Baseball drops three, out of Top 25

It has been a rough few days for Stanford baseball, which dropped all three games in this weekend's series with No. 9 Oregon State (27-7, 8-1 Pac-10). In the Cardinal's fourth weekend series of the year against a top-20 opponent, the young squad could not improve upon 8-1 record at home, and then-No. 17 Stanford (16-12, 3-6 Pac-10) has now lost five of the last six.

Friday night's pitching showdown ended in heartbreak, with the 1-0 Oregon State win marking Stanford sophomore starter Mark Appel's third one-run loss of the season. OSU's ace righthander Sam Gaviglio (7-1) outdueled Appel.

Gaviglio struck out eight batters and walked one, allowing only four hits and quickly silencing any Cardinal attempts to generate momentum. Stanford had the opportunity to tie the game in the fourth when Beaver catcher Parker Berberet dropped a third strike and the Cardinal loaded the bases, but Gaviglio answered with a strikeout to prevent Stanford from putting any runs on the board. Again in the seventh, Cardinal sophomore outfielder Jake Stewart pulled a lead-off double, yet Gaviglio worked out of the jam with a strikeout and two groundouts.

Appel nearly pitched a scoreless 6.2 innings as well, with his lone run off a two-out, 0-2 RBI single from OSU's Kavin Keyes in the first. He gave up six additional hits and struck out six, but the Cardinal bats could not come alive to overcome the one-run deficit.

Unfortunately for Stanford, the offense remained stagnant Saturday afternoon, as the Card fell 8-1 to the Beavers in the second outing of the series.

OSU's pitching was once again dominant, as junior lefthander Josh Osich (5-0) held Stanford to a mere two hits in six scoreless innings. It was not until the seventh that a Stanford player crossed home, with two hits from Stewart one of the few instances where the Card produced an offensive spark.

Junior righthander Jordan Pries (4-3) threw the first six innings for the Cardinal and allowed nine hits for six runs, five of them earned.

Keyes posed the biggest threat to Stanford for the second time in the series, producing clutch hits to drive in runs in the first and third innings. He went 3-for-3 overall and was responsible for giving OSU an early 3-0 lead in the third.

An RBI double from Ryan Dunn, a wild pitch from Pries, and an RBI single from Jared Norris pushed across three more for the Beavers and set the Cardinal back 6-0 in the fourth. Though Stanford was able to prevent the back-to-back shutout, the lineup couldn't handle OSU's rotation and string together any sort of rally to come within reach of a comeback.

The bats picked up slightly on Sunday, but despite a powerful start and a rally to end the ninth, Stanford still lost 6-4 to close out a disappointing series.

The Card came out Sunday swinging, as Stewart pushed an extra base hit into center and was brought home by an RBI from sophomore outfielder Tyler Gaffney. Sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger followed with an RBI double to send sophomore utility Stephen Piscotty across the plate, who had singled after Gaffney, giving Stanford a 2-0 lead after one.

Gaffney's contributions to the Stanford squad have been particularly notable lately, as he leads the team in on-base percentage. Head coach Mark Marquess attributes Gaffney's success to his exceptional athleticism, which the two-sport athlete needs to excel in both football and baseball.

"It's exciting," said Marquess of Gaffney, a two-year starter in the outfield and a backup running back under David Shaw. "We have had a rich tradition of the two-sport athlete at Stanford, and it's unique that a school lets you do both. You have to be a very elite athlete."

Though Gaffney has been key for the Cardinal this season, the adjustment from football isn't as easy as he might make it look.

"I have to focus on baseball during baseball and football during football," said Gaffney. "I talked a lot with Toby Gerhart. I grilled him with questions. It's an adjustment because baseball requires finesse, but Coach says to not get frustrated and I'll get through it."

Yet Gaffney's multiple hits during the series with OSU still weren't enough to help the Cardinal pull out a win. Keyes attacked once again on Sunday with an RBI single in the third to tie the game at 2-2, and again with a two-run, two-out single in the seventh to push the Beavers to a 5-2 lead. The freshman went 6-for-12 in the series and drove in runs in all three games.

The Stanford pitching couldn't keep up, as sophomore righthander Dean McArdle (4-2) threw for 2.1 innings and was followed by senior righthander Danny Sandbrink. The duo allowed OSU to erase Stanford's early lead and go ahead 3-2 after the third.

The Card did produce a two-run rally in the ninth, when freshman Brian Ragira delivered a two-out RBI double and back-to-back singles from fellow freshman Brian Guymon and senior Dave Giuliani brought home the fourth run for Stanford. Yet OSU closer Tony Bryant held the Card there, securing the save and the sweep for the Beavers.

Thus, Stanford now sits in a bit of a slump at nationally-unranked No. 26, looking to bounce back in Tuesday's game at Santa Clara (14-18) before taking on No. 11 UCLA (19-12, 9-3 Pac-10) in next weekend's three-game series. Stanford has already handily defeated the Broncos twice this season, 8-4 on March 1 and 9-1 on March 22. Both wins came at home, so the Card hopes to repeat this success 40 minutes down 101 on Tuesday, and turnaround their slump in time for UCLA.

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