One more time for @StanfordBSB coach Mark Marquess! A curtain call for a great 46-year career on The Farm. #FinalSeas9n #Pac12BSB pic.twitter.com/mcOoakkiMP
— #FirstTo500 (@Pac12Network) June 4, 2017
STANFORD — Mark Marquess referred to himself as a “lame duck” coach Saturday night inside the batting cages at Sunken Diamond.
That’s not how anyone else is likely to view a college baseball icon at the conclusion of a 41-year career as the head coach at Stanford, his alma mater.
The 70-year-old announced his intention to retire last summer, and it was finally time to step away from the dugout after the Cardinal was eliminated from the postseason at its NCAA Regional with a 4-2 loss to Cal State Fullerton.
“Now I have time to focus on what’s next for me,” said Marquess, who is affectionately referred to as “9” for his jersey, which a couple of weeks earlier became the only number retired in program history. “I’m not over the hill, yet. So I’ll find something that will keep me busy, and I’m sure my wife has a few jobs lined up for me.”
Not willing to go out without a fight, Stanford (42-16) brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but couldn’t come up with the key hit to extend both its season and Marquess’ legacy on The Farm.
“I think we all obviously wanted the storybook ending for 9,” said senior Jack Klein, who also played his last game in a Stanford uniform. “That’s without a doubt.”
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Fate left the final at-bat of the season to Klein, whose grandfather Bud Klein also played at Stanford, with Klein Field at Sunken Diamond dedicated in his honor in 2008.
Jack Klein, who crushed a key home run earlier in the afternoon to stave off elimination with a 9-1 victory over BYU, hit a sharp grounder directly at the second baseman for a fielder’s choice.
Nearly inconsolable, Klein spent a moment crouched beyond first base, his helmet sprawled on the dirt and both hands on his head.
“I think it was a bunch of emotions running though me at that moment,” Klein said. “It was a lot. We were disappointed. We all believed we were going to go all the way and make this a really cool, special, last season.
“But, yeah, it was a tough moment. But it’s baseball, right? I hit it as hard as I could and it went to the second baseman.”
Stanford, which won 21 out of 23 games to close out the regular season, was rewarded with a NCAA Regional as the No. 8 seed.
Marquess couldn’t recall any of his previous squads stringing together such a run prior to the playoffs.
“Probably not the most talented team I’ve had, but that’s not what counts — they compete, they got better,” Marquess said. “Happy with our season, disappointed tonight.”
“Wow, that was a dogfight, tooth and nail, up to the last out,” Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said. “I’m at a loss for words. I do feel sorry for Coach Marquess on his last game, but as (former Fullerton coach) Augie (Garrido) sent me a text on Wednesday, he said ‘It’s Titan time’ as the postseason hit. And then I read it to the guys and I thought they played incredibly well this weekend.”
Fullerton (37-21) allowed five runs in its three games, limiting Stanford to four hits in a 4-1 win Friday night, then to only three hits in Saturday’s rematch.
After its first loss, the Cardinal was relegated to the bottom of the bracket in the double-elimination Regional.
To stay alive, Stanford senior Chris Castellanos tossed a three-hitter without any walks and three strikeouts against BYU. Basically, the crafty southpaw went nine innings for 9.
“It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Castellanos said. “I just wanted to give us a good shot to win and to throw as many innings as I could and try and save our bullpen. Luckily, that was the game plan. Whenever they gave me the ball, just throw strikes like I always do and go after hitters.”
He’s done throwing strikes at Sunken Diamond, much the same way Marquess will no longer — or in that case anyone else — wear the No. 9 jersey again inside the dugout.
“I’ll just second guess from the stands,” Marquess joked. “No, I don’t know. I’ll enjoy watching Stanford baseball and I can be a lot nicer to these guys now.”
After the last out, the Cardinal huddled around Marquess inside the dugout, then stepped out to acknowledge the die-hard fans out of 1,745 in attendance who stuck around to pay homage.
Then it was 9’s turn to say goodbye, with his wife, Susan, among the crowd along with their three daughters, who have blessed the family with eight grandchildren so far.
“I’ve got a lot of people that I can coach,” Marquess said. “They’ve run me out of Little League, though. So I’ll do it from the stands.”
Finally, it was a matter of going back to collect his briefcase as Marquess left the dugout behind after exactly five decades as a Cardinal — four as a player, five as an assistant and the past 41 as the head coach.
When will reality sink in?
“Well, when I get up tomorrow morning and I’m not going to go to the office,” Marquess guessed. “I don’t know. That’s the scary part, I really don’t. The good part is I was able to concentrate just on the baseball and immerse myself in that. The scary part is I haven’t thought what’s next. I really haven’t.
“So I’ll have time. And a lot of people that have retired said, ‘Take a couple of weeks and figure out what you might want to do.’ But I’ll be wandering the streets before a little bit doing something.”
• Fans can leave a message for Marquess here.
The Mark Marquess scouting report
• one of four NCAA Division I baseball coaches to reach 1,600 wins (1627-878-7)
• back-to-back national championships in 1987-88
• 14 trips to the College World Series
• three-time NCAA Coach of the Year
• failed to finish over .500 only twice
• won gold at 1988 Seoul Olympics as U.S. head coach
• two-sport athlete at Stanford (baseball, football)
• drafted by Chicago White Sox in 1969
• over 200 Cardinal players have been drafted since 1977
Thank you, 9⃣ pic.twitter.com/Vfbv7ZB6lm
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) June 4, 2017