It's a Sweep: Baseball dusts off UW

For the first time this season, the Stanford baseball team handily swept a weekend series. Responding to recent struggles, the No. 28 Card (25-16, 9-9 Pac-10) rallied to send Washington (13-30, 4-14 Pac-10) home with three new losses tacked on to their record.

Sophomore righthander Mark Appel (4-5) was the star of Friday's series opener, as the starter struck out a career-best nine batters before the crowd of 3,202 at Sunken Diamond. Appel allowed only two runs on six hits and earned the win in a 6-2 Stanford victory.

Two of these hits came in the second, which allowed Washington to put a run up on the board and close in on the Card, 2-1. A fielder's choice and freshman first baseman Brian Ragira's sac fly gave Stanford its first two runs. Yet, after Appel allowed the two-out bloop single from Eric Peterson, he struck out the side in the third and continued to strike out at least one batter in each subsequent inning, before giving up an unearned run in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Stanford built a 5-1 lead through the first four innings, finding little trouble in getting the bat on Husky starter Geoff Brown's pitches. Sophomore outfielder Tyler Gaffney displayed particular comfort at the plate, ending the night with three hits. In the fifth, Gaffney lined his Pac-10 best fifth triple to drive home senior catcher Zach Jones.

Sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger had two hits, including a two-run double in the third. The Stanford standout was named one of the quarterfinalists for the Brooks Wallace Award on Friday as well, awarded to the top shortstop in collegiate baseball. Semifinalists will be announced June 10.

Diekroeger put up more noteworthy numbers in Saturday's game , adding three hits in an 8-7 Stanford win. Yet this victory was much less secure for Stanford, who barely squeezed by the Huskies, breaking a 7-7 tie off a fielding error with two outs in the ninth.

The Cardinal bats were on fire totaling 19 singles and mounting a serious rally in the ninth to win the game. Much of Saturday's drama occurred in the last few innings, as Stanford had built up a 7-3 advantage by the seventh. But the Huskies responded in the eighth to rally off Cardinal closer Chris Reed (3-2) and knot the game at 7-7.

Stanford didn't let that rally go unanswered, as Jones doubled to lead off the ninth against Washington closer Adam Cimber (2-3), and Gaffney pushed him to third on a fly out to center. Washington then loaded the bases with a pair of intentional walks to sophomore third baseman Stephen Piscotty, and Ragira, who had five hits on the afternoon. In between those walks, Kenny Diekroeger struck out, leaving Stanford just one out before extra innings.

Senior left-fielder Dave Giuliani sent the winning run home in the last at-bat of the night, poking an 0-2 pitch toward second baseman Willy Reel, who couldn't handle the ball,allowing Jones to score. Reed was the winning pitcher.

The series sweep finished Sunday in a 7-2 game, but once again a late-game rally put Stanford over the top. Ragira's two-run triple ignited a six-run eighth inning, erasing Washington's game-long lead.

"I had to widen up the zone a little bit and get it off the knob, but I got a slider that I was fortunate enough to be able to barrel off and help the team win," said Ragira of his shot off the center-field wall.

The hit capped off a stellar weekend for the freshman, who also had five hits on Saturday.

"It was definitely a good weekend," Ragira said. "It started off kind of slow, but I had a few good atbats early and then kept my routine the next two days. I saw the ball well, which turned out nicely for me and the team."

The Huskies took a 2-0 lead in the first off a Jacob Lamb RBI single and a Jordan Pries wild pitch. Pries, Stanford's starter, threw 7.1 innings, yieldingtwo runs on seven scattered hits. Washington starter Austin Voth countered by surrendering only unearned run and six hits, and it wasn't until the eighth, when Voth handed the ball to Cimber, that the Card generated substantial hitting momentum.

After Ragira's triple, a Diekroeger RBI double, an RBI single by his freshman brother Danny Diekroeger, and a Giuliani RBI double cemented the 7-2 final score.

"We have always been confident in our team's ability, and I think it's starting to click," Ragira said of the sweep. "We know we have the talent to win, and we know we're a good team, so it's nice to be able to sweep like this and get back to .500 in conference play."

Hopefully, the Card can keep playing winning baseball this week versus Pacific and UC Davis, before heading to Oregon over the weekend.

Stanford has already defeated Pacific (15-27) 3-1 last month. The Card also took Davis (15-26) 3-2 in mid-March. Though Stanford tends to dominate in midweek games, with a 10-1 mark off the weekends, the team will need to repeat this past weekend's performances to take down Pacific and Davis more handily. Especially with how busy the team is during this time—taking on eight games in 10 days—the Card will have to keep those bats alive and aggressive to keep momentum.

First pitch today is at 6 p.m. at Pacific, and Stanford hosts UC-Davis tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

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