Editor’s note: The St. Louis Cardinals selected Quinn Mathews with the No. 122 pick in the fourth round of the 2023 MLB Draft on July 10.
STANFORD, Calif. (BVM) – Stanford is off to Omaha for its third straight appearance in the College World Series after a thrilling three–game battle with Texas that included a career night from Quinn Mathews on Sunday night.
“I just tried to take it like any other start and enjoy my last nine innings at Sunken Diamond,” Mathews said.
Stanford lost to Texas 7-5 on Saturday, leading to a must-win game on Sunday night. In his final start at Sunken Diamond, and with the season on the line, Mathews threw 156 pitches for 16 strikeouts as the Cardinal beat the Longhorns 8-3. It was a career high in both pitches thrown and strikeouts for Mathews as well as the first time a pitcher has thrown 16 or more strikeouts in a super regional since Kumar Rocker threw 19 strikeouts against Duke in 2019.
“I knew I had quite a few (strikeouts),” Mathews said. “I didn’t know what the exact number was but I knew that the number was definitely up there. I knew the swing and miss was up there so that normally equates to quite a few strikeouts but I didn’t really know my final line other than, honestly, the hits and the runs because I was still pretty pissed off about those and the walks.”
Mathews is his own harshest critic but even with the negatives in the boxscore, he entered the bottom of the ninth with 15 strikeouts and Stanford had an 8-3 lead. The Cardinal ace struck out the first Longhorn batter to get his 16th strikeout and then got the next batter to groundout to shortstop.
However, Mathews then gave up a double on his 150th pitch, leading to Stanford pitching coach Thomas Eager walking out to the mound for a conversation with his star pitcher.
“He walked out and I was like, ‘There is no way I’m getting pulled out of this game right now,’” Mathews said. “I didn’t know my pitch count, didn’t know what I was at and I was just looking at him like, ‘There’s no way.’”
Mathews had seen Eager walk out to the mound just like that earlier in the season when he was pitching against Washington State. That time, Eager pulled the plug on Mathews’ night but the senior wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
In an exchange that has gone viral since then, Eager wanted to have an “adult conversation” with Mathews to which Mathews replied, ‘I’m getting this kid out,’ and walked away from the mound.
Mathews didn’t learn until after the game that the decision had already been made to bring Brandt Pancer in to get the final out and Eager was heading out there to pull Mathews. Instead, Eager asked him if he would be comfortable letting Pancer pitch against the top of the order if this batter got on base.
“No, I’m not comfortable with Brandt facing the top of the order so I’m just going to get this kid out instead,” Mathews told Eager.
Eager headed back to the dugout and Mathews did exactly what he said he was going to do: he got the Texas batter to ground out to third for the final out of the game.
“It might’ve been the greatest pitching performance I’ve ever seen,” Stanford head coach David Esquer told College Sports on SiriusXM.
Mathews was drafted last year in the 2022 MLB Draft but decided to come back for his senior season. It was a decision he made for himself and regardless of what happened on the field, it was the right decision.
“I came back because I wasn’t ready to leave this place in terms of just who I was as a person and the growth I’ve found and needed this year,” Mathews said. “Whether I went out on top or not here, I would’ve still been satisfied and happy with the decision I made to come back.”
Although he didn’t need that sort of a send off, being able to have the best performance of his career in his last appearance at Sunken Diamond was fitting.
“Obviously to go out physically on the field like that and the fashion that we were able to, which was not only winning that game, but getting the win last night as well, is pretty special,” Mathews said.
Thanks to Mathews’ performance on Sunday, the Stanford bullpen was fresh for Monday night and the Cardinal did not let Mathews’ final start at home go in vain. Following the win on Sunday, he was telling the team that the job wasn’t done.
In the final game of the super regionals, with a third straight trip to the College World Series on the line for both teams, it was all tied up in the bottom of the ninth. Drew Bowser was at the plate for Stanford with two outs and runners on first and second when he hit a pop fly to center field.
“For whatever reason I actually turned around on the pitch, didn’t want to watch it, which is very bizarre,” Mathews said. “It was the only pitch all game I didn’t watch. I just had like a weird moment like, ‘I can’t watch this pitch for whatever reason.’”
Mathews was facing the crowd when he heard Bowser make contact and turned around in time to watch both the Longhorns center fielder and right fielder lose the ball in the air. Neither could find it in time, the ball dropped in play and the Cardinal scored the game-winning run.
From being drafted, to deciding to return for one more season – with no guarantee that he would have another shot at his dream of playing professional baseball – Mathews has come a long way. He has been the Cardinal leader throughout this process, grown as a person and got the opportunity to have a career night in his last start on his home field.
A lot has happened in a year but all that matters right now is Stanford’s matchup with Wake Forest on June 17.
“We’re going to Omaha,” Mathews said.