STANFORD — It took a week for Mark Marquess to record his 1,600th career victory. Although more accurately, it took 41 years on The Farm.
In his farewell season at Stanford, the man otherwise known as “9” — the number on his jersey — became the fourth baseball coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the milestone Tuesday night at Sunken Diamond after a 8-4 victory against rival Cal with 1,014 fans in the stands.
Does the 70-year-old contemplate on the significance of such achievements?
“After the fact, I will,” Marquess said. “Really, it’s another game. When it’s over, I’ll think about it, ‘That’s great.’ But I’m just sitting in the dugout. It’s a lot of great players, and that was the thing that was special early in the year when they had that celebration for me, when we had 120 players come back.
“Those are the guys that won the games. I just kind of sat and watched and enjoyed it.”
That’s not the way his peers feel.
Cal coach David Esquer, a shortstop on the 1987 College World Series champion for Stanford, also spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Cardinal in the ’90s.
Three years ago, he watched Marquess record victory No. 1,500 against Cal.
“He’s obviously a legendary coach,” Esquer said. “And he has a lot to do with those victories, in just the type of program that he runs and the people that he attracts. And a program that many thought wouldn’t be able to do it with the academics here, much like at Cal.”
Not that he enjoyed being on the wrong end of such landmarks.
“I’d rather ‘SC would have been that historic win,” said Esquer, hinting at the fact Stanford travels to Los Angeles later this week. “That would’ve been a lot better as far as I’m concerned.”
No. 20 Stanford (15-9, 2-4 Pac-12) had three chances to reach the magic number over the weekend, but instead was swept by top-ranked Oregon State.
That extended the wait, keeping Marquess stuck at 1,599 wins since the 7-3 triumph over Long Beach State the previous Tuesday.
And it set up another fateful meeting with Cal (12-14, 4-5).
“It’s pretty fitting, isn’t it?” Stanford senior Alex Dunlap said. “Just thinking back, I think I was here for his 1,500th win as well when I was a freshman. So being able to get 100 wins, I was there and now I’m here. It’s really cool, and they were both against Cal. Very appropriate.”
The victim of nearly one-tenth of Marquess’ wins is Cal, with the number currently sitting at 154 — and counting?
“They always matter, that’s natural in all the sports when you play Cal,” Marquess said. “But we have to play them four more times. They’re really tough and Coach Esquer’s got a really young team and he’s done a really good job with them.”
Congrats, 9⃣#FinalSeas9n #GoStanford pic.twitter.com/WVazwAUhyv
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) April 5, 2017
The Cardinal did all of its damage in the bottom of the fourth, when it turned a 2-0 deficit into a commanding lead with an eight-run outburst.
Twelve batters came to the plate, combining for eight hits and one walk. The first relief pitcher managed to get only one out, a fielder’s choice, before surrendering five consecutive singles, including a couple of comebackers that glanced off his glove into no-man’s land on the infield.
“Were just not ready to win that game on the road, yet,” Esquer said. “We’re still making enough mistakes that are costing us that edge that it would take to win that game.”
About the only thing the Cardinal didn’t get right was plating another run to make it a symbolic number for “9” in the dugout.
“Almost,” said Dunlap, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, as eight of the players on the starting lineup came around to score in the frame. “Real close. That would’ve been cool.”
“Yeah, darn it,” Marquess said. “I’ll take the eight in the one inning, though. … That was nice. We got a lot of hits, but all in that one inning. Just took advantage of it. That was great.”
Cal responded with a two-out rally that featured a two-run double by freshman Andrew Vaughn, who leads the Pac-12 with seven home runs.
“You want to show that you’re going to punch back after taking a blow like that,” Esquer said. “The effort is there. I’ve never questioned our effort. It’s a little bit just in the execution that sometimes lets it get away from us.”
Neither team managed to record a hit the rest of the way, which expedited a historic moment years in the making — or is it a week?
“When you can win that many games, you’ve been at a place for a long time,” Marquess said. “That means everything, because I went here and I played here. That’s unusual to be able to coach at the school where you played, but just to coach that long I’ve been very fortunate.
“And I’ve been very blessed to be able to be here and have such great student-athletes come through the program.”
That includes Esquer, who cannot fathom what it will be like next season without “9” exchanging lineup cards before the first pitch.
“It will be weird for everybody, right?” Esquer said. “Especially weird for me being in this dugout to go out to home plate when you play Stanford and not have Mark Marquess there. It’s something that you kind of expect.”
It has produced 1,600 wins so far — and counting.