Cardinal Rally Falls Short

It was a case of too little, too late for Stanford on Friday night. The Cardinal were completely shut down by Sacramento State pitcher Ethan Katz over the first eight innings mustering no runs on just two hits. Then their three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth wasn't enough as the tying run was stranded in scoring position and Stanford fell by a 4-3 score.

It was deja vu for the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night.  Rewind to last April when Sacramento State pitcher Ethan Katz tossed a four-hit complete game with no earned runs allowed in the Hornets' 2-1 victory over Stanford and their high-powered offensive attack.  Tonight it was more of the same as Katz took a two-hit shutout into the bottom of the ninth and then with some help from the bullpen, held off a late Cardinal rally to record a 4-3 victory.  With the loss, Stanford falls to 13-8 on the season while Sac State snaps a seven-game losing streak and improves to 8-15-1.

After watching tonight's game (combined with what happened last April), it's hard to understand why Katz was just 1-5 with a 5.60 ERA on the season.  The first time through the lineup though, it looked as if Stanford was going to get to Katz.  Even though they went the first three innings without scoring a run (with just one hit picked up), the Cardinal were making plenty of solid contact.  Unfortunately every ball was hit right at a Hornet defender and thus Stanford had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

But starting with the second trip through the order, Katz looked to really find himself on the mound.  The right-hander was getting out of ahead of just about every Cardinal hitter 0-1 and 0-2.  He was spotting his fastball nicely and once he was ahead, was able to use a hard slider to put away many Cardinal hitters.  Stanford battled throughout the evening as a handful of hitters forced full counts.  Michael Taylor had an 11-pitch AB at a key moment in the bottom of the sixth before striking out.  In the seventh, Adam Sorgi hung in there for a 12-pitch at-bat before grounding out weakly.  The Cardinal definitely battled, but this was Katz's evening.  Past the third inning, very few Cardinal hitters were able to get any good swings off the pitcher and thus very little solid contact was made.

With the score 4-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Stanford finally was able to put together a rally.  Katz started the frame by walking John Hester on a 3-2 fastball.  After Taylor lined a single into right field, Katz was lifted from the ballgame.  The Sac State pitcher threw a remarkable 150 pitches over his eight-plus innings of work.

Reliever Warren Rosebrock promptly walked Brendan Domaracki on five pitches to load the bases as the rally was on.  Another pitching change was made at this point as Marshall Plouffe was summoned from the bullpen.  The wildness, however, would continue as pinch-hitter Ben Summerhays drew a five pitch walk to force home a run and make it a 4-1 game.

Plouffe though would settle down after the walk.  Jim Rapoport followed with an RBI fielder's choice ground out.  Then it was Sorgi lining a ball to left for a sacrifice fly RBI.  The score was now 4-3, but there were two outs and just Rapoport at first base.

Mark Marquess gambled at this point as he sent Rapoport to second on a stolen base attempt and the speedy center fielder made it in safely well ahead of the throw.  But Chris Minaker's rough day at the plate would continue as the junior shortstop went down swinging on a 1-2 pitch to finish his day 0-for-5, leave Jed Lowrie in the on-deck circle, and send Stanford to the loss.

Mark Romanczuk got the start on the mound for the Cardinal tonight.  One bad inning really did in the junior lefty this evening as the Hornets scored three runs in the top of the fifth to extend a 1-0 lead to a 4-0 advantage.  Sac State erupted for four hits in the inning - most of which were very hard hit balls to the outfield.  #3 hitter Josh Levin supplied the big knock with a two-run single which was immediately followed by an RBI single from Brett Flowers.

Over his other six innings of work, Romanczuk had much better success (just one run allowed), but he clearly was without his best stuff on this evening.  The Hornets had at least one runner in scoring position in five of those six innings, but were only able to score in the top of the first on an RBI groundout after a leadoff single set the table.

On the other side, Stanford was doing very little against Katz.  The best opportunities came in the fourth and sixth innings.  The fourth saw Hester single with two outs which was followed by consecutive walks to Taylor and Domaracki to load the bases.  But Chris Lewis would pop-out to first base ending that threat.

Then in the sixth, Sac State looked more like a poor little league team than a club poised to knock off the Cardinal.  Twice in that frame the Hornets dropped routine pop-outs - one in shallow left and the other at second base.  But with runners at first and second and one out, Stanford could not cash in as Taylor struck out and then with the runners in motion, Taylor fell over the plate which did not allow catcher Matt Wilson to make a throw to third base.  Correctly, batters interference was called and the inning was over.  It was just that kind of night for the Cardinal.

Game Notes:
* Romanczuk tossed seven innings this evening yielding four runs on nine hits.  The southpaw walked two and struck out three.

* Erik Davis came on and was very effective over the eighth and ninth innings.  The freshman did not allow a hit with one walk and two strike outs to his credit.

* The story of the night was no doubt Ethan Katz.  In his eight-plus innings of work, Katz allowed only two runs on three hits.  He walked four and struck out seven.  Hornets head coach John Smith played this game like a postseason contest by having Katz throw 150 pitches on the evening.  And with his team well below .500, this was probably the game of the year for Sacramento State.

* Sorgi, Hester, and Taylor were the only players to record hits for Stanford tonight - all singles.  Mayberry, Jr. and Rapoport both saw their six-game hitting streaks come to an end.

* Lowrie went 0-for-4 at the plate tonight and has just one hit in his last 15 at-bats.  His season average has fallen all the way down to .304.

Sacramento State  1 0 0  0 3 0  0 0 0   -   4   9   2
Stanford          0 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 3   -   3   3   0

WP: Ethan Katz (2-5)
LP: Mark Romanczuk (4-3)
S: Marshall Plouffe (1)

Records: #12 Stanford (13-8), Sacramento State (8-15-1)

* This brief two-game series will conclude tomorrow afternoon in Sacramento at Hornet Field.  First pitch is scheduled for 2:00pm.  Jeff Gilmore (3-1, 2.98) is scheduled to start on the hill for the Cardinal while Sacramento State is expected to counter with left-hander Matt Campbell (1-3, 3.60).

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