Photo courtesy of Vanessa Buentello
Bobcats get out-homered in loss to Stanford
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Texas State chose to use its allowed mulligan.
The Bobcats were out-hit and out-homered in an 8-4 loss to Stanford Sunday evening in an NCAA regional game. It's now a winner-take-all matchup on Monday at 9 p.m. with the victor advancing to next weekend's super regional.
"Give credit to Stanford," Bobcats head coach Steven Trout said. "They made some really big swings in some big moments. They did a good job with their arms, as well. You get at this point in the tournament, you have to find ways to scratch out runs."
Texas State (47-13, 26-4 Sun Belt) got a bit of deja vu in the top of the first when Jose Gonzalez mashed one to deep center field for his 13th homer of the season. Stanford freshman starting pitcher Ty Uber had retired the first two batters easily, but could not handle Gonzalez, who hit his third homer in two nights.
"It was my fault," said Uber, who pitched 5 innings to run his record to 4-1. "It was a fastball in, but I left it out over the plate."
Cardinal head coach David Esquer, whose club is 44-15, insisted Gonzalez has become a thorn in the Cardinal's hyde.
"Gonzalez is hot," said Esquer, a member of Stanford's NCAA title team in 1987. "He's tough to pitch to. I appreciate Ty (Uber) taking the responsibility on that, but the guy's swinging a hot bat. He has hit a home run to every field. He's definitely somebody we have to watch out for."
Trailing 5-2 in the fifth, senior outfielder Ben McClain drew a two-out walk. However, McClain got caught in a rundown and was tagged out trying to get back to first base. The Bobcats felt Cardinal first baseman Brett Barrera did not apply the tag on McClain, but a review verified the call.
That cost the Bobcats a run when senior shortstop Dalton Shuffield ripped his 13th home run of the year over the left field wall, closing the gap to 5-3.
"It was a 3-1 count," said Shuffield, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. "He had been struggling with the breaking ball. I sat dead-red fastball and he gave it to me. It was a middle-in, high fastball. That is my bread-and-butter. I hit it and knew it was gone."
Hope really sprung eternal for the Bobcats when they manufactured an unearned run in the sixth to get within one. Senior designated hitter Wesley Faison's pop fly to short right was dropped. Freshman first baseman Daylan Pena worked a walk, moving Faison into scoring position. Junior catcher Peyton Lewis' liner to center for a hit plated Faison.
"At that point, we were like, ‘This is our game to win. We can put up three, four more and get to a comfortable spot,’" Shuffield said. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen."
The Cardinal had a pair of home runs from sophomore designated hitter Carter Graham, who leads the team with 22 dingers. Graham had Stanford's first five RBIs of the night, adding a harmless single in the sixth. Texas State sophomore starting pitcher Tony Robbie took the loss, dropping to 4-1.
Stanford put the game away in the seventh with three runs, two runs coming on a two-run clout by sophomore third baseman Drew Bowser, his 14th home run of the year.
Cardinal junior shortstop Adam Crampton, who had an RBI single in that sixth inning, wowed the 1,615 in attendance with some flashy play at short. Crampton, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, fielded a wicked hop off the bat of McClain in the hole, then tossed a throw in the dirt that Barrera fielded cleanly. Crampton recorded the other two outs in the inning, though Gonzalez had walked with two out.
The Bobcats’ middle of the infield has flashed leather all tournament. Shuffield went into the hole to throw out the speedy freshman outfielder Braden Montgomery by an eyelash. Senior second baseman Cameron Gibbons has been fluid, as well. Bobcats senior right fielder John Wuthrich made a diving catch to rob junior outfielder Brock Jones for the second out in the seventh. Montgomery made one of the top plays, racing to the right field line to grab a threatening deep drive by Gonzalez to end the fifth inning.
"We hit some hard balls right at people," Shuffield said. "I don't see any adjustments going into Monday. We just have to see who they are throwing (tomorrow) and adjust to it."
Both teams' pitching staffs are on the thin side.
"We have a lot of options as to who to start," Trout said. "My guys play extremely hard. They show up every day. We only lost one series the entire year. It has come down to a 3-game series here at Stanford. We're not going to be scared of the moment. I know that."