Stanford Competitive In Series Loss

The Stanford Cardinal went down to Cal State Fullerton this weekend and showed they could compete with one of the best teams in the country. The Cardinal were handcuffed at the plate during the first two contests losing a pair of close games, 5-3 and 4-3, before coming back to crush the Titans, 15-10, in the finale on Sunday. The final game was a big win for Stanford, but there's still plenty of room for improvement as the team moves forward.

The one obvious negative from this series was how the Cardinal swung the bats on Friday and Saturday.  It's too early to tell if hitting will be any kind of a problem this season and certainly Stanford was facing two of the better pitchers on the west coast in Ricky Romero and Ryan Schreppel (Romero is, of course, a Preseason First Team All-American).  Six hits over two games though will not win you anything while Friday was particularly troubling with the Cardinal hitters going down 11 times on strikes.  Stanford hitters did make some adjustments Saturday with fewer strike outs and many more hard hit balls (even if the results were the same).  Then Sunday's effort was outstanding as the Cardinal bounced back in a huge way recording 15 runs on 15 hits in an impressive blowout of the Titans.

The theme of the first two games, in addition to Stanford's weak hitting results, were how the Titans capitalized on every opportunity given to them.  On Friday night, both Mark Romanczuk and Matt Leva displayed excellent stuff holding Fullerton to just four earned runs and seven hits the entire game.  Romanczuk, however, would suffer from poor control all night long as he walked five and hit a batter in his 5 2/3 innings.  The bright side continues to be his excellent stuff as opponents are hitting just .171 against the southpaw through two starts, but the nine total walks in 10 2/3 innings is way too high.

The two early runs Romanczuk gave up Friday night came off a leadoff walk in the first inning and a leadoff hit by pitch in the fourth.  Fullerton is probably the best team in the country at capitalizing on opponents mistakes and they were able to do just that against Romanczuk and Leva on Friday.  Despite the control problems though, the Cardinal carried a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning before Romanczuk allowed a pair of singles and a crucial two-out walk to the #9 hitter John Curtis to load the bases with two outs.  At this point, Leva was summoned from the bullpen and he would promptly hit Blake Davis with the very first pitch of his outing to tie the game at 3-3.  Up next was Justin Turner and the veteran second baseman grounded a single up the middle on a 1-and-2 pitch scoring two runs and giving Fullerton a lead they would not give up.  The three runs scored in the bottom of the sixth were all charged to Romanczuk.

Leva settled down after the Turner hit as he fired 2 1/3 scoreless innings to end the ballgame, but the damage had already been done.  Stanford only mustered three hits and three runs (two earned) off the ace Romero through the first six frames.  Then freshman Adam Jorgenson was brought into pitch and the young right-hander dazzled on the mound tossing three no-hit frames to end the ballgame.  He was at his best in the top of the eighth when after a leadoff walk to Chris Minaker, Jorgensen came back to strike out Jed Lowrie, John Mayberry, Jr., and John Hester in order to end the threat.  The Cardinal then went down without much of a fight in the ninth as they fell by a final score of 5-3.

Saturday was more of the same for Stanford as again they knocked out just three runs on three hits in a 4-3 loss.  The Cardinal scored early in the ballgame against the lefty Schreppel when Michael Taylor delivered an RBI single in the top of the second.  Taylor would alertly come home to score later in the inning on a wild pitch and an error.  Stanford's final run and hit of the day was a Mayberry, Jr. tape-measure home run to left that ended up well over 400 feet from home plate.  Schreppel settled down to toss six quality innings then three relievers combined on no-hit baseball to end the game without any major threat from the Cardinal bats.

Jeff Gilmore did come through with another very solid performance on the mound.  The junior right-hander struggled initially as the Titans got to him for three runs in the first two innings.  A solo homer by Sergio Pedroza accounted for a run in the bottom of the first while a walk, a triple, and a ground out produced a pair of scores in the bottom of the second.  The rest of his outing, however, Gilmore was nearly unhittable.

After the triple with no outs in the bottom of the second, Gilmore went on to retire 15 of the final 17 batters he faced.  He continued to display excellent control as he didn't walk anyone during the stretch while picking-up four strike outs as he left the game in a 3-3 tie.

Freshman Nolan Gallagher was brought into pitch to start the bottom of the seventh and again it was a couple of free passes from a Cardinal hurler that came back to hurt them.  Gallagher walked the leadoff man of the inning and then allowed a bloop single to left.  Bobby Andrews was up next and the CSF center fielder was attempting to bunt the runners over, but instead was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  With a big inning looming though, Gallagher would settle down as he retired the next three batters on a fly out, a ground out, and a strike out.  Unfortunately, the fly out was deep enough to score the go-ahead run as the Titans took a 4-3 lead.

