Card Walks To Early Lead, Then Rolls To Victory

The first pitch of the bottom of the first inning from Ryan Schreppel to Sam Fuld was over the center fielder's head. Unfortunately for Cal State Fullerton, none of Schreppel's pitches the rest of the inning were much closer to the strike zone. Schreppel walked five batters and hit another in surrendering six runs in the bottom of the first inning of tonight's baseball season opener. That was all Stanford would need, but they didn't stop there as they cruised to a 16-3 victory.

Well, that wasn't a bad way to begin the season.  On a chilly evening out at Sunken Diamond, the 6th ranked Stanford Cardinal crushed the 4th ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans 16-3 in the season opener for both teams  Stanford scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning thanks in large part to seven walks and then put the game away with a five-run fifth inning on home runs from John Mayberry, Jr. and Chris Carter.

The top of the first inning was a fairly easy one for Cardinal starting pitcher Mark Romanczuk.  He jumped out ahead of Titan leadoff hitter Justin Turner 0-and-2 before Turner flied out to right.  P.J. Pilittere singled with two outs, but was stranded at first when Kurt Suzuki fouled out to Donny Lucy.  And what a play that was!  Lucy made a diving catch right in front of the backstop showcasing his amazing defensive ability.

The bottom of the first inning was filled with fireworks.  On the first pitch of the inning, CSF starter Ryan Schreppel airmailed a pitch over Sam Fuld's head.  The pitch wasn't in danger of hitting Fuld, but clearly a message was sent.  If you recall, at last year's College World Series, Stanford's Matt Manship plunked Justin Turner in the face when Turner was attempting to bunt.  Turner had to be taken to the hospital.  In addition, David O'Hagan threw over the head of the Titans' Kurt Suzuki in the ninth inning of that same game.  Anyway, clearly Schreppel and the Titans had not forgotten about last season's events, and wanted to get the message across with that pitch over the head of Stanford's best hitter.

Unfortunately for Schreppel, none of his other pitches that inning were much closer.  He walked Fuld on four pitches and then walked Hall and Mayberry, Jr. on five pitches apiece to load the bases.  Next up was the power hitting clean-up man Danny Putnam and the slugging left fielder worked the count full, fouled off a pitch, and then drew ball four to force home a run.  Schreppel quickly worked ahead of Jed Lowrie 0-and-2, but then hit him with a pitch to bring home another run.

After Lucy struck out, Chris Carter drew a five-pitch walk to make the score 3-0.  Then came the big hit.  With the count 1-and-1, Jonny Ash ripped a hard ground ball down the right field line and into the corner for a bases clearing triple.  That ended Schreppel's evening as the sophomore lefty was tagged for six runs on just one hit in 1/3 of an inning.  The five walks and one hit batter were the obviously the killers for him today.

Cal State Fullerton brought in lefty JC transfer Scott Sarver and he was able to get out of the inning without further damage, although he did walk two more before retiring the side.

The Titans answered Stanford's six runs with two of their own in the top of the second inning.  Felipe Garcia singled to lead off and then scored when Brett Pill tripled down the left field line.  After Bobby Andrews walked, Neil Walton singled to score Pill which made the score 6-2.  The Titans looked to be on the verge of a big inning as Romanczuk fell behind the next batter, #9 hitter Joe Turgeon, 3-and-1.  Turgeon had showed bunt earlier in the at-bat, but had been patient in working the count in his favor.  Instead of letting Turgeon hit with that 3-and-1 count, Head Coach George Horton elected to keep the bunt on and Turgeon delivered with a sacrifice to move the runners over to second and third.  Not a bad play with the top of the order coming up, but one that may have settled Romanczuk down after the first four batters of the inning reached base.

Turner was up next and the Titan leadoff hitter smoked a line drive to right field to which Hall fired a bullet home to keep Andrews at third.  Then in one of the most important AB's of the game, Romanczuk struck out Ronnie Prettyman on a 3-and-2 pitch to preserve the 6-2 lead.

The Cardinal added two more scores in the bottom of the second of the reliever Sarver.  With one out, Lowrie walked and then with two outs, Carter walked.  Ash then ripped a fly ball to deep center field only to see CSF center fielder Joe Turgeon race back and appear to be in position to make the grab.  But, Turgeon dropped the ball in deep center allowing both runners to score to make it an 8-1 game.  It wasn't an easy play for Turgeon as he didn't have time to camp under the ball and make the catch, but it was a still a play he should have made.  It was scored a two-base error.

