Baseball wins three straight

Stanford baseball is slugging through the heart of Pac-10 play and gearing up for what will be a very busy ten-day stretch. The No. 28 Cardinal (24-16, 8-9 Pac-10) has started with two straight wins against visiting Washington this weekend, before midweek games against Pacific and UC Davis and a series at Oregon the subsequent weekend.

The Card is coming off a 3-1 midweek win over county rival San Jose State (30-17) on Tuesday. Sophomore righthander Dean McArdle (6-2) started on the mound for Stanford in his longest outing from the past month. McArdle was recently dropped from his slot as a weekend starter after giving up 11 runs over his last 11.1 innings prior to Tuesday, but he rebounded this week to dominate the Spartans right from the start.

McArdle gave up one unearned run on three hits in 5.1 innings, allowing one hit to start the night but then retiring 11 in a row and not permitting another Spartan to reach base until the fifth. Rookie reliever A.J. Vanegas replaced McArdle when he allowed a second hit in the sixth and bobbled a pop up in the infield to let the score slip to a close 2-1.

Vanegas threw 1.2 scoreless innings and struck out Andrew Rodriguez to work out of a tough jam in the seventh. The freshman has given up only two runs over his last 15.1 innings.

He eventually turned the ball over to junior Chris Reed, who closed out the game with four strikeouts for his fifth save of the season. Reed twirled a perfect eighth and struck out the side in the ninth, giving up only a leadoff single on the first pitch.

The Stanford lineup scored its three runs in the middle portion of the game, with the first strike coming off of starting Spartan pitcher Roberto Padilla (8-4). Padilla gave up three hits over the first five innings to take the loss.

Senior catcher Zach Jones doubled in the fourth and soon scored off a sacrifice fly to center from freshman utility Brian Ragira. Ragira later crossed the plate in the sixth for a second Stanford run after singling, stealing second, moving over to third on a ground out and scoring on a wild pitch from Eric LeBaron.

The third Cardinal run was the product of an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Tyler Gaffney, who settled in to a hitting groove several weeks ago and has been consistently hitting for the Card ever since.

Sophomore Stephen Piscotty remains Stanford's main outstanding force in the starting lineup, as he continues to watch his average rise. Now hitting .356 on the season with a team-best of 17 multi-hit games, Piscotty's average is fourth best in the Pac-10.

His classmate Kenny Diekroeger is producing similarly spectacular achievements, as yesterday the shortstop was named first team academic all-district. A starting infielder for each of the last two seasons, Diekroeger carries a 3.68 cumulative GPA and is now eligible to be considered for the Academic All-American team, in addition to maintaining a .308 batting average, 22 RBIs and 23 runs.

The Card's good luck has continued thus far against Washington. On Friday night Fireworks Night, Stanford ran away from the visiting Huskies in a 6-2 win. Mark Appel (4-5) struck out nine, giving the Huskies just two runs, one earned, in 8.0 innings. Chris Reed earned the save, recording the final three outs on a double play and a ground out.

Most of the action came early: Stanford led 5-1 after four innings, with a two-run Kenny Diekroeger double, a Tyler Gaffney triple (his fifth, a Pac-10 high), and a first inning sac fly and fielder's choice accounting for the runs. Appel thrilled the season-high announced crowd of 3,202 with nine strikeouts, besting his previous career best of seven Ks.

Then, on Saturday, Stanford used an awful lot of contact hitting – and a rally monkey – to clinch an 8-7 win, improving to 24-16 on the season, 8-9 in the Pac-10.

Of the Card's 20 hits on the game, the first 19 were all singles. Scratching out the hits worked well enough, as Stanford scored two runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, flipping an early 3-1 Husky lead into a 7-3 Card advantage.

Then, however, came the top of the eighth, and the visiting Huskies rallied with a big inning. After seven solid innings from Danny Sandbrink, Chris Reed entered in the eighth, and promptly surrendered five straight hits. The last of those consecutive hits was a two-run single, and a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout followed before Reed could get out of the inning with the score now knotted, 7-7.

The bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth were scoreless – though Reed did let the potential game-winning runner advance to scoring position at second base. A bottom of the ninth rally would give Reed the win, improving his record to 3-2, but his ERA, and perhaps management's confidence in their reliever, suffered in the wake of his second blown save.

Still, Reed's struggles are a footnote, instead of a headline, because of Stanford's 20th and final hit of the night. What a time for an extra-base hit, as Zach Jones started the inning out with a double. Jones advanced to third on a fly out, before Washington intentionally walked a batter, struck out Kenny Diekroeger, and then intentionally walked another batter, creating the force at home. So it was with two outs, the bases loaded and an 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth that Dave Guiliani sent a routine grounder to Husky second baseman Willy Reed. The grounder, however, was anything but routine for Reed, as he bobbled the certain out, allowing Jones to score the game-winning run on the error.

Stanford baseball will take ‘em however they can in a season that's seen its shares of ups and downs. Stay tuned to The Bootleg as the next month or two plays out.

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