Gallagher, like in his three scoreless inning stint against Fresno last weekend, showed excellent stuff on the mound.  He came back out in the eighth and easily set down the 3-4-5 hitters in order to keep the game at a one-run margin.  Coach Marquess clearly thinks Gallagher will be a major contributor out of the bullpen this season and wanted to see how he would handle a pressure situation against a top-flight team in their ballpark.  The Montana native struggled initially, and it was unfortunate that it resulted in Fullerton taking the lead, but it was no doubt a learning experience and Gallagher certainly showed something by recovering to set down the final six batters he faced.

It was a frustrating two days at the plate for Stanford and they would take out their anger on Sunday responding in a huge way with a 15-10 victory (and don't let the score fool you, the Cardinal wrapped this one up in the middle innings).  Stanford erupted for six runs in the top of the first when consecutive walks to Taylor and Hester got things started.  After a Lowrie RBI single brought home a run, Mayberry, Jr. ripped a double to deep center field plating two more for a 3-0 lead.  An error allowed another run to score while Adam Sorgi made it 5-0 on a sacrifice fly.  Chris Lewis capped the inning off with a solo home run to left.

Stanford's offense would not rest throughout the remainder of the game either striking for two runs in the third, two in the fourth, four in the fifth, and then a single tally in the seventh.  A pair of solo home run from Minaker and Lewis (his second of the game) accounted for the two runs in the third.  The fourth inning saw the previously struggling Hester bring home a run with an RBI.  Stanford blew the game open in the fifth as Ben Summerhays roped an RBI single down the right field line while Hester (single) and Lowrie (sac fly) also provided RBI knocks. 

The one negative of Sunday's performance was the start of Greg Reynolds.  Reynolds began the game with 1 2/3 no-hit innings before a single and two walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the second.  Then a clutch two-run single by Davis on a lengthy at-bat scored a couple of runs cutting into the Stanford lead.

In the third, Reynolds surrendered a leadoff home run followed by a double and a single which ended his day as Marquess, who had plenty of available arms in the bullpen, went to the lefty Blake Holler.  Holler did an excellent job of limiting the damage in the third and then went on to fire 3 2/3 innings of quality baseball with just one unearned run allowed and five strike outs.  For Reynolds, it was an ugly final line of two-plus innings of work with five runs surrendered (four earned) with two walks and two strike outs.

Freshman Erik Davis was the final pitcher of the day for the Cardinal as he was brought in with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth.  With the score 14-6 Stanford, Davis induced pinch-hitter Adam Jorgenson to ground out weakly to second to end the inning and basically any hopes Fullerton had of coming back.

Davis did well over the seventh and eighth innings with the only hit allowed a Pedroza solo home run (his third round-tripper of the weekend).  He  would struggle somewhat in the bottom of the ninth though as the first three batters of the inning reached on a hit by pitch, a single, and a triple.  All three runners would come home to score, but Davis prevented a big inning by setting down the next three hitters and thus giving Stanford a 15-10 victory.

Stanford showed something by responding like they did on Sunday.  They basically ran the Titans out of the building after a couple of demoralizing losses the previous two nights.  A lot of teams when facing Fullerton after two losses like that will pack it in and look forward to the next weekend.  Fortunately, the Cardinal bats rose to the occasion and led them to victory in addition to regaining any possible lost confidence from the first two games.  A concern with the hitters has to be what happened over the first two games, but it should be noted they were going up against a Fullerton team fresh off a national championship with 21 of their top 25 players returning and a preseason #3 ranking.  Outside of possibly Texas, the Cardinal won't face a better team this season and Stanford more then held their own in this three-game series.

Game #1:
Stanford     0 0 2  0 0 1  0 0 0  -  3   3   2
CS Fullerton 1 0 0  1 0 3  0 0 x  -  5   7   3

Game #2:
Stanford     0 2 0  1 0 0  0 0 0  -  3   3   0
CS Fullerton 1 2 0  0 0 0  1 0 x  -  4   5   2

Game #3:
Stanford     6 0 2  2 4 0  1 0 0  - 15  15   2
CS Fullerton 0 2 3  1 0 0  1 0 3  - 10  14   1

Series Notes:

* Jeff Gilmore recorded a no-decision in his start on Saturday night.  Through his first two starts, he's allowed just three runs on six hits through 12 innings (2.25 ERA, .143 opposing average).  Gilmore also boasts an impressive 10-to-1 strike out-to-walk ratio.

