Strong Pitching Propels Stanford To Series Sweep

Mark Jecmen and Jeff Gilmore combined on a four-hitter as the Stanford Cardinal defeated the Cal State Fullerton Titans by a 4-1 score on Sunday afternoon to complete the sweep. Jecmen tossed the first five innings in picking up the victory while Gilmore threw the last four frames to record the save. At the plate, Jed Lowrie had a big day with a home run and three RBI.

It wasn't supposed to be this easy.  The preseason 6th ranked Stanford Cardinal completed a sweep of the 4th ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans on Sunday afternoon with a 4-1 victory on a cold day out at Sunken Diamond.  Surprise starter Mark Jecmen was brilliant as he tossed five solid innings yielding just one run on three hits.  Jeff Gilmore followed with four shutout innings surrendering just one hit in the process.  At the plate, it was the Jed Lowrie show.  The sophomore infielder finished 2-for-4 with a double, home run, and three RBI.

Word came after the game yesterday the Jecmen was going to get the ball in the series finale today.  The 6'8" right hander was highly touted coming out of high school and in fact began his collegiate career as Stanford's #3 starter.  But after a poor month in that role, Jecmen was moved to the bullpen not really recovering until today.  During his freshman campaign spanning 28 1/3 innings, Jecmen's ERA was a whopping 8.26.  His innings dropped significantly last year as he threw just 8 2/3 while recording a 5.19 ERA. 

In the fall, the one thing I noticed about Jecmen was that he was throwing strikes on a much more consistent basis.  He appeared to be taking a little off his fastball to gain this improved control, but it didn't help his ERA as the towering junior was ripped nearly every time out.  And quite honestly, entering preseason practice, Jecmen was probably around #10 on the pitching depth chart.

But in January, Jecmen threw very well in three of his four appearances.  He continued to throw strikes, but this time he was retiring batters on a regular basis.  His breaking ball looked much improved while his change-up was also fooling hitters at the plate.  Heading into this weekend, I figured Jecmen could definitely see some meaningful innings as a middle reliever, but he'd have to prove himself in the early going to continue to see action.  But showing tremendous faith in his fire balling right hander, Coach Marquess gave the ball to Jecmen today and the move more than paid off.

In the first inning, Jecmen quickly retired the first two batters by way of a ground out and a strike out.  After P.J. Pilittere singled, Jecmen induced Suzuki to fly out to center to end the inning.  Just 15 pitches thrown for Jecmen and only five of those were balls.  His fastball was clocked in the 90 to 93 mile per hour range while his breaking ball had a ton of movement on it.

The Titans scored their only run off Jecmen in the second inning when with one out, Brett Pill continued his huge series with a single.  Jecmen then walked Jake Mendrin and then hit Neil Walton with a pitch when a breaking ball slipped out of his hand.  But Jecmen did a nice job limiting the damage as #9 hitter Bobby Andrews scored a run with a sacrifice fly followed by a strike out of Ronnie Prettyman.

Pilittere singled again in the third inning, but was stranded when Suzuki flied out and Felipe Garcia struck out.  In the fourth, Pill walked to lead off, but was promptly gunned down at second base by Donny Lucy on an attempted steal.  Jecmen got a pop out and a ground out to end the inning. 

In the fifth, Jecmen retired the side 1-2-3 on just seven pitches which ended his outing.  In five full innings of work, Jecmen allowed one run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.  The five innings pitched was a career high for Jecmen.

Meanwhile, CSF freshman starter Lauren Gagnier was doing a nice job handling the Cardinal bats through the first three innings.  Sam Fuld led off the bottom of the first with a single, but he was erased when Jonny Ash hit into a double play.  John Mayberry, Jr. singled with one out in the second inning, but was stranded.  Gagnier then worked a perfect 1-2-3 third inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, with the score still 1-0 Fullerton, Lowrie stepped up to the plate and belted a home run over the fence in right center field.  Lowrie, who absolutely ripped the ball all fall and during the preseason, started today's game in the #4 spot in the lineup and he didn't disappoint.  The home run was one you'd expect from Danny Putnam, just a moonshot to deep right.  It was Lowrie's first career home run.

