Omaha Dream: A Win for the Ages

In what will go down as one of the most exciting games in Stanford Baseball history, the Cardinal defeated the Cal St. Fullerton Titans today by a score of 7-5 in 10 innings, advancing to the National Championship Series at the CWS. Lately, Stanford has lived and died by the home run, and tonight was no exception, but the Cardinal did get a homer from the most unlikely source in order to win. Read on for details.

Stanford 7, Cal St. Fullerton 5 (10 innings)

Tonight the Stanford Cardinal played a game that will go down in the record books as one of the biggest games in the history of the program, as the Cardinal won 7-5, advancing to the College World Series Championship Series against the Rice Owls. For the third time in four years, the Cardinal have earned a chance to play for the title and look for their first championship since 1988 this weekend.

The Titans threw their ace, Jason Windsor, tonight against the Cardinal. Early on, it looked as if the Cardinal would make quick work of the junior RHP. Sam Fuld and Jonny Ash opened up the game by hitting rockets to center, but right at CF Kyle Boyer for outs. With two gone, Carlos Quentin singled sharply to right, followed by a bloop single to right by Ryan Garko. On the next pitch, Danny Putnam ripped a single to left, scoring Quentin, as the aggressive bats of the Cardinal hitters gave Stanford an early 1-0 lead.

Matt Manship got the nod for Stanford on the hill, and gave up a two-out double to Shane Costa and hit P.J. Pilittere before getting Richie Burgos to ground out to end the inning.

In the second, Stanford's Chris Carter led off with a single. Brian Hall hit a comebacker on a hit and run, but Windsor's throw to second was too high, and both Carter and Hall reached safely. After a Tobin Swope sac bunt, Fuld was walked to bring up Ash with the bases loaded. But the 5'9" 3B hit into a 6-4-3 double play, as the momentum seemed to shift into the Fullerton dugout.

Manship hit another batter in the second but got out of a jam because of a baserunning error by Kyle Boyer, as Stanford held the 1-0 lead into the bottom of the third. Ronnie Prettyman lead off the third and was hit by a pitch. The call was controversial, as Prettyman barely was grazed - if he was hit at all. Justin Turner stood in to bunt, but Manship's pitch came up and in and hit Turner on the jaw. Turner went down in a heap, and had to be carted off the field. Fortunately, the word is that his jaw was not fractured and he would suffer only severe swelling and a chipped tooth. After a short delay, Costa dropped a bunt single to load the bases with nobody out. Two sac flies later, Stanford trailed 2-1, but Manship escaped the inning with another runner left on base.

Fullerton continued their scoring in the fourth, as Danny Dorn led off the inning by being hit, the fifth HBP for Matt Manship and the third time he led off an inning by drilling the first batter! After a sac bunt and a fly out, Prettyman hit a grounder up the middle that went under the dive of Tobin Swope, driving home Dorn to make it 3-1 Fullerton. But they weren't through scoring, as they would come back in the fifth to score again. Manship gave up a one-out triple to Pilittere and walked Richie Burgos.  The Stanford starter was promptly removed in favor of Mark Romanczuk, who would pitch on three-day's rest. Romanczuk's first pitch went to the backstop, scoring Pilittere from third, as CSUF led 4-1 after five innings.

In the sixth, Stanford waited through a 10 minute delay as a cut on Windsor's finger required medical attention. He would return to pitch, getting the first two batters out. However, Jed Lowrie singled to center with two outs, and up stepped Chris Carter. He got ahead 3-1, then hit a high, towering homer to right-center to cut the lead to 4-3. Dave Serrano, the pitching coach for CSUF had seen enough, and decided to bring in Chad "The Chief" Cordero to try and get his longest save of the year, 3.1 innings. He promptly retired Hall to end the inning, but the Cardinal trailed by just a run.

Cal St. Fullerton wasted no time, scoring in the sixth off Romanczuk on an RBI single by Justin Smyres, the SS who replaced the injured Turner. Romanczuk was replaced by David O'Hagan, who got the final out of the inning by striking out Pilittere with a runner at second.

