STANFORD, Calif. (KTVU) - Thirty-one years ago first-year head coach David Esquer was playing for a national title in a Stanford baseball uniform. They won it, and then again the next year, in 1988. And that was their last title to date.
“The one experience that has marked my life more than any other,” recalls Esquer. “What really created that magic was the bond that our team had, playing for the guy next to you and trying to experience that as a group that no one else had done before.”
“Every once in awhile he will pull out the stories about his years in 87,” adds pitcher Tristan Beck. “Esqui has been there before he's done it here at Stanford with similar teams, that's something we all aspire to achieve.”
And it is very much achievable. The Cardinal has been a top-three team for most of the season - thanks to an elite pitching staff, an offense with a flair for the dramatic, and a coach who keeps his players in the right frame of mind.
“He himself doesn't stay very loose,” says pitcher Brendan Beck. “But the tight line he walks in the dugout keeps the guys loose, some of the things he says can crack a laugh out of some of the guys on the bench.”
“It’s a team that has a lot of fun,” adds shortstop Niko Hoerner. “Obviously easy to have fun when you're winning baseball games but the two go together.”
As great as this team is by the numbers, there’s something going on here that transcends batting average and ERA. The Cardinal has faced a steady stream of adversity, but as the cliche goes, what hasn’t killed them has made them stronger.
“I think four of our nine starters on opening day are not in the lineup currently,” notes first baseman Andrew Daschbach. “So once everybody goes down everybody rallies around, finds a way to rise to the occasion, each guy gives that extra 10% fills that void.”
“With each injury you figure that's gonna be the one that's gonna be significant enough to really feel it on the field,” adds Esquer. “And it really hasn't happened yet which has been amazing to me.”
To the contrary, Stanford stayed strong enough to win the Pac-12 title and put itself in prime position to get back to the College World Series.
“To win a national championship is the highest point you can reach in a sport at the college level,” says Hoerner. “It would be the greatest moment of my life. It's definitely something I think about going to bed every night.”