Card Defeat USC 8-2 To Win Series

This was a series Stanford had to have and the Cardinal were able to come through. On a pleasant afternoon out at Sunken Diamond, Stanford cruised past the USC Trojans by an 8-2 score in the rubber game of this three-game series reclaiming first place in the Pac-10 in the process. Matt Leva got the starting call and sparkled tossing four no-hit innings before handing the game over to the bullpen. Meanwhile, at the plate, Jonny Ash supplied three big hits to lead the offense.

Matt Leva earned his second consecutive weekend start today and the freshman right hander made the most of it.  He fired a 1-2-3 first inning getting a fly out, a ground out, and a strike out.  He kept things going in the second with another 1-2-3 frame on a pop out and two ground outs.  In the third, the Trojans again went down in order on a pair of fly outs and a ground out.  Nine up and nine down for the 5'10" Texan on just 33 pitches thrown.

After Leva quickly retired the first batter of the fourth inning on a fly out, Jon Brewster was able to work a full-count walk for SC's first baserunner of the game.  But Leva was still able to get out of the inning unscored upon getting a pop out from Jeff Clement and a fly out to deep left off the bat of Joey Metropoulos.  Four innings in the books for Leva and that would be all we'd see from him this afternoon.  The four innings pitched matched his season-high and Coach Marquess didn't want to extend him further, so the game was turned over to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, Stanford jumped ahead early with four runs in the bottom of the second off USC starter Josh Rummonds.  Donny Lucy reached on an infield single with one out while Ryan Seawell, who was at DH today against the lefty, drew a walk with two outs.  Chris Minaker was up next and the sophomore shortstop flied a ball out into shallow right center field.  Right fielder Cyle Hankerd initially broke back on the ball which cost him dearly as a strong wind blowing directly in pushed the ball back toward the infield and it fell just in front of the diving Hankerd.  Both Lucy and Seawell raced around to score and Minaker was able to get into second with a double.

Then after Sam Fuld walked, Jonny Ash stepped to the plate and crushed a ball that one-hopped the wall down the right field line for a triple.  Minaker and Fuld scored and all of a sudden, it was a 4-0 Stanford lead.

The Cardinal added another run off Rummonds in the fourth to extend their lead out to 5-0.  Minaker drew a one-out walk and then moved to second on Fuld's ground out.  And again it was Ash coming through with the clutch two-out basehit as he singled home Minaker from second with Stanford's fifth run of the game.

Blake Holler relieved Leva to start the fifth and started strong by striking out Blake Sharpe to lead off.  But a single to Billy Hart, a wild pitch, and then a walk issued to Baron Frost ended his afternoon.  Kodiak Quick was summoned into pitch and the sophomore right hander was able to get out of the jam without any runs coming home to score.  Quick retired the first batter on a fielder's choice groundout and then walked Hankerd to load the bases.  But Quick was able to come back and strike out leadoff batter Michael Moon to strand three runners on the basepaths.

Quick gave up a pair of singles in the sixth, but used two strikeouts in the inning to keep the shutout intact.  Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinal pushed across another run to make it a 6-0 game.  With two outs, Fuld walked and then stole second.  And surprise, surprise, Jonny Ash delivered a two-hit run-scoring hit as he singled home the speedy center fielder for his fourth RBI of the afternoon.

Quick labored through the seventh inning as his pitch count mounted.  A leadoff walk and a wild pitch led to SC's first run of the game.  Then Jon Brewster lined a double down the left field line scoring another run to cut the lead down to 6-2.  Quick would get out of the inning and turned the ball over to Matt Manship to begin the eighth.

Manship put up a zero in the eighth working around a one-out walk and then the Cardinal offense went back to work.  In the bottom of the eighth, Lucy came up with the bases loaded and one out, and he flied a ball to right field.  New right fielder Dale Legaspi came charging in, but had the ball glance off his glove for an error.  A run was going to score anyway as it was deep enough for a sacrifice fly, but instead the bases remained loaded for Brian Hall.  And Hall would come through with a single through the right side scoring Stanford's eighth and final run of the game.

Manship came back out in the ninth and held the Trojans off the scoreboard to seal the victory for Stanford.  USC did get a leadoff walk and a one-out single, but Manship induced Brewster to ground into a 4-3 double play to end the game.

With the win and Washington's 4-3 loss to UCLA this afternoon, the Cardinal move back into first place in the Pac-10.  Stanford (14-7) is now 1/2 game ahead of the Huskies (15-9) with just three games remaining.  Washington has finished their conference season while the Cardinal still has a three-game home series with Arizona State (now 12-9 after their loss to Arizona today) coming up next weekend.  One win for Stanford and they will share the title with the Huskies.  Two wins or a sweep and Stanford will be crowned as the outright Pac-10 Champions.

Game Notes:
* Leva gets credit for the win today after his four-inning masterpiece.  He didn't allow a run or a hit while walking just one and striking out one.  He threw 50 pitches.

* Ash was the star at the plate going 3-for-4 with a triple and four RBI.  The senior third baseman is now batting .382 on the season.

* Other multi-hit games came from Hall (2-for-5, RBI) and Minaker (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI).  Every starter in the lineup with the exception of the Seawell/Carter at DH had at least one hit in today's game.

* Putnam (1-for-3) extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a third inning single.

* The Cardinal easily could have had more today, but a pair of double plays with the bases loaded and 12 total runners left on base kept the score reasonably close.

* Stanford has not lost a series at home the entire regular season as they run their 2004 home record to a stellar 25-2.

* Stanford has now won seven consecutive series' over the USC Trojans dating back to April of 2001.  That includes Stanford's 2-0 sweep of USC in the 2002 Super Regionals.

* Today's game featured a Sunken Diamond season-high 3,499 fans in attendance.

USC         0 0 0  0 0 0  2 0 0   -   2   6   2
Stanford    0 4 0  1 0 1  0 2 x   -   8  12   1

WP: Matt Leva (5-1)
LP: Josh Rummonds (2-4)

Records: #1 Stanford (42-11, 14-7), USC (23-30, 9-12)

* The Cardinal will next be in action this weekend for a three-game series against the #19 Arizona State Sun Devils at Sunken Diamond.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will both get underway at 1:00pm.  Friday's contest features a postgame fireworks show, so a sellout crowd is expected.  This series marks the final three regular season games of the season.  Regional sites will be announced at 12:15pm (PST) on Sunday afternoon.  The NCAA Selection Show airs on Monday, May 31st at 9:00am (PST) on ESPN.

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