The Long Beach St. 49ers have two of the best pitchers in the country in Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver. Going into the series, the Cardinal knew that in order to win the Super Regional, they would have to knock off at least one of them. Tonight, behind a great performance from their own John Hudgins, Stanford won Game 1, knocking off Abe Alvarez by a final of 5-1
Through the first five innings tonight, it was a tremendous pitchers duel. The 49ers had a runner at second in the second and third frames but failed to score, while the Cardinal managed just one hit in three innings against Abe Alvarez. In the fourth, the Dirtbags put John Bowker at second with one out, but Hudgins got a popout and a strikeout to retire the side. But Alvarez cruised through the order, striking out Carlos Quentin and Ryan Garko to end the fourth and keep the 0-0 tie.
In the fifth, Stanford put together their first rally against Alvarez. Donny Lucy blooped a single to center, and after a wild pitch, moved to third on Danny Putnam's single up the middle. With runners at the corrners and nobody out, Jed Lowrie grounded to third, freezing Lucy but moving Putnam to second. However, Jonny Ash grounded out into a 3-2 fielder's choice and Tobin Swope flied out to center to end the inning. Alvarez pumped his fist as he left the mound, still with a scoreless tie.
In the sixth, the 49ers struck first. Todd Jennings opened the inning with a hot shot down the third base line. It looked to be extra bases until it hit third base umpire Greg Oros, holding Jennings to a single. After a sac bunt put Jennings at second, Hudgins struck out Bowker for the second out of the inning and got ahead of Troy Tolowitzki 0-2. However, the freshman SS worked the count full. He popped a ball foul on the first base side, but Brian Hall lost it in the lights. With another shot, Tulowitzki drilled a double, driving home Jennings and giving the 49ers a 1-0 lead.
But Stanford scraped and clawed back in the sixth. Fuld started the inning with a walk, but was cut down as Hall's sac bunt attempt was unsuccessful. With a runner at first and one out, Quentin singled to right to put runners at the corners. Next up was Garko, who hit a line drive single to center, tying the game at 1 apiece with runners at first and second. Up stepped Lucy, who promptly hit it on the ground to Tulowitzki in what looked like an inning ending double play. But the ball went through the SS's legs, and a run scored to make it 2-1 Stanford. That would be all they would get, as Putnam and Lowrie lined out to end the inning with the Cardinal up one.
In the seventh, Hudgins gave up back to back singles with two outs but got out of the jam. In the eighth, he gave up a leadoff single to Tim Hutting and walked the pinch hitter Travis Udvarhelyi on a close 3-2 pitch. With nobody out, Hudgins got Tulowitzki to hit into a 6-5 fielder's choice, keeping runners at first and second with one out. Hudgins struck out Mike Hofius and got Adam Heether to fly out, escaping yet another jam.
Seven innings would be all for Alvarez, as he left trailing by one after 123 pitchers. His replacement, Neil Jamison, gave up a single to Quentin and hit Garko to start the eighth. While Chris Carter came out on deck, the situation called for a bunt, so Mark Marquess called upon Chris Minaker. Despite trying with a 3-2 count, Minaker could not get the bunt down, and the first out was recorded. But it wouldn't matter, as Danny Putnam ripped a line-drive homer to right, his 14th of the year, giving Stanford a commanding 5-1 lead, and John Hudgins finished out the 9th with a strikeout for the win, his 11th of the season, putting the Cardinal just a win away from Omaha, Nebraska.
Long Beach State 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 - 1 7 1
Stanford 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 x - 5 8 0
WP: John Hudgins (11-3)
LP: Abe Alvarez (11-2)
HR: Putnam (14th, 3 run in the 8th)
Long Beach St. (41-19), Stanford (45-15)
-Stanford's win tonight means they must win just one more game either Saturday or Sunday to advance to a school record 5th consecutive College World Series.
-John Hudgins' final line: 9.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K. A masterpiece complete game, his seventh on the season.
-Abe Alvarez is the hard luck loser, just his second of the season: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
-Danny Putnam was 2-4 with his 14th HR and 3 RBI. Donny Lucy and Carlos Quentin also had two hits.
-Sam Fuld and Brian Hall's hitting streaks were snapped tonight at 17 games and 11 games, respectively.
-Ryan Garko drove in his team leading 88th RBI, just four behind Rick Lundblade's Stanford record of 92.
-Tomorrow's game pits Jered Weaver (14-3, 1.99 ERA) vs. Mark Romanczuk (11-0, 3.49 ERA, Collegiate Baseball Freshman of the Year). A win for Stanford means a trip to the CWS, a loss means a Game 3 on Sunday. First pitch Saturday is 5:05 PM.
Chad Goldberg is the voice of Stanford Baseball on KZSU, 90.1 FM.