all so proud of him."

Handley, Matthiessen, Erik Miller and Little were drafted Tuesday and Andrew Daschbach, Brandon Wulff and Duke Kinamon were chosen Wednesday.

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