Stanford went ahead for good in the bottom of the fifth with a single run off Gagnier.  With two outs, Lucy reached on an infield single.  Next up was freshman Adam Sorgi who garnered his first collegiate start today.  After fighting off three consecutive 2-and-2 pitches and with the runner going, Sorgi lined a double down the right field line to which Lucy scored all the way from first base.  The inning could have been much worse for Fullerton as after the Sorgi hit, Fuld smoked a deep fly ball to right field only to see Pill make a fabulous running catch right in front of the 335 foot sign.

Sophomore Jeff Gilmore relieved Jecmen to start the sixth inning.  Gilmore walked the first batter, but after a sacrifice bunt, Garcia and Pill both filed out to end the threat.  The Cardinal then added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to stretch their lead to 4-1.  Ash and Putnam led off with consecutive singles which chased Gagnier from the game.  In came the Titans closer Mike Martinez to face the dangerous Lowrie.  Lowrie got the green light on a 3-and-0 pitch and promptly smoked a ball to deep left field.  There was a strong wind blowing directly from left to right today, so that knocked the ball down and gave Garcia in left a chance to make the catch.  But, the Fullerton left fielder took a strange route to the ball, then slipped to the ground when trying to reverse his direction and the ball fell for a two-run double.  Martinez got out of the inning without any further damage.

Gilmore dazzled over the final three frames facing just one batter over the minimum.  In the seventh, Mendrin led off with a walk but he was picked off at first base on a rocket of a throw by Lucy.  Gilmore retired the side in order in the eighth on three straight groundouts to Ash at third base.  After two quick outs in the ninth, the hot-hitting Pill lined a ball to left field that Putnam made a fantastic diving effort on, but the ball glanced off his glove for a single.  It was Fullerton's first hit since Pilittere's one out single in the third inning.  But Gilmore shrugged it off and quickly dispatched of Mendrin with a strike out on three pitches to end the game.

Game Notes:
* Gilmore recorded the first save of his career today.  In four innings, he allowed just one hit, walked two, and struck out one.  Gilmore also fired a scoreless inning on Friday night.

* With Lowrie's big day today, he finished the series at 6-for-11 (.545) with a double, homer, and four RBI.

* Jonny Ash (2-for-4) and Danny Putnam (2-for-4) also had multi-hit games today.

* Stanford faced a right handed starting pitcher for the first time today.  The only change in the lineup saw Coach Marquess insert the left handed hitting Adam Sorgi in place of the right handed hitting Chris Lewis.  Sorgi played shortstop with Lowrie moving over to second.  The batting order: 1. Fuld, 2. Ash, 3. Putnam, 4. Lowrie, 5. Mayberry, Jr., 6. Carter, 7. Hall, 8. Lucy, 9. Sorgi.

* Fuld, Ash, Putnam, and Lowrie hit safely in all three games this weekend.

* Stanford committed just two errors all weekend - none by any of their infielders.

* Lucy threw out both runners that attempted to steal on him this weekend while picking off another.

* While this series sweep is very impressive, bear in mind the Titans played without two of their best starting pitchers in Jason Windsor and Dustin Miller along with arguably their top hitter Danny Dorn (Dorn did pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Saturday).  Nevertheless, a series sweep of Fullerton (a bona fide top 5 team) will look awfully good on the Stanford's season resume come Selection Day.

* Stanford has now won 12 consecutive games at home dating back to last season.  They'll put their 14 game road winning streak on the line next weekend at Fresno State.

CS Fullerton  0 1 0  0 0 0  0 0 0   -   1   4   0
Stanford      0 0 0  1 1 2  0 0 x   -   4  10   0     

WP: Mark Jecmen (1-0)
LP: Lauren Gagnier (0-1)
S: Jeff Gilmore (1)

HR: Stanford - Jed Lowrie (1)

Records: #6 Stanford (3-0), #4 Cal State Fullerton (0-3)

* Stanford will next be in action this upcoming weekend when they travel to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:35pm while Saturday's and Sunday's game will both get underway at 1:05pm.

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