Cardinal Complete Sweep

The two-time defending Pac-10 champions opened their conference season on a positive note this weekend. After a pair of easy victories up in Pullman, the Cardinal had to come-from-behind in the late innings this afternoon to post an 8-6 victory and complete the sweep. Jim Rapoport led the offensive attack with a 4-for-5 day while Blake Holler slammed the door on the Cougars in the eighth and ninth frames.

A routine fly ball to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning was dropped by Michael Taylor with two outs in a tie game and the go-ahead runner in scoring position.  As the ball glanced off of Taylor's glove, Jim Murphy raced home with the Washington State run and a 6-5 Cougars advantage.  Just a couple of minutes prior, relief pitcher Greg Reynolds was cruising along with a 5-3 lead as Stanford appeared headed for the series sweep.  Then came a hit by pitch, back-to-back doubles, and the costly error.  All of a sudden, Stanford was staring at their first loss to Washington State in 27 years.

But the Cardinal were not going down without a fight.  The numbers were stacked up against Stanford.  A team with an overall solid record, the Cardinal had to yet to make any sort of late-inning comeback to win a game this season - and this was through nearly half of the '05 campaign.  Stanford, when trailing after seven innings this season, was winless with an 0-8 record.  But that changed today.

After a quick first out in the top of the eighth, Jim Rapoport stepped to the plate and continued the biggest day of his young Cardinal career with a line drive single into left center field.  Adam Sorgi followed with a ground ball single into right as Rapoport, with his excellent speed, raced all the way over to third. 

On a gamble, Coach Marquess elected to send Sorgi in motion (possibly was a botched hit-and-run) and the sophomore third baseman slid in ahead of the throw at second base.  For Sorgi, it was his first stolen bag of the season.

With a couple of runners in scoring position and the infield playing back, Chris Minaker delivered with a ground out to second base.  Rapoport scored to tie the game at 6-6 while Sorgi moved over to third.  An intentional walk to Jed Lowrie put runners at the corners setting the stage for John Mayberry, Jr.

On a 1-1 pitch, Mayberry, Jr. smoked a ball down the third base line that was knocked down by WSU third baseman Zach McAngus.  But with his momentum carrying him into foul territory, McAngus had no play on Mayberry as Sorgi sprinted home for a 7-6 Stanford lead.

With the lead in their hands, ace reliever Blake Holler took to the hill in the bottom of the eighth.  Holler recorded the final out, in place of Reynolds, to end the seventh, and would endure a very stressful inning.  A leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt immediately put a runner in scoring position.  After a hit by pitch, Holler retired the red-hot Jason Freeman on a strike out.  Up next was dangerous #3 hitter Jay Miller, who was already 3-for-3 on the day.  Holler would pitch carefully to the left fielder walking him on a full-count pitch to load the bases.

Clean-up man Brad Everett, with his team-leading eight home runs and 39 RBI, then came to the plate.  Holler quickly fell behind 2-0, but was able to recover as Everett swung at the next pitch and promptly popped out weakly to Sorgi at third base.  The southpaw was able to escape with the lead still intact, but there were still three outs left to be made.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal hitters went back to work in the top of the ninth as they added an insurance run to make it an 8-6 game.  With two outs, Lewis smoked a double off of the wall which was immediately followed by another hit from Rapoport.  This time it was an RBI single as the center fielder finished his day with a spectacular 4-for-5 afternoon.

In the bottom of the ninth, Holler quickly set down the first two batters of the inning.  But nothing was coming easy on this day as a hit by pitch and a single put the tying run on base and brought the winning run to the plate.  Washington State elected to send up a pinch-hitter as Zach Franklin stepped into the batters box.  Franklin is a part-time player for the Cougars, but had been swinging it well of late.  He entered the ball game with a sizzling .429 batting average (15-for-35) and had recorded five RBI in Washington State's game last Tuesday against Gonzaga.

