Card Crush Conference Opener

The top-ranked Stanford Cardinal opened up the Pac-10 season with a bang Friday night as they smoked the host UCLA Bruins by an 11-4 score. The Cardinal made a strong early statement when they tallied six runs in the second inning capped by Chris Minaker's first career home run. Meanwhile, Mark Romanczuk tossed eight solid innings on the hill as the Cardinal, at 22-3 overall, are now off to their best start in 22 years.

Neither team scored in the first inning tonight as UCLA ace starter Casey Janssen and Mark Romanczuk breezed through with little trouble. However, the Cardinal came on in the top of the second pounding Janssen for six runs to take the early big lead.

Danny Putnam got things started with a single which was followed by a double down the left field off the bat of John Mayberry, Jr. to put two runners in scoring position. Donny Lucy was up next and the Cardinal catcher smoked a ball to deep left field just past the outstretched glove of Bruin left fielder Anthony Norman as it bounced up against the wall. Putnam easily scored on the play, but Mayberry had to hold at third base as he anticipated having to tag up had the ball been caught. Lucy cruised into second with a double.

After a walk to Brian Hall, DH Ryan Seawell came up and hit a soft grounder to second. UCLA second baseman Mike Svetlic came charging in, gloved the ball, but he rushed his throw to first and it sailed past first baseman Wes Whisler for an error. Two runners scored on the play to make it a 3-0 game.

Stanford wasn’t done, however, as #9 hitter and starting shortstop Chris Minaker came up and promptly crushed a home run down the left field line for a 6-0 Stanford advantage. The ball cleared the fence in left by a good margin, the only question was fair or foul? Fortunately for Minaker and the Cardinal, the ball stayed just inside the line for the home run.

The Bruins would answer back though against Romanczuk with a single run in the bottom of the second and three scores in the bottom of the third to make it 6-4. In the second, Brandon Averill singled with one out, was balked to second, and scored on Chris Denove's two-out, RBI single. Then in the third, a double and a single from the first two batters of the inning put a couple of guys on. Then clean-up hitter Ryan McCarthy ripped a line drive homer over the fence in left and all of a sudden it was a 6-4 contest.

The Cardinal were held off the scoreboard by Janssen in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, but they still were hitting the ball hard. In the third, Stanford put runners on second and third with just one out, but Seawell struck out and Minaker lined out to end the threat. Then in the fourth, Sam Fuld led off with a walk which was followed by a Jonny Ash single. However, Fuld was picked off second and then Jed Lowrie lined into a double play to end that inning.

Meanwhile, Romanczuk settled down after his rough third inning to keep the score at 6-4. The sophomore lefty allowed just one hit over the middle three innings tonight. Romanczuk had some problems early in the game with his fastball in that he was leaving the ball up. Many times, it was thrown hard enough to get past the UCLA hitters, but on occasion they were able to catch up to it for some hard hits. Romanczuk’s curve ball was very impressive all night as it seemed he could get that pitch over whenever needed for a strike. Then as the game wore on, the fastball became easier to control and Romy sailed through the rest of the ballgame.

With the score still 6-4 Stanford, the Cardinal plated two runs off Janssen in the top of the sixth. Hall got things started with a single and then he stole second. The speedy right fielder moved to third when Seawell flied out to right, and then scored on a Minaker single up the middle. Stanford would keep the bats going in the inning as Fuld singled to put runners on corners and then Minaker scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center off the bat of Ash.

Facing the UCLA bullpen, the Cardinal added a single run in the top of the seventh and then two more scores in the eighth. In the seventh, Lucy came through with a clutch two-out, RBI single. Then in the eighth, Lowrie delivered a two-run triple to deep right center field. Lowrie just missed a home run as the ball bounced off the very top of the wall.

Romanczuk had little trouble in the later innings giving up a few harmless singles. He was relieved by freshman Jeff Stimpson to start the ninth and Stimpson closed the game out with a perfect 1-2-3 frame.

Game Notes:
* Romanczuk went eight full innings tonight surrendering four runs on ten hits. He walked only two and struck out ten. It was the second time in his career he had recorded a double-digit strike out total (13 versus Kansas on February 13th).

* Minaker had a huge day at the plate going 2-for-5 with a home run (first of his career) and four RBI.

* Other multi-hit games came from Hall (3-for-4, SB), Fuld (2-for-4), Lowrie (2-for-4, 3B, 2 RBI), and Lucy (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI).

* Hall extended his hitting streak to ten games. Ash now has a seven-game hitting streak.

* Stanford reached double figures in runs for the 11th time in 25 games this season.

* UCLA starter Casey Janssen had allowed just 12 earned runs in his first seven starts of the season entering play tonight (2.35 ERA, .160 opposing average). He was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in six innings by Stanford this evening.

* Stanford has now won seven consecutive games – their longest winning streak of the season.

* The 22-3 start to the season is the third best start in Stanford baseball history. Only the 1982 team (22-2-1) and the 1978 team (22-2-1) started better.

Stanford  0 6 0  0 0 2  1 2 0  -  11 14 0
UCLA      0 1 3  0 0 0  0 0 0  -   4 10 1

WP: Mark Romanczuk (6-1)
LP: Casey Janssen (5-2)

HR: Stanford – Chris Minaker (1) ; UCLA – Ryan McCarthy (4)

Records: #1 Stanford (22-3, 1-0), UCLA (14-12, 0-1)

* These two teams will play game two of this three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm. Blake Holler (3-1, 3.03) is scheduled to start for Stanford while the Bruins are expected to counter with Bryan Beck (2-2, 2.12).

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