Ninth Inning Heroics Save Day in LA

Stanford is finding all different kinds of ways to win ballgames this season. The top-ranked Cardinal let an 11-2 lead slip away to a 13-13 tie Saturday at UCLA. However, in the top of the ninth, senior Jonny Ash delivered in the clutch with a two-run home run, and then David O'Hagan slammed the door in the bottom half securing the Cardinal's 15-13 victory. Stanford has started the Pac-10 season 2-0 while their overall record now stands at an amazing 23-3.

Stanford jumped on the board first with three runs in top of the first inning against UCLA starter Bryan Beck. Sam Fuld led the ballgame off with a solo home run to right center field – his first homer of the year. The Cardinal kept things going as Jed Lowrie and Danny Putnam drew consecutive one-out walks, which were followed by an RBI single off the bat of John Mayberry, Jr. and a sacrifice fly RBI from Donny Lucy.

Freshman Blake Holler took the mound for the Cardinal this afternoon and like Beck, he would struggle through the first inning. A leadoff walk to Matt Thayer was followed three batters later by a home run from clean-up man Ryan McCarthy. Just like that, the lead had been cut to 3-2.

Neither team scored in the second or third innings as both Beck and Holler looked to be settling in. Beck retired all six batters he faced while Holler surrendered just a one-out single in the third. But in the top of the fourth, the Cardinal hitters broke through to take a big lead.

Back-to-back singles from Mayberry and Lucy got things started. After Brian Hall laid down a sacrifice bunt, DH Ryan Seawell lined a two-run double down the left field line to make it a 5-2 game. After the Seawell double, Chris Minaker singled to put runners at the corners which was followed by a Fuld triple off the wall in deep right center field. Both runners scored on the play extending the lead out to 7-2.

The Cardinal weren’t done, however, as Jonny Ash followed promptly with an RBI single scoring Fuld. Then after Jed Lowrie singled, Putnam delivered the final blow with a three-run homer to center field. When the dust had settled, Stanford had put up an eight-spot to take a commanding 11-2 lead.

Holler cruised through the bottom of the fourth, but then ran into trouble in the fifth. Four of the first five batters of the inning singled, which took Holler out of the game. It was a relatively quick hook with Stanford still holding a big lead, but it was obvious Mark Marquess wasn’t going to take any chances with his entire bullpen at his disposal.

Freshman Matt Leva relieved Holler and he gave up an RBI single to the first batter he faced, but then came back to get the next two guys on a strike out and a fly out to end the inning. After five, it was an 11-5 Stanford lead.

The Cardinal added a run in the top of the sixth when Putnam led off with a double off the wall in right and then scored on Hall’s two-out single. But Leva couldn’t hold down the Bruin hitters in the bottom half of the inning. The young right hander gave up a single and then issued a walk to start the frame. Then #9 hitter Chad Concolino unloaded a three-run home run over the fence in left to cut the lead down to 12-8. After Leva fell behind the next batter, Thayer, 2-and-0, he was removed from the game.

Matt Manship was in next and he completed the walk to Thayer and then walked Mike Svetlic on five pitches to put two men on. Coach Marquess had seen enough of Manship as in came closer David O'Hagan to try to put out the fire.

O'Hagan was brilliant in the bottom of the sixth, getting two strike outs and a fly out to end the threat to keep the score at 12-8.

Stanford picked up another run in the top of the seventh when Ash smoked a home run over the wall in right. For Ash, it was his second bomb of the season.

UCLA would not go away though. Still facing O'Hagan, the Bruins got a run in the bottom of the seventh on a Thayer two-out RBI single to make it a 13-9 game. Then in the bottom of the eighth, McCarthy blasted his second homer of the game – this one solo blast to left - cutting the Stanford lead down to 13-10.

It looked as if O'Hagan would get out of that bottom of the eighth without further damage as UCLA had no one on base with two outs. But a single and a walk set the table for #8 hitter and center fielder Jarrad Page. and Page came through in the clutch with a three-run homer to deep right. Just like that, the game was tied at 13 apiece, and Stanford had completely blown a nine-run lead.

The #1-ranked Card would not back down, though. Facing UCLA closer Adam Simon to start the ninth inning, Minaker got things started with a single through the left side. Then Simon bounced a pickoff throw to first, and it skipped past the first baseman for an error as Minaker took second. After Fuld bunted the Cardinal shortstop to third, Jonny Ash came up with a chance to be the hero. Needing just a sacrifice fly to put Stanford back ahead, Ash would have none of that as he crushed (and I mean absolutely crushed) a home run well over the fence in right. The homer was Ash’s second of the game, third of the season, and it put Stanford back in front at 15-13.

O'Hagan went back out in the bottom of the ninth and the senior right hander quickly struck out Thayer swinging to start the frame. Then the game got even more interesting. #2 hitter and second baseman Mike Svetlic was up next. All series, Svetlic would show bunt on the very first pitch of each at-bat, waggling his bat out in front of the plate in an attempt to distract the pitcher. In no instance during the series did Svetlic ever have a thought about bunting. He did the same thing in the bottom of the ninth against O'Hagan, and the fiery senior closer responded by pumping a fastball over Svetlic’s head. It was very similar to O'Hagan’s pitch over Fullerton’s Kurt Suzuki in the ninth inning of a CWS game last year in that it had no danger of hitting Svetlic; however the pitch clearly sent a message.

In this instance, Svetlic and O'Hagan exchanged stares (and probably words) while both benches were warned. After calm had been restored, Svetlic would work the count full then foul off four straight 3-and-2 pitches before taking a curve ball over the outside corner for a called strike three. O'Hagan then got Wes Whisler to harmlessly ground out to second to end the game.

Game Notes:
* With the win, Stanford clinches another series victory. It’s their eighth straight series win to begin the year and their 12th straight going back to last season.

* Ash was the hero at the plate today as he went 4-for-6 with two homers and four RBI. The senior third baseman is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak and is now batting .383 this season (second only to Lowrie’s .398).

* Other multi-hit games today came from Fuld (2-for-4, 3B, HR, 3 RBI), Putnam (2-for-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Mayberry (2-for-3, RBI, SB), and Minaker (2-for-5).

* Hall extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games with a single in the sixth inning.

* O'Hagan picked up the win today with four innings of relief work. He was tagged for five runs (after allowing just four runs in his first 28 2/3 innings this season), but he did strike out five and of course had the 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to seal the victory.

* Holler started today and went 4 1/3 innings yielding five runs (all earned) on seven hits with one walk and four K’s.

* Stanford extended their season-high winning streak to eight games. They’ve scored 85 runs during those eight contests (10.6 per game).

Stanford  3 0 0  8 0 1  1 0 2  -  15 16 1
UCLA      2 0 0  0 3 3  1 4 0  -  13 15 1

WP: David O'Hagan (3-0)
LP: Adam Simon (0-2)

HR: Stanford – Jonny Ash 2 (2, 3), Danny Putnam (6), Sam Fuld (1); UCLA – Ryan McCarthy 2 (5, 6), Jarrad Page (2), Chad Concolino (2)

Records: #1 Stanford (23-3, 2-0), UCLA (14-13, 0-2)

* The Cardinal will go for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm. Jeff Gilmore (5-1, 4.64) is scheduled to start for Stanford while the Bruins are expected to counter with lefty Wes Whisler (1-2, 4.91).

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