Garko's Walk-off Home Run Wins It For Stanford

Ryan Garko's game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Stanford Cardinal a dramatic 8-7 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos this afternoon. Stanford blew a late 6-2 lead in part because of some bad defense, but rebounded to win the game and take the series. Read on for a full recap of today's exciting game.

The role of the hero today was played by Ryan Garko.  The junior catcher connected on a 1-1 fastball and deposited it over the fence in left-center field in the bottom of the ninth inning for a two-run home run that gave Stanford a dramatic 8-7 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos this afternoon at Sunken Diamond.  The Cardinal (9-4) blew a 6-2, eighth inning lead as the Broncos stormed back with five runs in the top of the eighth inning, but that only set the stage for Garko.  With the win this afternoon, Stanford took their fourth consecutive series to start the season.

The scoring started today in the bottom of the first inning.  Chris O'Riordan led things off with a single extending his hitting streak to ten games.  He would later score on a Garko sacrifice fly to deep center field.  The Broncos answered back with two runs of their own off Stanford starter Tim Cunningham.  With runners on second and third and two out, Shawn Epidendio grounded a ball up the middle that Cunningham got a piece of.  The ball trickled behind Cunningham and as he tried to make a spectacular play he threw the ball into the Stanford dugout and two runs had come across to score.  The Broncos lead would not last long though as freshman sensation Donny Lucy blasted a deep home run well over the scoreboard in left-center tying the game at 2-2.  It was Lucy's third home run of the season.

The Cardinal went back ahead in the bottom of third inning with some help from the Broncos defense.  With two outs, Garko and Cooper reached base with consecutive singles.  Lucy then stepped up to the plate and hit a routine ground ball to SCU shortstop A.J. LaBarbera, but the ball went right through LaBarbera's legs and Garko was able to score giving Stanford the 3-2 lead.  Carlos Quentin then came up and blooped a ball to shallow left-center field scoring Cooper and extending Stanford's lead to 4-2.  Meanwhile, Tim Cunningham was cruising on the mound.  The junior lefthander was outstanding from the third through the seventh innings.  He allowed only one single and walked only one batter over that time span mixing in his off-speed pitches effectively.

Stanford added a single run in the bottom of the sixth inning on an Andy Topham sacrifice fly scoring Scott Dragicevich who had earlier singled.  The Cardinal extended their lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning on a Lucy RBI single scoring Cooper who had previously doubled.  Finally in the eighth inning, the Broncos hitters got to Cunningham with some help from the Stanford defense.  A walk and a single put two runners on with none out for the #2 hitter A.J. LaBarbera.  LaBarbera grounded a ball toward second base and second baseman Chris O'Riordan was unable to handle it cleanly loading the bases for the heart of the Santa Clara order.  Cunningham then plunked Pat Peavey forcing home the Broncos third run of the game and was then removed in favor of John Hudgins.  Hudgins got clean-up hitter Joey Gomes to pop out for the first out, but then gave up a single to Jack Headley.  Headley's single to centerfield brought home the second run of the inning, but when Sam Fuld's throw into the infield was not cut off the Broncos took advantage and scored their third run of the inning which cut the Stanford lead to 6-5.  Hudgins then walked Jim Wallace to load the bases.  J.D. Willcox was then summoned from the bullpen and he didn't fare much better.  Willcox gave up a single to David Mandley scoring two more runs and all of a sudden the Broncos were in front 7-6.  Willcox settled down and got out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.

After Stanford was set down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, SCU went back to work in the ninth inning.  Consecutive singles with one out knocked Willcox out of the game in favor of freshman Jonny Dyer.  Dyer, who was making only his second career collegiate appearance, induced SCU #3 hitter Pat Peavey to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.  Santa Clara skipper Mark O'Brien elected to keep his starter, Jim Diefenderfer, in the game in the bottom of the ninth.  Sam Fuld led things off with a first pitch single to left field which ended Diefenderfer's afternoon.  O'Brien brought in lefty A.J. Ampi to face Garko and Garko delivered.  On a 1-and-1 fastball, Garko crushed a ball to deep left-center field for a walk-off home run and an 8-7 Stanford victory.

Game Notes :
* Tim Cunningham's final line saw him go seven innings (he faced four batters in the eighth) while giving up six runs (only four earned).  He walked three and struck out six.  Don't be fooled by the numbers though as Cunningham was downright nasty through the first seven innings giving up only two runs (one earned).

* The last walk-off home run for the Stanford Cardinal before today was back on March 11th of last season.  Andy Topham hit a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning to defeat the USC Trojans 9-5.

* Cooper (3-for-4, 2B), Garko (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI), Lucy (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI), and Brian Hall (2-for-3) all had multi-hit games for the Cardinal.

* The four errors committed by the Stanford defense this afternoon was a season-high.

* Santa Clara took game two of this series yesterday afternoon down in Santa Clara by the score of 13-9.  The Cardinal scored six runs in the top of the first inning, but were unable to hold the lead.  Ryan McCally got the start and gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Santa Clara    0 2 0  0 0 0  0 5 0   -   7   9   3
Stanford       1 1 2  0 0 1  1 0 2   -   8  13   4

The top ranked Stanford baseball is back at home next weekend for a three-game series with the Cal Poly Mustangs.  Game times are 6:00pm on Friday and 1:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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