NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To say that Cal Quantrill was under pressure on Saturday would be an understatement.
Let’s start with the obvious. It’s no easy task to take the mound with your team starring into the end of its season, especially as a freshman. Compared to what he will face after the game – a final in Physics 43 Electricity and Magnetism, a required class for his engineering degree – and his start Saturday wasn’t as nerve-wracking.If his pitching performance is any indication, Quantrill will be fine on the final. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up three runs (two earned), as the Cardinal prevailed 5-4 on a walk-off home run by Wayne Taylor in the bottom of the ninth in the second game of the Nashville Super Regional.
“There are two separate times of the day right now,” Quantrill said. “I set [the final] aside and went after the baseball portion and in about an hour or so, I’m going to have to get ready for that.”
If there was anyone who could have helped Quantrill prepare for this moment, it was his father, Paul. The elder Quantrill pitched in the Major League for 14 years, including the spotlight of New York City for a year and a half.
“We talked a lot about going after them, throwing strikes, kind of doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Quantrill said of his chat with his father. “They’re a good team, there’s no easy outs in the lineup. He didn’t say anything special or that sticks out.”
While the elder Quantrill was unable to attend -- he was at his daughter’s high school regatta -- Cal excelled. Up until the eighth when he left the game after the first two Vandy batters reached base, Quantrill was able to keep Vanderbilt at bay.
The only run he gave up while he was in the game came on a throwing error in the top of the second that gave the Commodores a 1-0 lead. The other two runs came in with AJ Vanegas on the mound.
“I thought Quantrill was very good,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “We’re very knowing of him. We recruited him and he’s a very special pitcher. He can really decelerate the baseball in any count.”
One day after Stanford was forced to turn to the bullpen in the second inning, Quantrill pitched deep into the game. Although his bullpen was unable to protect a 4-1 lead and left Quantrill with a no decision, it was what Stanford needed.
The scary part? Quantrill said he didn’t even have his best stuff.
“There’s always things to fix,” Quantrill said. “I fell behind a couple of times when I shouldn’t have fallen behind. The slider was good but the changeup wasn’t the best.”
Even without his best stuff, it was his brains that kept Vanderbilt hitters off balance. Just don't tell Vanderbilt that he didn't have some pitches working.
“He was throwing a lot of guys backwards,” Vanderbilt right fielder Rhett Wiseman said. “His changeup was his best pitch [Saturday], and when you were looking for that, he would come back with a slider.”
Though this was the first time Quantrill has pitched in the Super Regional, he has recently thrived on a big stage. He started Stanford’s first NCAA tournament game, throwing a complete game against Indiana State. Two days later, he came out of the bullpen and threw the final 2.1 innings in the regional-clinching win against Indiana.
If things get dicey for Stanford in the winner-takes-all Game 3 on Sunday, Quantrill may just go to head coach Mark Marquess and let him know that he’s available, even if he knows that he’s not going to pitch.
“I’ve been real lucky as far as my arm is concerned,” Quantrill said. “I’ve never had a sore arm, I don’t ice and I can pitch every day. Our coaches are smarter than that though. They aren’t going to listen to a 19-year-old kid who says he’s good to pitch the day after.”
Speaking of smarts, how does Quantrill feel about his chances going into that final? Well, he has one simple wish.
“Hopefully it’s not as big of a grind as today’s game,” he said.