Card Edge Trojans In Dramatic Fashion

In one of the most exciting games of the regular season, Stanford scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in dramatic fashion to defeat USC by a 5-4 score on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Cardinal remain 1/2 game behind Washington (still one game ahead in the loss column) in the Pac-10 standings. Stanford and USC will play the key rubber game of this series tomorrow afternoon, but before that, here is the recap of today's thrilling victory.

The Cardinal had to have Saturday's game over USC and fortunately they were to able to come through with a dramatic 5-4 win in front of 2,674 fans at Sunken Diamond.  With Washington's 7-2 victory over UCLA this afternoon in Seattle, the Cardinal remain 1/2 game behind the Huskies in the Pac-10 race, however they are still a game up in the loss column.  Washington's record currently stands at 15-8 while the Cardinal now sit at 13-7.  Third place Arizona State currently has a 11-8 mark (two games out of first) as the Sun Devils take on Arizona in Tucson later tonight.  Fourth place UCLA falls back to 11-9 after their loss to Washington today.

Cardinal starter Jeff Gilmore was on his game this afternoon.  This was refreshing to see after he was lit up for seven runs in just three innings of work last weekend at Arizona.  The Trojans did pick up a run in the top of the second off the sophomore right hander, however it was of the unearned variety.  A hit by pitch with one one out put a runner on.  After a ground out moved the runner to second, Daniel Perales grounded a ball to second that was booted by Jed Lowrie for an error which allowed the run to come home and score.

Stanford quickly tied the game with a single run in the bottom of the second off SC starter Bret Butler.  Danny Putnam got things started with a single to left.  John Mayberry, Jr. was up next and the slugging first baseman ripped a double down the left field line scoring Putnam all the way from first.

The Cardinal took their first lead of the ballgame in the bottom of the third with another run off Butler.  Jonny Ash started the rally by reaching on a fielding error by third baseman Billy Hart.  Lowrie's single moved to Ash to third while the senior third baseman scored on a ground out from Putnam.

Meanwhile, Gilmore continued to roll.  He put up zeros in the third and fourth innings.  The sophomore had an excellent breaking ball all game long and was, as always, throwing a ton of strikes.  The Trojans managed to tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth though in dramatic fashion.  With one out, Michael Moon singled which was followed by a walk to Jon Brewster.  After Jeff Clement's ground out moved the runners to second and third, Moon scored on a steal of home with Blake Sharpe at the plate.  And what made it especially interesting was that it came with two strikes on the batter, so all Gilmore needed to do was throw a strike to the plate and the inning would have been over.  But Moon got a great jump, Gilmore rushed his pitch to the plate, and SC was able to tie the game.

USC stole home twice against Stanford back in March during their three-game series in Los Angeles.

Stanford had a golden opportunity to retake the lead in the bottom of the fifth as they loaded the bases with two outs, but Donny Lucy continued to slump as he struck out swinging to end the rally.  The Cardinal though were able to push across a single run in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 3-2 game.  Brian Hall led off with a single and then moved to second on a wild pitch.  After Chris Carter's fly out advanced Hall to third, Chris Minaker laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Hall with Stanford's third run of the game.  And what made that play especially interesting was that it also came with two strikes, so a bunt foul would have been a strike out of Minaker.  And even worse, had Minaker missed the bunt, he would have struck out and Hall likely would have been tagged out easily at the plate.  But the Cardinal shortstop executed perfectly and Stanford was back ahead.

Gilmore rolled through the sixth and seventh innings as he kept the Trojans off the scoreboard.  He didn't allow a hit over those two frames and was pulled from the game to start the eighth in favor of David O'Hagan with Stanford still in front, 3-2.

The first batter O'Hagan faced was Clement and the power-hitting catcher grounded a ball to shortstop that was mishandled by Minaker for an error.  A sacrifice bunt moved Clement to second and then Joey Metropoulos grounded a ball through the left side to put runners at the corners.  Billy Hart was up next and O'Hagan thought he had strike three on a borderline 1-and-2 pitch, but it was ruled a ball and the AB continued (FYI, O'Hagan was victimized by multiple close calls that didn't go his way in the eighth inning.  Home plate umpire Ken Eldridge was the plate umpire in last Sunday's 19-18 Arizona win over Stanford when O'Hagan walked home the winning run and afterward had some harsh words for Eldridge while throwing his glove into the stands).

Back to the game, on the 2-2 pitch, Hart bounced a ball over Ash's head at third base scoring Clement and moving Metropoulos to third.  Then Baron Frost connected on a sacrifice fly to center scoring Metropoulos for a 4-3 USC lead.  Both runs were unearned.

Then came the dramatic bottom of the eighth.  The first two batters of the inning went down quietly before Coach Marquess turned to John Hester to pinch-hit for Minaker.  Hester came through in a big way with a ringing double to center field off the wall and all of a sudden, Stanford had a runner in scoring position.  Chris Lewis was brought into pinch-run as Sam Fuld stepped up and grounded a ball up the middle for a single.  Center fielder Daniel Perales came charging hard as he had intentions of trying to throw Lewis out at the plate, but the ball slipped under his glove and rolled behind him.  Lewis easily scored the tying run and Fuld was racing around the bases at a rapid rate.  Before Perales could get to the ball, Fuld was touching third base and making the turn home.  The relay throw to the plate was not nearly in time as Fuld scored the go-ahead tally making the score 5-4 Cardinal.  Quite a moment at Sunken Diamond as the crowd went wild.

O'Hagan went back to work in the ninth and again found himself in the stretch early as Cyle Hankerd ripped a double to right center to lead off.  Moon was up next and he began the AB by trying to sacrifice himself to move Hankerd to third.  But Head Coach Mike Gillespie took the bunt off on a 2-1 pitch and Moon swung through a fastball for strike two.  Then O'Hagan froze the SC shortstop with a beautiful backdoor curve ball for the first out of the inning.

Brewster followed by grounding out routinely to third base for the second out.  The dangerous Jeff Clement was up next and O'Hagan issued a walk on five pitches (all breaking balls) as he wanted no part of the all-time high school home run leader.  That set the stage for an O'Hagan versus Blake Sharpe matchup with runners at first and second and two outs.  O'Hagan quickly got out ahead of Sharpe 0-2 with a pair of breaking balls.  He then stayed with his bread-and-butter, the breaking stuff, and Sharpe grounded the 0-2 offering to second for a routine third out of the game.

Game Notes:
* It was a very good day for the Cardinal pitching staff as Gilmore and O'Hagan combined to allow just one earned run on six hits.  Gilmore went the first seven innings (3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO) while O'Hagan went the last two (3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO).

* Fuld (2-for-5, RBI) and Putnam (2-for-4, 3B, RBI) had multi-hit games today.  Putnam extended his hitting streak to a career-high tying 12 games.

* Lowrie finished 1-for-4 to drop his season average to .416.

* Lucy continued to slump as the Cardinal catcher went 0-for-4 twice striking out to end an inning with runners in scoring position.  Lucy has just three hits in his last 31 AB's.

* Stanford (41-11) has equaled their win total from the entire regular season from a year ago when they finished 41-15 (eventually ended up at 51-18).

USC          0 1 0  0 1 0  0 2 0   -   4   6   2
Stanford     0 1 1  0 0 1  0 2 x   -   5   9   3

WP: David O'Hagan (6-1)
LP: Michael Friedman (2-1)

Records: #1 Stanford (41-11, 13-7), USC (23-29, 9-11)

* The Cardinal and Trojans will play the rubber game of this three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm.  Neither team has announced a starting pitcher.

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