Card Come Up Short in Game Two

It's been long enough since you read a recap of a Stanford baseball loss that you might have forgotten what it feels like. Well, this one stings pretty badly, with the Card mounting an impressive series of home runs that kept pace with Cal State Fullerton and even took the lead. In the end, the Titan pitching was too much, while Stanford's previously unbeaten Mark Romanczuk took his first loss of the year.

Sunday evening's Stanford-Cal State Fullerton game was quite an exhibition of baseball. Possibly the two best teams in the country playing at the top of their games. The lead changed hands a couple of times, but in the end, it was the Titans prevailing by a 6-5 score. The loss sends the Cardinal to the losers bracket in the CWS as they now get set for a rematch with South Carolina on Tuesday at 11:00am (PST). If Stanford defeats the Gamecocks, it will take two wins over Fullerton on Wednesday and Thursday to advance to the best-of-3 championship series.

The Titans jumped on the board first with a single run off Mark Romanczuk in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Romanczuk walked Justin Turner, but then got the dangerous Shane Costa to pop out for the second out of the inning. But cleanup hitter P.J. Pilittere belted a double to left to easily score Turner for an early 1-0 Fullerton lead. Romanczuk would later load the bases in the inning on a walk and a hit batsman, but the freshman settled down to strike out Danny Dorn to keep the score at 1-0.

The Stanford hitters weren't having much luck against CSF starter Dustin Miller as the redshirt freshman set down the first six batters he faced spanning the first two frames. In the bottom of the second with a runner on second and two outs, Titan shortstop Justin Turner connected for his first home run of the season, a fly ball that just stayed fair down the left field line.

The Card finally got to Miller in the third as Jed Lowrie got things started with a single. Brian Hall then followed with a home run to left field, his sixth blast of the year, to bring Stanford within one run. The Cardinal weren't done though as after Tobin Swope flied out, Sam Fuld crushed a deep home run just to the right of straightaway center field to tie the game at 3-3. It was Fuld's third homer of the season.

Romanczuk though couldn't shut down the Titan hitters as Fullerton produced another run with a two-out hit. After walking Pilittere to start the inning and hitting Kurt Suzuki with a pitch with one out, #8 hitter Jason Corapci delivered the big hit with a double to score Pilittere which put Fullerton back ahead, 4-3.

Stanford would have an answer though as sophomore DH Chris Carter clubbed a solo home run to left field with one out in the fourth inning to tie the game at 4-4. The Cardinal added another run in the fifth off Miller to take their first lead of the game. With two outs, Jonny Ash singled to left. Then Carlos Quentin ripped a double off the base of the wall in right center to plate Ash with Stanford's fifth run of the game. After Ryan Garko was intentionally walked, Danny Putnam drew a hard-faught walk to load the bases. With Miller on the ropes, Carter worked the count in his favor at 3-and-1 before he hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop that ended the inning. Carter actually hit the ball up the middle, but the shortstop Turner was shaded up the middle to take away the hit and what would have been a 7-4 Cardinal lead. But the play was made, the score remained 5-4 Stanford, and little did the Cardinal know, but that would be all they would come close to getting for the remainder of the evening.

Romanczuk appeared to have settled down at this point in the game as he fired a scoreless fourth inning on just 11 pitches (after 76 pitches through the first three innings) and then worked a perfect 1-2-3 fifth frame on only six pitches. But the Titans got to Romanczuk in the sixth as they capitalized on another leadoff walk with a two-out hit. Corapci drew a 3-and-2 base on balls to start the inning and was then bunted to second by Ronnie Prettyman. After Kyle Boyer lined out, it was Justin Turner coming through again as he blooped a single into center field to score Corapci with the tying run.

Meanwhile, Wes Littleton had come on in relief of Miller to start the sixth inning. The former ace of the staff and 2002 All-American, set down Stanford in order in the sixth and seventh innings recording a pair of strikeouts in the process.

In the bottom of the seventh, Costa led off with a single down the right field line, but was thrown out at second by Quentin trying to stretch it into a double on a perfect strike by the junior rightfielder. Romanczuk appeared to be tiring though as he then allowed a single to Pilittere and then #5 hitter Richie Burgos tripled to score Pilittere to give Fullerton a 6-5 lead. Burgos' triple was a deep fly ball to right field that Quentin was unable to come up with as he leapt at the wall, but had the ball go off the heel of his glove. Nevertheless, it was a triple for Burgos and the Titans had reclaimed the lead.

That would end Romanczuk's evening as Matt Manship was summoned from the bullpen. After Manship hit Suzuki with a pitch, he induced Dorn to line into a double play to end the inning.

In the top of the eighth, Littleton walked Garko on five pitches to start the inning. After the walk, CSF closer Chad Cordero was brought into pitch and he would not disappoint. Cordero got Putnam to ground into a double play and then struck out Carter to end the eighth inning. In the ninth, Jed Lowrie and Brian Hall both struck out and then pinch hitter Donny Lucy grounded out to second to end the game which gave Cal State Fullerton an all-important 6-5 victory.

Game Notes: 

* Freshman Mark Romanczuk was saddled with the first loss of his collegiate career tonight. He went 6 1/3 innings yielding six runs on ten hits. He walked four and struck out two. Romanczuk was burned a few times with leadoff walks that eventually came home to score and also failed on numerous occasions to get out of innings as Fullerton struck for many two-out run-scoring hits.

* Matt Manship relieved Romanczuk and threw 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief.

* The story of the game was Cal State Fullerton's bullpen as Wes Littleton (2 IP) and Chad Cordero (2 IP) combined to no-hit the Cardinal over the final four innings of the game. The only baserunner for Stanford during that stretch was a leadoff walk to Garko in the eighth, but he was promptly erased on a double play off the bat of Danny Putnam.

* Cal State Fullerton starter Dustin Miller went five innings tonight. He allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits. It was the most earned runs allowed by him in a game all season.

* Jonny Ash (2-for-4) was the only Stanford player with a multi-hit game today.

* Four of Stanford's five runs tonight came on home runs.

* Fullerton shortstop Justin Turner had a huge game as he finished 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI.

* Cal State Fullerton is now 43-0 on the season (and 119-1 in the last three years) when leading after seven innings.

* Four of Stanford's last five losses at the CWS have come by one run. The 2000 title game against LSU (6-5), the Cardinal's two losses to Texas in 2002 (8-7 and 6-5), and this loss tonight.

* Stanford had their season-high ten-game winning streak snapped.

Stanford            0 0 3  1 1 0  0 0 0 - 5  7 0 
Cal State Fullerton 1 2 1  0 0 1  1 0 x - 6 10 0

WP: Wes Littleton (7-3) 
LP: Mark Romanczuk (12-1) 
S: Chad Cordero (8)

HR: Stanford – Sam Fuld (3), Chris Carter (6), Brian Hall (6) ; Cal State Fullerton – Justin Turner (1)

Records: #3 Stanford (47-16), #2 Cal State Fullerton (50-14)

* Stanford will next be in action on Tuesday at 11:00am (PST) when they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in an elimination game. South Carolina defeated LSU 11-10 earlier Sunday to stay alive in the CWS. After the game tonight, Coach Marquess said he'll decide on a starting pitcher at some point tomorrow. The most likely candidates include senior lefthander Tim Cunningham (3-3, 5.49) or senior righthander Ryan McCally (6-2, 4.88).

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