Cardinal Cruise Past Tigers

<b>Matt Leva</b>, <b>Greg Reynolds</b>, and <b>Matt Manship</b> combined on a four-hitter Thursday afternoon as the Cardinal cruised past Pacific by a 6-1 score. Leva earned the start on the mound and came through with a terrific outing allowing just the one run in 6 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the balanced offensive attack was led by a pair of freshmen along with a <b>John Hester</b> home run.

All facets of the game were working for Stanford on Thursday afternoon.  In front of a small crowd at Sunken Diamond, the Cardinal rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Pacific Tigers.  The balanced offensive attack recorded ten hits on the day while three pitchers combined on a four-hitter on the mound.  Meanwhile, Stanford had yet another errorless game in the field as they chalked up their 13th win of the season.

Matt Leva earned the start on the mound this afternoon for Stanford.  Leva had struggled over his previous three relief outings before the finals break allowing seven earned runs over six innings.  Perhaps most alarming was that the sophomore had issued eight walks during that span - an incredibly high number for a pitcher who normally boasts excellent control.

In today's outing, Leva initially started slow with yet another walk as Anthony Jackson started the ballgame by drawing the free pass.  But as for the walks, that would be all for Leva in what would turn out to be one of the longest outings of his career.  And for that matter, the Tigers would have a tough time picking up any hits against the right-hander.

After the leadoff walk, Leva set down eight consecutive UOP hitters before Jackson was hit by a pitch with two outs in the top of the third.  Leva was doing an excellent job, first and foremost, of getting out ahead of hitters with strike one.  He was throwing his fastball and curve ball for strikes and seemed especially effective with his change-up as the Pacific hitters were kept off balance all afternoon.  A bounce back outing was needed from Leva and he came through in a big way.

The only hiccup came in the top of the fourth, with Stanford leading 3-0, when Brett Manning reached on a bloop double with two outs and then came home to score when the next batter, Will Brindza, singled up the middle.  Leva then slammed the door on the Tigers setting down the next eight hitters he faced (on just 20 pitches) before being removed from the game with one out in the top of the seventh inning.

Offensively, the Cardinal chipped away at Pacific ace hurler Luke Massetti.  The Tigers don't play any games this weekend, so they elected to start their #1 pitcher this afternoon and the former JC All-American looked strong in the bottom of the first with a 1-2-3 inning which included a strike out of Jed Lowrie.

After a quick two outs in the bottom of the second, Michael Taylor stepped to the plate and lined a ball into right center field for what looked like a solid single.  But Taylor never stopped running around first and the outstanding hustle play allowed the freshman to slide into second safely with a double.  The extra 90 feet would pay off in a big way as the following hitter, DH Brendan Domaracki, lined a single into left and Taylor raced home with Stanford's first run of the game.

The Cardinal then got to Massetti for two more runs in the bottom of the third.  Jim Rapoport continued his hot hitting with a leadoff single which was followed by a walk to Adam Sorgi.  After Chris Minaker sacrificed the runners over with a bunt, Lowrie hammered a ball to right.  Unfortunately it was directly at the right fielder, but the ball was plenty deep enough to score Rapoport for a 2-0 lead.  Then it was John Mayberry, Jr. crushing a double to deep left field plating Sorgi for a three-run advantage.

With Leva in cruise control, the Cardinal scored next in the bottom of the sixth.  Up 3-1 and with two outs and nobody on, John Hester came to the plate and promptly smoked a home run well over the scoreboard in left center field.  For Hester, it was his first home run of the season and he certainly made it count with this tape-measure blast.

Stanford though wasn't done in that bottom of the sixth.  Again it was Taylor and Domaracki doing some damage as back-to-back singles from the freshmen put runners on the corners.  A Chris Lewis single scored Taylor and then Domaracki eventually came home on a wild pitch and just like that, Stanford was in front by a 6-1 margin as Massetti was knocked out of the game.

The Cardinal kept the momentum going even after Leva was removed from the game.  Greg Reynolds relieved the starter with one out and nobody on in the top of the seventh.  After a walk to first batter he faced, Reynolds was able to quickly get out of the inning on a harmless fly out and a strike out.  He then worked a quick 1-2-3 top of the eighth inducing three ground outs on just nine pitches.

Matt Manship came on to start the ninth and the junior pitched around a two-out double to retire the side and preserve the 6-1 Stanford victory.

Game Notes:
* Leva was the star of the game for Stanford tossing 6 1/3 innings with just one run and three hits allowed.  He walked one and struck out six as he lowered his season ERA to 3.54.

* Reynolds fired 1 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball in relief.  Over his last three relief appearances spanning 5 1/3 innings, Reynolds has allowed just two hits and one earned run.

* Hester looks to be coming alive with the bat.  After a 2-for-4, RBI game last Sunday in Stockton, the slugging catcher belted the home run today in addition to make plenty more solid contact (despite having no hits to show for it).

* Multi-hit games came from Taylor (2-for-3, 2B), Domaracki (2-for-4, RBI), and Rapoport (2-for-2).  For Rapoport, it extended his hitting streak to six games as his season average has climbed to .324 (second only to Mayberry's .354).

* Five of Stanford's six runs today came with two outs.

* Stanford improved to 11-2 at home this season.

Pacific     0 0 0  1 0 0  0 0 0   -   1   4   0
Stanford    0 1 2  0 0 3  0 0 x   -   6  10   0

WP: Matt Leva (1-1)
LP: Luke Massetti (4-3)

HR: Stanford - John Hester (1)

Records: #12 Stanford (13-7), Pacific (11-15)

* The Cardinal return to action tomorrow night with the first game of a home-and-home series with Sacramento State.  First pitch at Sunken Diamond is scheduled for 6:00pm.  Mark Romanczuk (4-2, 3.70) will start on the hill for Stanford.

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