Matthiessen is enjoying a merry month of May
No, Will Matthiessen hasn’t cut a deal with the devil. But consider what Stanford’s 6foot-5 relief pitcher has done this month — with the bat.
At the end of April he was hitting .222, having been unimpressive in a stint as the designated hitter. He was 4-for-18 and was without a home run and had only three RBIs.
Then he was given another chance. Let’s just call him Mr. May.
Since the calendar turned, he’s hitting .448 with six homers and 17 RBIs. In Sunday’s series finale at Oregon State, he unloaded a game-winning threerun double in the 10th inning.
Some of his teammates are calling him “Shohei” or “Ohtani” in honor of the Japanese pitcher-slugger for the Angels.
For the record, Matthiessen has a 2-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and a .362 batting average. Entering Thursday, Ohtani was 3-1, with a 3.58 ERA, a ..325 average and five homers. Also for the record, Matthiessen chuckles at any comparison with a big leaguer, much less an international phenom.
He hopes to continue his hot streak when the No. 3 Cardinal (40-8, 18-6 Pac-12) meet Washington State (15-28-1, 7-16-1) in the final home series of the regular season starting Friday.
They finish next week at Washington, then will likely host a June 1-4 regional in the NCAA tournament.
“I’m just out there having fun,” Matthiessen said. “I attribute a lot of my success to (hitting coach) Tommy Nicholson. He’s helped me a lot with my approach and with getting comfortable in the box.”
One of the things that was plaguing him was the inside pitch. “We worked on that a lot,” Matthiessen said. “Now I’m able to hit that inside pitch well and put it over the fence.”
He can certainly hit the breaking ball, as he proved in Sunday’s dramatic 9-6 win against Oregon State. The Cardinal, down 6-1 early, tied it on freshman Nick Oar’s pinch home run in the ninth — his third homer in just four hits this year.
With the bases loaded in the 10th, Matthiessen waved at two fastballs from standout closer Jake Mulholland before getting a breaking ball.
“The at-bat before, he had flashed his curveball once,” Matthiessen said. This time “I recognized it pretty early out of his hand, and he left it over the middle of the plate.”
Matthiessen shot it down the third-base line, clearing the bases and allowing the Cardinal to avoid a deflating sweep in Corvallis.
“A few of our guys (including Matthiessen) have benefited from being in the lineup, coming out of the lineup, watching and reflecting — and then getting another chance,” head coach David Esquer said.
Matthiessen helped West Linn (Ore.) High School win four state basketball championships and was recruited in that sport by Boise State and Portland. But he set his sights on baseball, and Stanford recruited him as a corner infielder. To his surprise, he wound up in a significant relief pitching role (3-0, 2.33 ERA in 20 appearances) as a freshman.
He’s still coming out of the bullpen as a sophomore, but he’s become even more valuable with a bat. That said, he’s not the most prolific athlete in his family.
His grandmother, Dorothy Matthiessen, 83, of Pasadena, was ranked as the No. 1 or 2 women’s tennis player in the world in her age bracket for more than 20 years.
Her grandson played tennis, too. Did he ever play his grandma? “She smoked me,” he said.
Briefly: Second baseman Duke Kinamon, an All-Pac-12 selection in 2017, will redshirt this season and come back next year, Esquer said. Kinamon hasn’t played this year after sustaining a groin injury in warm-ups just before the season opener. … Starting outfielder Brandon Wulff, who missed 26 games
with a foot injury, returned as a pinch-hitter Tuesday against BYU. … Catcher Maverick Handley will miss the Washington State series and maybe the Washington series after slightly fracturing a bone in his left (non-throwing) arm in a skateboard mishap last week.
Stanford’s Will Matthiessen is hitting .448 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in May as a designated hitter.