Baseball beats Fresno State 9-1 to open NCAAs

For the first six innings of Stanford's NCAA Regional-opening win Friday, Mark Appel had never been better. Nineteen Fresno State batters came to the plate. Ten of them struck out. The sharp slider, blazing fastball, and deceptive changeup were on full display.

The Cardinal ace slowed just slightly over the final three frames, but he still slammed the door on the Bulldogs for the 9-1 Stanford win and his fifth complete game of the season.

Appel's 122-pitch outing means that he is finished on the mound for the weekend. For him, it's time to cheer on his teammates and maybe get a start or two at DH (wink, wink). It also means that his mind can now wander off to Monday, when there is an excellent chance that his hometown Houston Astros will select him first in the 2012 MLB Draft.

Friday night, though, revenge was sweet. Fresno State's six-foot-seven behemoth Aaron Judge, who had taken Appel deep twice back on March 2, looked foolish in two consecutive strikeouts against the Cardinal ace to open the game. The difference? Judge saw a steady stream of sliders, especially early in the count. Appel made the adjustment: he did not let the Bulldogs' big man sit fastball early in the count the same way he did back at Beiden Field.

Offensively, the Cardinal bats exacted their own bit of revenge. They all remembered Justin Hayley, the hard-throwing right hander who earned the win against them March 2 by delivering 3.1 overpowering, perfect innings. Hayley's line was not quite as pretty by the end of this one: 5.2 innings pitched, five runs, eight hits, and six walks.

Every Stanford batter scored at least one run, except for the Diekroeger brothers. Don't feel bad for them, though: Kenny and Danny drove in three runs combined. They were part of the hit parade that saw every member of the Cardinal lineup except Tyler Gaffney record at least one knock. That's doesn't mean that big No. 7 was left out, though: Gaffney also delivered his team-leading 28th walk and scored a run.

This was a clean team effort - one that opened the eyes of Fresno State play-by-play man Paul Loeffler. He was particularly impressed by Cardinal first baseman Brian Ragira, who scalded the ball in every one of his at-bats.

"He hit a ground ball to the wall," Loeffler gasped, referencing the Texan's eighth inning double down the left field line.

Between Ragira's swings and Stephen Piscotty's solid 2-for-5 performance, it's safe to say that the slump in the middle of the Stanford order lasted only a weekend against Cal. That much was evident during Ragira's monumentally impressive batting practice on the football practice field outside Sunken Diamond. Austin Wilson even joked that the NCAA chose the Cardinal first baseman as the subject of its postgame drug test because he had almost broken several Maples Pavilion windows with his pregame bombs.

Stanford's play Friday, though, was no joke. The team will certainly move out of this Regional if they maintain the same level of crisp baseball. A good Pepperdine club looms next for the Cardinal in the ever-pivotal Game Two at 6 p.m. The winner will earn a permanent spot in the winners' bracket, while the loser will face a monumentally more difficult path to the title.

The Waves are solid all-around ballclub. They can hit behind big bat Joe Sever.365, 6 HR, 52 RBI). They pitch at a collective 3.63 ERA, and they field with a solid .974 percentage. The Cardinal have more oomph, though. Mark Marquess will ask for a solid performance from Brett Mooneyham. If he gets that from his lefty, this Stanford team will be just fine.


Appel's 10th win made him the first Stanford pitcher since Jeff Gilmore in 2005 to win 10 games. Here's David Lombardi calling the winning pitcher's final out.


About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.


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