Baseball Edges Trojans

The Stanford baseball team scored a run in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge the USC Trojans, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon at Sunken Diamond. Jim Rapoport came home with the game-winning run when John Mayberry, Jr. grounded into a fielder's choice. With the victory, the Cardinal have guaranteed themselves a series win over the 22nd ranked Trojans.

It wasn't the prettiest bottom of the ninth inning, but the Cardinal will definitely take it.  With the game tied at 3-3, Stanford pushed across a run in the last inning without the benefit of a hit to secure the victory and guarantee a series win over the USC Trojans.

#9 hitter Jim Rapoport led off the inning and had a magnificent at-bat drawing a full-count walk on the seventh pitch from reliever Jack Spradlin.  The set the wheels in motion as after a pitching change brought Paul Koss into the game, Michael Taylor dropped down a bunt along the first base line.  The bunt was a good one that rolled just fair, but SC first baseman Blake Sharpe charged hard and elected to try to cut down the lead runner at second.  But Rapoport's great speed allowed him to just beat the throw resulting in runners at first and second with nobody out.

Chris Minaker was up next and again a Stanford hitter was asked to bunt.  Minaker came through with perfect sacrifice on the first base side advancing the runners up to second and third.  After Jed Lowrie was intentionally walked, it came down to John Mayberry, Jr.

On the 1-0 pitch, Mayberry hit a ground ball to the right of shortstop Hector Estrella.  Estrella fielded the ball and made the quick decision to try to get the inning-ending double play by throwing to second (with Rapoport running home, a play on him was probably unwise).  The force on Lowrie was made at second, but the relay throw to first was just barely beat out by the hustling Mayberry and the game was over.

The exciting bottom of the ninth was needed after USC tied the game with a single run off of Cardinal reliever Blake Holler in the top of the eighth.  Holler easily set down the first two batters of the inning before a Billy Hart single put a runner on and then pinch-hitter Baron Frost lined a double down the left field line to score the tying run.  Holler through would get out of the inning stranding Frost, the potential go-ahead run, at second base with a strike out of Garrett Gipe.

Other than that brief hiccup in the eighth, it was a very smooth and effective outing for Holler.  The sophomore lefty retired the Trojans 1-2-3 in the seventh inning on just seven pitches while he needed just nine tosses to set down USC in order in the ninth.

The game began as a pitchers duel between Jeff Gilmore and USC ace Ian Kennedy.  Neither team scored over the first four innings of the game with the Trojans mustering only two hits and the Cardinal just one.  A leadoff walk issued by Gilmore to Zack Kalter in the top of the fifth led to a run and a 1-0 USC advantage.  Kalter was bunted over to second and scored on Matt Cusick's two-out single.  Gilmore though would get out of the inning without further damage keeping the contest at a one-run deficit.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal finally got to Kennedy in the bottom of the fifth.  Chris Lewis got things started with a leadoff single to be followed by a Rapoport sacrifice bunt.  After Taylor walked, Minaker stepped up and hammered a double to deep left field scoring both runners to put Stanford in front by a 2-1 score.

But Stanford wasn't done as Lowrie followed the Minaker hit with a single of his own to extend the lead out to 3-1.  After Kennedy walked Mayberry, Jr., the All-American pitcher (with a pitch count now over 100) was lifted from the contest.  Adam Sorgi lined out to end the inning, but the Cardinal had taken the lead and knocked Kennedy out of the game.

Coach Marquess, now with the lead, elected to turn the game over to the bullpen in the sixth as freshman Erik Davis was summoned.  Davis allowed a leadoff double to Hart and then uncorked a wild pitch to move the runner to third.  Hart came home to score on a ground out, but Davis did limit the damage retiring the next three batters in order after the Hart two-bagger.

Holler came on to start the seventh with the 3-2 lead as the Trojans tied the game one frame later only to see Stanford pull out the victory in the bottom of the ninth.

Game Notes:
* Gilmore had a quality start this afternoon tossing five innings with just one run and three hits allowed.  The junior walked two and struck out two.

* Holler's outing was also impressive with just two hits and a run surrendered in three innings.  He did not walk a single batter to go with one strike out.  Holler picked up his third win of the season tying him with Mark Romanczuk for the team-lead.

* No multi-hit games for any Cardinal players with the only extra base hit coming from Minaker (the two-run double in the fifth).

* Taylor saw his six-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-2 game.  He did walk twice and lay down a successful sacrifice bunt.

* Lowrie was pitched around for most of the game with three free passes.  Officially, he went 1-for-2 with an RBI.

* Stanford dropped down three sacrifice bunts today.  They had only four sac bunts in their previous 13 games.

* Stanford remained perfect at home this season with their record standing at 8-0.  The Cardinal have now won 13 consecutive regular season, three-game series' at home.  That dates back to a 2-of-3 series loss versus Arizona in April of 2003.

USC       0 0 0  0 1 1  0 1 0   -   3   6   0
Stanford  0 0 0  0 3 0  0 0 1   -   4   6   0

WP: Blake Holler (3-0)
LP: Jack Spradlin (0-1)

Records: #13 Stanford (9-5), #22 USC (4-2)

* Weather permitting, these two teams will wrap-up this non-conference series tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm.  Nolan Gallagher (0-1, 1.76) is scheduled to start for Stanford while the Trojans are expected to counter with right-hander Brett Bannister (1-0, 4.26).

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