NCBA Division 2 | Pacific Region | North Conference
“The resurgence of Stanford Club Baseball was, like star right fielder Will Ogden, fast. In just its second Division 2 season, Stanford finished one win away from reaching nationals. Last season, before the pandemic intervened, Stanford was coasting through the NCBA Pacific north conference with a 7-0 record. That is why Stanford football, coming off a 4-8 2019 season, took a page out of club baseball’s book. Before the 2018-2019 season, the club baseball team moved to playing its games at Woodside High School. Trying to replicate the same success, David Shaw and the football team did the same, practicing at Woodside at the beginning of their fall camp.
As a freshman, local pitching prospect Cameron Vaughan identified Woodside High as a home for the team. Soon after, the club baseball team could be found on the weekends taking care of the field, and it paid off.
“The key move was that we had a home field,” Vaughan said. “And not only did we have a home field, we had a home field where we were comfortable.” It was at that home that Stanford dropped the first two games of its opening series to Sacramento State in 2019. Despite the high expectations coming into the year, it could have been another disappointing season. Instead, sophomore player-manager Gregory Block gave a speech and turned the season around.
“Seeing that early season lethargic performance was frustrating,” Block said. “I felt like if I really tried to fire people up early in the season it would send a message and establish what we were trying to do over the course of the year.”
“I don’t remember the words of the speech, but I remember the way that it made me care about winning,” Vaughan said. “Greg brought so much energy.”
Block and Ogden stepped in as presidents in their sophomore year when Karl Fencl and Austin Poore graduated. Soon after recruiting the freshman class, Block and Ogden could sense a new kind of energy from the group. During offseason workouts, it was apparent that Vaughan, former Little League World Series hero Danny Marzo, and the rest of the freshman class was ready to make a difference. Emboldened by the talent, Block would send weekly emails with inspiration from the team’s past. He first shared the epic story of pitcher Drew Tam laying down a bunt for a hit with a full count and the bases loaded to tie the game. Later, he would talk of “Big Cat” throwing past the point of exhaustion to rest the team’s bullpen. All of that culminated in Block’s epic speech to save the season.
“I remember walking away thinking not only do we need to win Sunday, but we’re going to win out,” Vaughan said. “And we ended up doing that just that.” Stanford won its final nine conference games to clinch a berth to Lancaster. Just a season before, playoffs were less than an afterthought — they were never mentioned — but Stanford found itself in the regionals in the first year of Block and Ogden leading the program.
Nevertheless, it did not come without its close calls. One morning, after heavy rain, Block and Vaughan woke up at 5:30 a.m. to put Turface on the field. The field, while not ideal, was playable, and Stanford won the two games necessary to secure the conference championship and the No. 1 seed.
“It’s a funny story to look back on, but we were out there for four hours in the morning and
basically redid the entire field,” Block said. “To me that was kind of a sign that we were all
serious about this.”
An absurd 26-15 game ended Stanford’s season in 2019 on the doorstep to Kansas. After
pitching guided the Cardinal all year, four games in three days ran through the stable of arms and the hot, dry weather won out. “Pitching wins championships,” Vaughan said. “And most schools in the Division 2 club ball circuit don’t have the depth that perhaps a Tampa Bay Rays or a Dodgers organization might have to pull from.”
In addition to Vaughan, Stanford has leaned heavily on ace Ben Caven. Caven has been named the NCBA Player of the Week in each of his two seasons, throwing a 6-inning complete game, allowing just one run on one hit with seven strikeouts his freshman season and winning the award last season with a performance in which he struck out 13 over 6 shutout innings. “There were teams that knew of Ben before we even knew when we were going to play them,” Vaughan said.
In 2020, with senior leaders Alex Rejto and Chris Adosei-Poku guiding the team, Stanford did not lose a single game. Only a natural disaster could have stopped Stanford — and it did. “Knowing how close we came,” Ogden said, “just one game away from nationals the year before, and then coming back and adding even more talent like Wes [Rojas], like Karsten [Householder], and especially solid play from the freshmen… I thought that not only would we be going to nationals we actually had a shot at it.”
Looking ahead to the 2021 season, Stanford’s biggest strength might be its competitive spirit. Rojas, the shortstop, has been known to sleep in his uniform the night before a game. “The first thing that shows through is just people’s energy and enthusiasm,” Block said. “There’s just excitement to be back on a baseball field again, because we never know when sports can be taken away from us.”
In 2021, the talented, competitive, and hungry Stanford club baseball team will return to action at Woodside High, but for now are just counting the days. “The field of dreams,” Ogden said. “Every time I drive past Woodside, it almost brings a tear to my eye.”
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