Win Over UC Riverside Sends Card To Regional Final

The Stanford Cardinal advanced to the championship game of the Palo Alto Regional with a 13-6 victory over the UC Riverside Highlanders on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinal were led by a balanced offensive attack as they pounded out 16 hits while John Hudgins overcame a difficult first inning to post his sixth complete game of the season. Here is a complete recap.

It didn't look as if John Hudgins would last long in this afternoon's game after surrendering four runs to UC Riverside in the bottom of the first.  But the junior righthander settled down and the bats awoke and in a big way to lead Stanford to a crucial 13-6 victory over the Highlanders.  Hudgins went the distance on the mound yielding six runs on eight hits.  He walked only two and struck out a career-high 12.  At the plate, the Cardinal pounded out 16 hits while Danny Putnam, Chris Carter, and Ryan Garko all homered.

Stanford was the designated visiting team this afternoon and they jumped on the board first with a single run off UCR starter A.J. Shappi.  On the first pitch of the game, Sam Fuld smoked a double to deep left center field.  Jonny Ash then hit a low pop up, on a bunt attempt, in front of the mound that Shappi dove for, but was unable to come up with which put runners on the corners.  Carlos Quentin then brought home Fuld with a deep fly out to right field.

The Highlanders quickly responded with four tallies off Hudgins in the bottom of the first.  With one out, Ryan Harvey and Tony Festa both singled.  Hudgins then plunked Kevin Mangles with a pitch to load the bases.  After a strike out of Randy Blood, designated hitter Jason Collette belted a double to deep left center which cleared the bases.  Matt Cunningham followed Collette's double with a run-scoring single for a 4-1 Riverside lead.

Neither team scored in the second or third innings.  Shappi set down the Stanford hitters in order in both frames while UC Riverside had a few chances to score off Hudgins.  In the bottom of the second, Hudgins walked the leadoff batter and gave up a two-out single, but Mangels struck out looking to end the threat.  In the third, Hudgins walked Collete with one.  Collete then stole second, but was stranded when the next two hitters struck out and flied out respectively.

The second time through the order the Cardinal hitters got to Shappi as they plated three runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game.  Ash got things started with a single and after a Quentin strike out, Garko singled to left.  Danny Putnam then worked a full-count walk to bring Chris Carter to the plate.  The sophomore DH also worked the count full before drawing a walk which brought Ash home.  Jed Lowrie then stepped up and ripped a single into right which scored another run.  The final tally of the inning scored when Brian Hall grounded into a fielder's choice.

In the bottom of the fourth, UCR #9 hitter Brian Steinmeyer connected for a leadoff solo homer to put the Highlanders back in front.  But that would essentially be all Riverside would get as Hudgins turned it on and dominated for the duration of the game.

Trailing 5-4, Stanford pushed across four runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead for good.  Once again it was Fuld getting things started as he doubled to leadoff.  After an Ash sacrifice bunt, Quentin popped out to short and it looked as if the Cardinal would go down without scoring despite the leadoff double.  But up stepped Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year Ryan Garko and the senior catcher delivered with a double to deep left field which scored Fuld to tie the game at 5-5.  Putnam followed Garko's clutch two-out hit with a big hit of his own as the sophomore leftfielder clubbed a home run to right center field to put Stanford in front, 7-5.  Then, Carter smoked a home run to right field and all of a sudden it was an 8-5 Cardinal lead.

Hudgins started to roll once he had the lead as he worked 1-2-3 fifth and sixth innings recording four strike outs during that span.  With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Harvey homered to cut the Stanford lead to 8-6.  The home run snapped a string of ten consecutive batters that Hudgins had retired.  A fly out and a ground out after the homer though ended the inning to keep the score at 8-6.

Stanford added to their lead in the top of the eighth with three runs.  Consecutive singles by Carter and Lowrie to leadoff the inning put two runners on.  After Brian Hall grounded into a fielder's choice on a bunt and Tobin Swope grounded out to move the runners to second and third, Sam Fuld delivered in the clutch with a single through the right side to score two.  Stanford wasn't done though as Ash doubled to right to score Fuld which made the score 11-6.

In the ninth, Garko led off with a no-doubt-about-it home run to straight-away left field.  Stanford scored their final run of the game when Fuld drew a bases loaded walk to score Carter who had earlier walked.

Meanwhile, Hudgins set down the Highlanders in order in the eighth (highlighted by a fabulous catch by Putnam in left as he went crashing into the wall) and needed just 11 pitches to retire UC Riverside in the bottom of the ninth.

Game Notes:
* A solid offensive day for the Cardinal as four players (Fuld, Ash, Garko, and Lowrie) all went 3-for-5.

* All-American Ryan Garko hit his 16th homer of the season while his two RBI gives him 82 this year.  The 82 RBI puts him in second place in the Stanford single-season record book (the record is 92).

* John Hudgins improved his record to 10-3 with the win today.  After the four-run first inning, Hudgins gave up just two runs on four hits while he ended his afternoon with 12 K's.

* Two more hits today for Chris Carter (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) who is now 12-for-32 (.375) with five homers since starting 2-for-23 (0 HR's) this season.

* Sam Fuld extended his hitting streak to 16 games with his first inning double.  One of the bigger hits in today's game was Fuld's two-out, two-run single in the eighth to make the score 10-6.  First base was open with left handed Jonny Ash on deck (and a lefthander on the mound), but Riverside elected to pitch to Fuld and the junior center fielder made them pay with the big two-run single.

* UCR starter A.J. Shappi went seven-plus inning on the hill today yielding ten runs (all earned) on 12 hits.  Shappi began the day with a team-low 3.14 ERA while opponents were hitting just .221 against him.

* Stanford is 15-1 in their last 16 games.

Stanford      1 0 0  3 4 0  0 3 2   -   13  16   0
UC Riverside  4 0 0  1 0 0  1 0 0   -    6   8   1

WP: John Hudgins (10-3)
LP: A.J. Shappi (11-3)

HR: Stanford - Ryan Garko (16), Danny Putnam (12), Chris Carter (5) ; UC Riverside - Ryan Harvey (9), Brian Steinmeyer (1)

Records: #4 Stanford (43-15), #22 UC Riverside (41-16)

* The Cardinal will next play tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm against Richmond as the Spiders knocked off Riverside 8-1 in the nightcap today.  Stanford needs just one win tomorrow to advance to the super regionals while the Spiders need two W's to advance.  If a second game is needed tomorrow, it will start at 5:00pm.  The Cardinal have announced that Mark Romanczuk (10-0, 3.45) will be on the hill.

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