STANFORD — Cal Quantrill is preparing for a daunting doubleheader of sorts Saturday in Nashville: First, his physics final exam, followed by a tough test against Vanderbilt shortly after.
That’s part of the deal for Stanford student-athletes who play in the postseason, and the Cardinal (34-24) are making an improbable trip to the NCAA Super Regional this weekend for a best-of-three series against Vanderbilt. The Commodores swept them in a three-game series earlier this year.
Quantrill is no stranger to the pressures of the job as a freshman thrown right into the No. 1 Friday night starting duty this year, even when dozens of pro scouts packed Sunken Diamond for his highly anticipated debut Feb. 14. He’s also the son of former 14-year major league pitcher Paul Quantrill and grew up as a bat boy and playing catch with some of the game’s big stars.
“Never going to be tired of talking about Dad. He’s made a huge difference in my life, both baseball, coming to Stanford, everything,” Quantrill said Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s helpful having a pitching coach growing up in your home all the time. That being said, though, it’s been good to kind of separate and do my own thing for a while, too, and take what he’s taught me and also what Coach (Rusty) Filter has been giving me over the course of this year and create something good. It’s gone well so far.”
The Cardinal can credit Quantrill’s impressive freshman season as a big reason they are still playing, along with getting home runs from nine players to win the Bloomington Regional. Quantrill won twice there, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1-3 innings. Overall, he is 7-5 with a 2.69 ERA this season.
“Quantrill got stronger as a freshman as the Friday starter,” coach Mark Marquess said. “Playing those tough teams didn’t demoralize him. He really got better as it went on.”
Stanford opens the Super Regional on Friday morning, but Marquess has opted to pitch Quantrill in Saturday’s Game 2 to give him an extra day after a heavy workload already this postseason. Left-hander John Hochstatter, 10-2 in eight starts and 14 outings overall, will start Friday.
Quantrill pitched 2 1-3 innings of relief in Monday night’s 5-4 walkoff win against No. 4 overall seed Indiana — that after he won the team’s opener 8-1 against Indiana State two days earlier.
“Cal was amazing coming back on two days’ rest,” teammate Tommy Edman said.
The team returned to campus from Indiana early Tuesday evening, then left again at lunchtime Wednesday. That provided a couple of players enough time to get to finals Tuesday and others to make the rounds with their professors Wednesday.
“It’s kind of a crazy time, but it’s good crazy,” Marquess said. “A lot of times they’re more worried about the final than the game, which in some ways is good.”
Even he might have had his doubts the Cardinal would still be playing the way things were going for a stretch. Stanford endured another rigorous non-conference schedule and was below .500 at 10-11 after March.
Marquess, Stanford’s 38th-year coach who in March became the sixth baseball coach in NCAA history to reach 1,500 wins, knows how far his club has come since that sweep at Vanderbilt from Feb. 28-March 2.
The Cardinal capped a second-half comeback with a 12-5 record in May, and now find themselves as the lone remaining Pac-12 team still playing.
There have been some timely hits during this special run.
“The last five weeks in league, we really pitched well, then we started to hit with people on base,” Marquess said. “I’m real proud of them. We were at a point we didn’t know if we were going to finish .500, but we finished very strong.”
Of all the big hits, most notable was Edman’s walk-off two-run homer to win it Monday, the first of his life from the left side for the switch-hitter. Edman also took over shortstop duties when Drew Jackson went down with a broken finger while fielding a ball.
“I just went up there and wasn’t expecting it at all,” Edman said. “Our team has been resilient all year.