Strong Pitching Propels Stanford To Victory

Drew Ehrlich, Darin Naatjes, David O'Hagan, and Ryan McCally combined to five-hit the USF Dons in Stanford's 4-1 victory on Tuesday night. Naatjes picked up the win, his second of the year, while McCally recorded his team-leading fourth save of the season. Jonny Ash came through with the big hit, a two-run, two-out single in the bottom of the sixth as Stanford won for the 12th time in their last 14 games. Read on for a recap.

They say pitching and defense wins championships.  Tonight, the Stanford Cardinal had both out on display as they picked up their 20th win of the season with a 4-1 victory over the USF Dons on a cool evening at Sunken Diamond.  Drew Ehrlich, Darin Naatjes, David O'Hagan, and Ryan McCally combined to 5-hit the Dons while Jonny Ash delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single in a 4-run bottom of the sixth inning to propel Stanford to victory.

The game began as a pitcher's duel between Ehrlich and USF (8-24) starter T.J. Franco.  The Cardinal mustered only one hit off Franco through four innings and had only one runner reach second base.  Ehrlich, meanwhile, was having no trouble with the Dons hitters.  The sophomore righthander, who was making his first start of the year, pitched three shutout innings yielding only one hit while striking out two.  In the top of the fourth, Head Coach Mark Marquess turned the ball over to Darin Naatjes and the 6'7" junior picked up right where Ehrlich left off.  He allowed two runners to reach base in the fourth inning on a single and a walk, but got out of the jam.  In the fifth, USF got the leadoff runner on with a single, but he was stranded as Naatjes retired the next three hitters.  While in the sixth, USF went down 1-2-3 on just eight pitches.  That ended Naatjes' evening as he went three full innings giving up two hits, one walk while striking out four.  He topped out at 94 miles per hour on his fastball as well.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal staged a rally in the bottom of the fifth with the score still tied 0-0.  With two outs, Scott Dragicevich singled and then consecutive hit batters to Andy Topham and Chris O'Riordan loaded the bases.  But Sam Fuld was unable to bring them home as he lined out to left field to end the threat and keep the score 0-0.  Finally in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinal broke through off Franco.  Ryan Garko led off the inning by walking and with one out, advanced to second on a Carlos Quentin single.  Chris Carter then popped out, but Donny Lucy reached on an infield single to shortstop which loaded the bases for Dragicevich.  Dragicevich worked the count in his favor at 3-and-1, but didn't get a chance to see a good pitch to hit as Franco threw ball four forcing in a run and giving Stanford a 1-0 lead.  Coach Marquess then elected to pinch-hit Topham with Jonny Ash and the move paid off.  After a wild pitch, scored Stanford's second run of the inning and moved Lucy and Dragicevich to third and second respectively, Ash came through with a single in the hole between first and second scoring both runners and extending Stanford's lead to 4-0.

In the seventh inning, it was David O'Hagan's turn to try to shut down the USF offense.  The sophomore righthander wasn't as successful though as he gave up a leadoff double to Royce Fukuroku and then a single to Ryan Sittauer to put runners at first and third with none out.  O'Hagan though did a good job to get out of the inning with minimal damage, inducing Nick Cirbo to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and although it scored the run, it eliminated any chances for a big inning and O'Hagan was able to keep the score at 4-1.

With the score still 4-1 in favor of Stanford, Ryan McCally became Stanford's fourth pitcher of the evening in the eighth inning.  McCally was nothing short of spectacular as the junior right hander retired all six batters he faced over the final two innings to record his team-leading fourth save of the year while securing Stanford's 20th win of the season.

Game Notes :
* McCally in his eight relief outings this season has not given up a run in 15 2/3 innings of work.  In those innings, he's given up just 10 hits and three walks while recording 17 strikeouts and four saves.  In his only start of the year (February 23rd at Santa Clara) he gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

* Chris O'Riordan finished the evening 0-for-2 with a walk and an HBP which snapped his hitting streak at ten games.

* The pitching and defense have started to come around for Stanford lately.  In their last four games, the Cardinal pitching staff has an ERA of 1.70 while the defense has gone errorless in six out of their last eight games.

* Stanford is now 2-0 this season in mid-week games with the other win coming back on Tuesday, February 12th against BYU (8-1).  Tonight's game was the first of seven consecutive weeks that the Cardinal will play a mid-week game.

USF         0 0 0  0 0 0  1 0 0    -    1   5   0
Stanford    0 0 0  0 0 4  0 0 0    -    4   6   0

The Cardinal will next be in action this Friday-Sunday as they travel down to Tucson to open up Pac-10 Conference play against the Arizona Wildcats.  First pitch is scheduled for 6pm (PST) on Friday, 12pm on Saturday, and 1pm on Sunday.

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