So, after two full innings, Stanford had scored eight runs on just one hit.  They benefited from nine walks, a hit batsman, and an error to post that big lead.

Romanczuk pitched effectively with that big lead for the next three innings.  He threw strikes walking only one.  He did hit two batters, but one (to Prettyman) was one of those vintage Fullerton hit batters where no effort was made to get out of the way.  Fullerton did record three hits in those three frames, but they were all singles as Romanczuk kept the score at 8-2.  He was pulled after five innings when he reached his strict pitch count limit.

Sarver did a nice job holding the Cardinal down in the third and fourth innings but then ran into some serious trouble in the fifth.  Fuld led off with a single up the middle, but was then forced at second on a Brian Hall attempted sacrifice bunt.  The next hitter was Mayberry, Jr. and the powerful sophomore first baseman got a pitch he could handle and promptly launched a home run well over the fence in left field.  That increased Stanford's lead to 10-2.

Putnam and Lowrie followed with consecutive singles which removed Sarver from the game.  True freshman Vinnie Pestano was the next hurler and the young right hander was greeted quite rudely.  After Lucy reached on a fielder's choice, Carter smoked an opposite field three-run homer to left to make the score 13-2.  Carter, who walked all three times up tonight against left handed pitching, made the most of his first AB against a righty by blasting the home run.

Sophomore Jeff Gilmore relieved Romanczuk to start the sixth inning.  Gilmore allowed just a two-out single in his scoreless frame.  Gilmore was the leading candidate to start Sunday's contest and you might think by him throwing today, it means he won't start on Sunday.  But, I would argue that he only threw 13 pitches tonight, so it would certainly be possible for Gilmore to come back and start and throw four or five innings if needed during Sunday's contest.  We'll see how the rest of the weekend unfolds.

Freshman lefty Blake Holler pitched the final three innings tonight and it was quite a debut.  Holler allowed a run in his first inning of work, but he did strike out the side.  He then went on to fire two scoreless innings while picking up one more strike out.  When Holler's control is on (like it was tonight), he can be very difficult to hit.  He surrendered five hits this evening with no walks and four strikeouts.  It was the perfect situation (with Stanford having such a big lead) to bring in this promising freshman lefty to make his debut.  And he certainly didn't disappoint.

Stanford scored their final three runs of the game in the bottom of the eighth.  With two on and two out, Fuld singled to right field to drive home a run.  Then Hall ripped a triple to deep right center field scoring two more to make the score 16-3.

Game Notes:
* Cal State Fullerton actually out-hit Stanford tonight, 13-10, but lost in the only category that matters.

* Seven Cardinal starters had at least one hit tonight.  Multi-hit games came from Sam Fuld (2-for-4, RBI, 2 BB), Brian Hall (2-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI, BB), and John Mayberry, Jr. (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, BB). 

* Against a left handed starter this evening, Stanford's batting order looked like this: 1. Fuld (CF), 2. Hall (RF), 3. Mayberry, Jr. (1B), 4. Putnam (LF), 5. Lowrie (SS), 6. Lucy (C), 7. Carter (DH), 8. Ash (3B), 9. Lewis (2B).  Against a right hander, expect Carter and Ash to move up with Hall and Lucy moving down.

* Romanczuk fired five effective innings tonight yielding two runs on seven hits.  He walked two and struck out one.  He improves his career record to 13-2.

* CSF starter Ryan Schreppel's ERA is a whopping 162.0 after tonight's game (1/3 IP, 6 ER).

* One of the most important aspects of tonight's game was that top relievers Kodiak Quick, David O'Hagan, and Matt Leva did not have to be used.  Expect Coach Marquess to not hesitate to go to his bullpen early in the next two days.

CS Fullerton   0 2 0  0 0 0  1 0 0   -   3  13   1
Stanford       6 2 0  0 5 0  0 3 x   -  16  10   2

WP: Mark Romanczuk (1-0)
LP: Ryan Schreppel (0-1)
S: Blake Holler (1)

HR: Stanford- John Mayberry, Jr. (1), Chris Carter (1)

Records: #6 Stanford (1-0), #4 Cal State Fullerton (0-1)

* The teams will continue this three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm at Sunken Diamond.  The Cardinal is expected to send sophomore right hander Matt Manship to the mound while Fullerton will counter with sophomore lefty Ricky Romero.

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