Cordero came out for the seventh and got Swope on a hard hit lineout, a sign of things to come. Sam Fuld doubled to right field, bringing up the tying run in Jonny Ash. Ash took a mighty cut and missed, but worked the count to 2-2. He had ten hits at the CWS and was hot, but no one in the stadium expected what happened next. On his 315th career AB, Jonny Ash got a fastball from Cordero, and launched a home run to right field to tie the game! Teammates mobbed Ash at the plate, who had never before at Stanford even come close to homering. But his first HR came at the most opportune time, as the momentum shifted back to Stanford.  The game was tied at 5.

In the seventh, O'Hagan gave up two singles to Burgos and Suzuki but got out of the inning when Danny Putnam made a sliding catch on a liner hit by Jason Corapci to end the inning. In the eighth, O'Hagan loaded the bases on a hit and two walks, all with two outs. With the game tied at 5, O'Hagan was facing a 3-2 count to Boyer. After one foul ball, Rosenblatt stood and cheered. O'Hagan found the strike zone, and Boyer flied harmlessly to CF Sam Fuld, ending the inning with the game still tied at 5.

Stanford's Sam Fuld reached on a Smyres' error to lead off the ninth, but Ash popped up a bunt and Quentin grounded into a double play 6-4-3, leaving the Titans a chance to win in the ninth. But O'Hagan worked in and out of trouble, giving up a two-out walk to Corpaci before retiring Prettyman to force extra-innings.

After 56 pitches, Cordero was done and would receive a no decision. RHP Darric Merrell came in and promptly hit Ryan Garko to start the inning. Putnam stood in, lefty versus a righty. On 2-2, Putnam evoked memories of Paul Carey in 1987, launching a homer into the seats in right-center, giving the Cardinal an 7-5 lead.

Finally, in the bottom of the inning, O'Hagan would close it out. He walked Pilittere to bring up the tying run in Burgos, but he flied to CF, and the Cardinal held on for a victory, defeating Cal St. Fullerton 7-5.

                    1 2 3  4 5 6  7 8 9 10   R  H  E
Stanford            1 0 0  0 0 2  2 0 0  2   7 11  0
Cal State Fullerton 0 0 2  1 1 1  0 0 0  0   5  9  2

WP: David O'Hagan (7-1)
LP: Darric Merrell (4-1)

TOG: 3:57

HR: Stanford – Carter (7), Ash (1), Putnam (16); Cal St. Fullerton – None


* Stanford's win puts them in the National Championship Series with the Rice Owls. The series is best two out of three. The winner is the National Champion.

* Stanford is playing the National Championship Game/Series for the third time in four years. Rice is playing for the first time in the Championship Game/Series.

* The win was Stanford's 50th of the year. They have won 22 of 24 games since May 1.

* Jonny Ash's amazing HR off Chad Cordero was his first in 315 career AB. Cordero had given up only 1 HR all year, and that came back on the 23rd of February.

* Ash went 2-5 and now has 11 hits in 23 AB at the CWS in 2003.

* David O'Hagan's line: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K. He was erratic (in his own words) but got the victory, a well deserved one.

* Sam Fuld got his 22nd CWS hit today, tying him for 2nd all time in Omaha with John Gall (1997, 1999, 2000 at the CWS). Keith Moreland from Texas holds the record at 23.

* Matt Manship was wild today, hitting 5 batters, as Stanford hit 10 Fullerton batters in three games in Omaha.

* Mark Romanczuk threw 28 pitches today which makes it less likely he can start on Saturday or Sunday.

* Cal St. Fullerton's season ends at 50-17. They left 15 runners on base today.

* Stanford will be the visitor on Saturday and have not announced a starter. Game time is 4 PM PDT for the first ever National Championship Series. A full Rice preview will be out tomorrow.

Chad Goldberg is the Play-by-Play Voice of Stanford Baseball for KZSU.

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