BSB drops series at USC, rebounds vs. Pacific

The preliminary portion of the Stanford baseball team's schedule has been hectic, with five of the first six weekend series on the road. The now No. 17-ranked Cardinal (16-9, 3-3 Pac-10) traveled to Los Angeles last weekend for its most recent Pac-10 outing against USC (10-18, 2-4 Pac-10) before facing Pacific (10-18) at home on Tuesday.

Though Stanford entered last weekend's series at No. 11, a position the team had held for the previous two weeks, the Card sunk in the rankings after two unforeseen losses to the Trojans.

The first game of the series did go according to plan, however, as Stanford defeated their southern California rivals 8-1, with a stellar showing on the mound from sophomore righthander Mark Appel. In the first complete game of his career, Appel threw six no-hit innings, struck out a career-best seven, and closed out the ninth after giving up only four hits on the night.

USC's lone run of the game came from infielder Adam Landecker, who broke up Appel's no-hitter with a single in the seventh. Landecker scored off Trojan infielder Joe De Pinto's misplayed single to center. Yet, by this point, the Cardinal held a solid lead, with five hits and four runs in the fifth putting Stanford up 4-0. A sacrifice fly in the seventh extended the lead to 5-0 before the Trojans crossed home plate at all.

Seven Stanford players had multi-hit games in the aggressive 17-hit attack, with sophomore outfielder Tyler Gaffney leading the way with a3-for-3 day while reaching base on all five of his at-bats. Senior catcher Zach Jones also added a pair of hits and RBIs to Stanford's offensive effort, and sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger's single in the third lengthened his hitting streak to 16 games. Diekroeger's accomplishment now stands as Stanford's ninth-longest streak in over twenty years. Though certainly impressive, the pattern was no surprise coming from Diekroeger, who also produced a 23-game streak last season as a freshman.

His streak was snapped on Saturday, however, going 0-for-4 as the Cardinal lost 3-1 to the Trojans. Opposing pitchers Austin Wood (2-5) and Chad Smith combined for a seven-hitter and struck out eight to outduel junior righthander Jordan Pries (4-2) and even the series. The loss was Pries' first since March 4.

Gaffney once again could not be held off the bases, with the USC pitching staff was unable to retire him in either of the first two games of the series.

Stanford had multiple opportunities to put runs on the board, leaving runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth. Thus, despite several outstanding Cardinal plays in the field, the team could not generate the offense it needed.

One remarkable defensive plays came from freshman second baseman Lonnie Kauppila, who dove in the hole between first and second to prevent a single in the bottom of the eighth.

Kauppila has been especially key for the Cardinal lately, and the rookie earned Collegiate Baseball's National Player of the Week honors last week after going 15-for-20 against Saint Mary's and Washington State. With only two errors in the field all season, Kauppila has provided Stanford with consistency at second.

"I pride myself on my fielding," said Kauppila. "I try to focus on that as the one aspect of my game when I'm struggling with hitting. I work a lot in practice and it all comes together once I get on the field."

He hasn't been struggling at the plate recently though, and the southern California native entered the USC series sixth in the Pac-10 in hitting.

"I've been working a lot lately with Coach Brock and all the other coaches," Kauppila said of his improvement with the bat. "I have been working on my swing and trying to be more relaxed at the plate. Last week, I was a little calmer and more confident in my ability and my swing, and I was seeing pitches really well. It all came together."

The transition from high school to college baseball has not been quite as easy as Kauppila has made it appear, however.

"There is a big change in the pace of the game. Everything is a lot more compact," Kauppila noted in his comparison. "It has been a tough adjustment, but I'm getting used to it."

Unfortunately for Stanford, he wasn't able to save the team from losing the rubber game in the series, as the Cardinal lost 6-2 last Sunday. USC pitcher Logan Odom (3-4) struck out eight over seven scoreless innings in his career-best showing.

Stanford sophomore righthander Dean McArdle (4-1) gave up an early four runs on four hits pushing the Cardinal into a 4-0 deficit after only three innings. The loss was McArdle's first ever in a Stanford uniform, snapping a nine-win streak over the last two seasons.

The Card sparked a glimmer of hope late in the game, when Jones drove in two off a single in the eighth, but multiple Stanford strikeouts stalled the rally. Stanford left 12 on base for the night.

Yet, despite the series loss to the Trojans, Stanford managed to bounce back with strong pitching to down visiting Pacific 3-1 on Tuesday evening. Freshman righthander A.J. Vanegas started off a string of scoreless pitching, with junior righthander Elliott Byers and junior lefthander Chris Reed each pitching multiple perfect innings to secure the victory. Junior lefthander Scott Snodgress gave up the sole run to Pacific in the seventh.

The win marked the first night the Cardinal will spend in the Bay Area over the next two weeks, after nearly two months on the road to start the season. Next up, the team will host Oregon State and UCLA in what should be the two most crucial Pac-10 matchups of the season. Both teams sit in the top-25 nationally, along with the Card. Thus, the starting rotation will have to give Stanford at early leads, and the bats will have to come alive quickly for the Card.

The series with Oregon State began Friday and continues through the weekend.

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