* Chris Lewis led the offense on Sunday afternoon with a terrific 3-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI performance.  The three hits were a career-high.

* Other stars at the plate on Sunday included, Minaker (2-for-6, HR, RBI), Hester (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Lowrie (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI), and Mayberry, Jr. (2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI).

* Marquess made a dramatic change to the starting lineup on Sunday after two lackluster efforts at the plate during the first two games.  The freshman Taylor moved up to the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a single, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt.  Hester was inserted into the second slot while Adam Sorgi (#6) and Chris Lewis (#7) moved down.  Ryan Seawell also earned the start in center field for Jim Rapoport who went hitless over the first two games.  Seawell had just one at-bat before being lifted from the contest in favor of Rapoport when a right-handed pitcher came in.  Rapoport reached base three times in four plate appearances - two walks and a double.

* Minaker moved down to the fifth spot in the order for the final two games and went a combined 3-for-10.  Constant lineup changes will likely occur throughout much of the non-conference season (and possibly beyond) as Marquess searches for the right combination with all of the new faces in the starting nine.

* Brendan Domaracki recorded his first collegiate hit with a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning on Sunday.  Taylor, who went hitless in 10 at-bats in the Fresno series, had a better series at the plate going 2-for-9 with three walks, three runs scored, and a stolen base.

* Stanford went a combined 6-for-59 (.102) over the first two games before finishing the series on a high note with a 15-for-38 (.395) performance on Sunday.

* A Goodwin Field record crowd of 3,611 witnessed the game on Friday as the 2004 Fullerton National Championship team was honored before the contest.  A very healthy crowd of 2,846 also attended the game on Saturday evening.

Around the Pac-10: (overall records)

Arizona           3-0
Oregon State      3-1
Stanford          4-2
Arizona State     3-3
UCLA              3-3
Washington State  1-2
California        1-3
USC               0-0
Washington        0-0

The 12th ranked Wildcats opened their season last weekend with an easy sweep of visiting New Mexico outscoring the Lobos by a combined tally of 38-11.  UCLA bounced back from a home series loss to Cal Poly two weeks ago to take 2-of-3 at Fresno State.  The Bulldogs are now just 1-5 on the year and have to play a series at Cal State Fullerton this weekend.

 Oregon State had a nice weekend at a round-robin tournament hosted by Arizona State.  The Beavers racked up a couple of wins over New Mexico State while also dropping a game to Gonzaga.  The noteworthy contest was a 12-6 drubbing of the 9th ranked Sun Devils on Sunday in a game that won't count in the conference standings.  ASU won both of their other two games of the weekend knocking off the Aggies and the Zags.

 Meanwhile, California is off to a slow start as they lost a home midweek game to Pacific before dropping 2-of-3 to UC Irvine in Berkeley.  Washington State also opened their season with a series loss falling twice in three contests at Sacramento State.  USC begins their season this weekend with a home-and-home series versus Long Beach State.  8th ranked Washington also gets going with a tough three-game set at Irvine.

"Super Sixteen"

                                                        Record Pvs.
1. Texas              3-0    1
    * Longhorns begin year with easy sweep at San Diego State (outscored the Aztecs 29-8).

2. Miami              4-0    2
    * Hurricanes with a perfect opening week (1-0 vs. Florida International, 3-0 vs. High Point).

3. CS Fullerton       2-1    3
    * Titans begin title defense by taking 2-of-3 from visiting Stanford.

4. Stanford           4-2    4
    * Cardinal sweep Fresno State and then lose 2-of-3 at Fullerton.

5. South Carolina     0-0    5

6. LSU                0-0    6

7. Washington         0-0    7

8. Tulane             0-0    9

9. Georgia            0-0   10

10. Mississippi       0-0   11

11. Arizona           3-0   12
    * Wildcats open season with convincing sweep of visiting New Mexico.

12. Long Beach State  5-1   16
    * Dirtbags take 2-of-3 at Arizona State and then come home to sweep Saint Mary's.

13. Arizona State     3-3    8
    * Sun Devils lose series to Long Beach followed by a 2-1 weekend at home in tournament.

14. Florida           0-0   13

15. Texas A&M         0-0   14

16. North Carolina    0-0   15

Dropped Out: none

Note: Stanford remained at #6 in this week's Baseball America poll.

On Deck

Stanford returns home this weekend to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in a three-game series at Sunken Diamond.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 5:00pm while Saturday's contest gets underway at 1:00pm and Sunday's finale at 11:00am.

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