Holler was fortunately able to pitch from ahead in the count against Franklin.  On a 1-2 offering, Franklin grounded a ball to shortstop and Minaker made the easy flip to Lowrie to second as the All-American stomped on the bag clinching the series sweep.

It was a nice comeback for Stanford, but the Cardinal actually had the lead in this game nearly the entire way through.  Stanford scored single runs in the first, second, third, and fourth innings against a pair of Wazzu hurlers.  The first inning saw Lowrie drive home a run with a ground out.  In the second, Taylor singled with one out and scored two batters later on a clutch two-out double from Lewis.

The third inning saw Lowrie walk with one out and then Mayberry, Jr. blasted a double down the left field to score his classmate.  Then in the fourth, Rapoport led off with a double and would score three batters late on a Lowrie sacrifice fly.

Matt Leva earned his first weekend starting assignment of the season this afternoon.  The sophomore right-hander came through with a solid outing on the mound tossing 4 2/3 innings with three runs (two earned) and seven hits allowed.  He walked just one and struck out three.  Leva fired up zeros in the first, second, and fourth innings as he was especially efficient in the second (ten pitches) and fourth (six pitches) frames.  In the bottom of the fifth, Washington State cut the lead down to 4-3 when Miller singled home a run with one out.  Leva set down the next hitter, Everett, on a fly out, but that would be the end of his afternoon.  Marquess summoned Reynolds from the bullpen and the moved paid off as Reynolds struck out the dangerous Murphy on three pitches to retire the side.

Initially, it was a very strong outing for Reynolds.  He set down the Cougars in the bottom of the sixth without allowing a hit.  Reynolds plunked the leadoff man, but a 5-4-3 double play allowed him to pitch around it.  Then in the seventh, Reynolds induced a ground out and then a strike out on very few pitches.  But things would unravel after that as the Cougars strung together a couple of hits and the dropped fly ball in right resulted in a one-run deficit for Stanford.  Fortunately the Cardinal kept on fighting and managed the comeback victory.

Game Notes:
* Rapoport, with his four hits today, now leads the Cardinal with an outstanding .348 batting average.  He's just ahead of Mayberry, Jr. (.346) and Lowrie (.337) for that team-lead.

* Holler worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings to end the game this afternoon to pick up his fifth win of the season (tied with Romanczuk and Gilmore).  The lefty allowed two hits with one walk and two strike outs.  This was on the heels of a scoreless two innings to end yesterday's contest.  Holler lowered his ERA to 2.33.

* Other multi-hit games today came from Mayberry, Jr. (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI) and Lewis (2-for-5, 2 2B, RBI).  Lowrie, despite going just 0-for-1 (two sacrifices and two walks), chipped in three RBI.

* Stanford hit .373 as a team this weekend.  They scored 33 runs in the three games.

* The Cardinal have now won 23 consecutive games over Washington State.  They are a perfect 21-0 (seven sweeps) against the Cougars since the Pac-10 merger in 1999.

* Minaker committed his first error of the season at shortstop when he bounced a throw to first base with no outs in the bottom of the third.  Minaker has started all 26 games at short this year and had gone a remarkable 110 chances without a miscue.

* Stanford has won five consecutive road games.

Stanford          1 1 1  1 0 1  0 2 1   -   8  12   2
Washington State  0 0 2  0 1 0  3 0 0   -   6  11   1

WP: Blake Holler (5-0)
LP: Travis Webb (0-3)

Records: #12 Stanford (17-9, 3-0), Washington State (15-17, 0-6)

* The Cardinal return to action on Tuesday evening with a 6:00pm game against the Santa Clara Broncos at Sunken Diamond.  Next weekend is an early Pac-10 showdown as the 18th ranked Oregon State Beavers travel to Sunken for a three-game series.  The Beavers are now an amazing 24-4 on the season (3-0 in the Pac-10) after a home sweep of California this weekend.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:00pm while the games on Saturday and Sunday will both get underway at 1:00pm.


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