Stanford Scores Early, Holds On For 5-4 Win

It was another edge-of-your-seat postseason game at Sunken Diamond and once again the Cardinal prevailed with a 5-4 victory over the Long Beach State 49ers. Stanford jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings and then had to withstand a late LBSU rally to secure the victory. The Cardinal now move on to the championship game on Sunday needing only one win to advance to the Super-Regionals. Read on for a recap.

The Stanford Cardinal are now in the driver's seat of the Palo Alto Regional after edging the Long Beach State 49ers 5-4 on Saturday afternoon at Sunken Diamond.  The Cardinal (42-16) jumped all over 49ers ace pitcher Abe Alvarez for four runs over the first two innings then held on for the victory.  Long Beach State would rebound though to defeat Cal State Fullerton (who had eliminated San Jose State earlier in the day) 4-0 in the late game on Saturday to set-up a Card-Dirtbags championship game on Sunday.  Long Beach needs to defeat the Cardinal twice to advance while Stanford needs only one win.

Stanford jumped on the scoreboard in a hurry as Chris O'Riordan led off the game (Stanford was the designated visiting team) with a home run to left field, his ninth bomb of the year.  Then in the second, the Cardinal exploded for three more runs against Alvarez to take a 4-0 lead.  With one out, Scott Dragicevich doubled and then Brian Hall popped a ball up on the infield only to have LBSU first baseman Chris Genung drop the ball and everyone was safe.  Andy Topham was the next hitter and the Cardinal shortstop promptly doubled down the right field line scoring both runners increasing the lead to 3-0.  Arik VanZandt then followed Topham's hit with an RBI single to push the lead up to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Tim Cunningham was cruising on the mound for the Cardinal.  The junior lefty retired the first ten batters he faced until issuing a walk to Tim Hutting with one out in the bottom of the fourth.  Cunningham though would get out of that inning and then worked a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth to keep the no-hitter intact.  But with the score still 4-0 Stanford in the last half of the sixth, #8 hitter Chris Genung broke up the no-no with a double to the left-center field gap.  Genung would later score on a two-out single off the bat of Hutting to cut the lead to 4-1.

After scoring the four runs in the first two frames, the Stanford bats were silenced by Alvarez in the middle innings as the lefthander put up zeros in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.  The Cardinal's best chance to score during that time came in the top of the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Alvarez got out of the jam with consecutive strikeouts of Jason Cooper and Carlos Quentin.

With the score still 4-1 Cardinal, the Beach made things very interesting with two tallies in the bottom of the seventh.  Nick Covarrubias led off with a single and then scored when the following hitter, Paul McAnulty, doubled him home.  Cunningham struck out the next hitter and was then removed from the game in favor of Dan Rich.  Rich promptly uncorked a wild pitch to move McAnulty to third and then McAnulty scored on a Paul Macaluso ground out to make the score 4-3 Stanford.

The Cardinal put across a big insurance run in the top of the eighth inning thanks in large part to some wildness by Long Beach reliever Carlos Muniz.  With one out, Carlos Quentin doubled down the left field line which ended Alvarez's afternoon.  Muniz was summoned from the bullpen and he fired two consecutive wild pitches with Dragicevich at the plate to score Quentin for a 5-3 lead.

Rich gave up a one-out single in the bottom of the eighth, but was able to get out of the inning to set-up a dramatic bottom of the ninth.  With a runner on first base and two out, Macaluso singled to put runners on first and second.  Little-used Steve Velazco was then called upon to pinch-hit and Velazco delivered with a double to left-center scoring the runner from second and moving Macaluso to third.  So with the tying run at third base and the winning run at second, Rich quickly fell behind the next hitter, #9 batter Todd Jennings, 2-and-0.  Rich though battled back with two consecutive strikes to even the count and then got Jennings to hit a routine ground ball to O'Riordan at second to end the game and put Stanford in the driver's seat.

Game Notes :
* Stanford starter Tim Cunningham carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning for the second consecutive start.  Last weekend versus Washington State, he tossed 5 2/3 innings of no-hit ball before giving up a single.  His final pitching line today saw him go 6 1/3 innings while giving up three runs on four hits.  He walked one and struck out two to improve his record to 9-2.  Dan Rich threw the final 2 2/3 innings (1 run allowed) to record his third save of the season.

* Sam Fuld's nine-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 performance this afternoon.

* Offensive stars for Stanford today were O'Riordan (2-for-4, HR, RBI) and VanZandt (3-for-4, RBI).

* Stanford extended their winning streak to six games with the victory today.  It is their longest winning streak of the season.

* Update on the Los Angeles Regional (the winner of the Palo Alto Regional plays the winner of this regional next weekend) ... #1 USC defeated #2 Cal State Northridge 7-5 during the afternoon and then Northridge was shocked by 4th seed BYU in the nightcap.  The Trojans will now play the Cougars on Monday and need only one win to advance.

Stanford           1 3 0  0 0 0  0 1 0   -   5   9   0
Long Beach State   0 0 0  0 0 1  2 0 1   -   4  11   2

It's the Cardinal and the 49ers once again tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.  John Hudgins (8-1, 4.88) will be on the mound for Stanford while LBSU has yet to announce a starting pitcher.  If a second game is needed, it will begin at 5pm or approximately 50 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.


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