Frosh Lead Baseball To Dramatic Win

The Cardinal scored a dramatic 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Cal State Fullerton Titans on Saturday afternoon when John Hester was balked home with the winning run. Stanford was put into position to win, though, by a trio of freshmen. Austin Yount and Jason Castro supplied big extra-base hits, while Sean Ratliff dominated in his long relief stint on the mound. Here is the complete recap.

Saturday provided a game-ending play that you don't see often in baseball.  With the game tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the tenth inning, an aggressive John Hester dancing off of the third base bag prompted Cal State Fullerton pitcher Bryan Harris to balk forcing home the winning run in dramatic fashion.  The 6-5 win clinches the series victory for Stanford against the preseason #5 team in the country.

Hester started the frame by drawing a four-pitch walk from Harris before he was bunted over to second by Chris LewisBrian Juhl then grounded out weakly back to the mound allowing Hester to take third base.  Ryan Seawell was up next and the Stanford left fielder fell behind in the count 1-2 with the winning run standing just 90 feet away.  It's common practice for Cardinal baserunners to bluff a steal of home when taking their lead off of third base.  It's a play that might work once or twice per season in terms of making the pitcher balk (the most impact is probably felt with affecting the pitcher's concentration just as he delivers the pitch).  Fortunately for Stanford, Harris did indeed balk.  While working out of the stretch position, he apparently did not come to a complete stop before throwing the pitch.  Hester was awarded home and was promptly mobbed by his teammates.

The winning pitcher for the Cardinal - for the second consecutive game - was a freshman left-hander.  Sean Ratliff dazzled in his long relief stint firing 3 2/3 scoreless innings with just one hit allowed.  The reigning Colorado High School Player of the Year showed off a dynamic curve ball that had both right-handed and left-handed hitters guessing and flat-out looking foolish.  Ratliff struck out a whopping six batters in his collegiate debut.  Ratliff also doubles as an outfielder for Stanford.

With the game tied at 5-5, Ratliff quickly set down the Titans 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth inning with a pair of strike outs and a ground out.  In the ninth, Matt Fahey reached base safely to start the frame on a strike three, wild pitch.  After a bunt and an intentional walk, Ratliff very calmly set down #3 hitter Blake Davis on a routine fly out and clean-up man Brett Pill on a fielder's choice ground out.

Then in the top of the tenth, Ratliff worked around a two-out single and then a stolen base from Danny Dorn.  He struck out Evan McArthur to strand the potential go-ahead run in scoring position.

Ratliff though wasn't the only freshman making a significant impact in this afternoon's game.  I had written about in numerous practice reports that this was a deep and talented freshman class capable of accomplishing some very nice things at Stanford.  At the plate today, it was Austin Yount and Jason Castro making their mark.

Yount earned the opening night start at third base for the injured Adam Sorgi and delivered an RBI double in his first collegiate at-bat yesterday.  Today, it was his first home run and first multi-hit game to lead the Cardinal offense.  In the bottom of the second inning, Juhl drew a one-out walk.  Two batters later, Yount crushed a 3-2 pitch from Fullerton starter Jared Clark over the fence in right field for a two-run home run.  That swing of the bat came on the eighth pitch of the lengthy AB.

Then in the bottom of the third, it was Castro's turn.  The freshman first baseman, who has been thrown into the fire by Coach Marquess as he finds himself in the #4 position in the starting lineup, belted a line drive, solo home run over the wall in straightaway right field for a 3-0 Stanford advantage.  The home run was Castro's first collegiate hit.

Matt Manship earned the start on the mound today - just the fourth of his Cardinal career.  The senior right-hander was on his game early firing three scoreless innings to begin the contest.  Manship allowed just two hits with no walks and a pair of strike outs facing just one batter over the minimum.  The top of the fourth, however, would be a different story.

A double from Justin Turner started the frame followed by a Davis RBI single to cut Stanford's lead to 3-1.  Pill then doubled putting a pair of runners in scoring position before John Curtis brought home Davis with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

After Clark Hardman singled home Pill to tie the game at 3-3 (a bloop hit past the drawn-in infield), Marquess had seen enough pulling his veteran right-hander in favor of the sophomore Nolan Gallagher.  Gallagher would eventually allow the go-ahead run to score later in the inning on a McArthur ground out to second base - a play in which Lewis made a spectacular diving stop moving to his right and fired over to first in time to get the hustling runner.

Overall, it was a solid outing for Gallagher - a pitcher who figures to see a lot of innings this year after a solid freshman campaign.  Gallagher kept the Titans from pushing across any more runs in the fourth before notching a pair of zeros on the scoreboard over the fifth and sixth innings.  A leadoff double in the seventh followed by a hit batter and a sacrifice bunt ended his afternoon as Ratliff was summoned into pitch.  With the Cardinal ahead 5-4, Ratliff nearly got out of the jam striking out the dangerous Davis on three pitches before a wild pitch with Pill at the plate allowed the tying run to come across.  It would though be the final run Cal State Fullerton scored on the day.

Stanford's fourth and fifth runs of the game both came in the bottom of the fourth.  Seawell doubled to the right center field gap with one out and immediately scored when Yount smoked a triple into the right field corner.  Senior Chris Minaker put the Cardinal back in front with a clutch two-out, RBI single scoring Yount.

CS Fullerton   0 0 0  4 0 0  1 0 0  0  -  5  10   0
Stanford       0 2 1  2 0 0  0 0 0  1  -  6  10   0

CS Fullerton        POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Brandon Tripp      CF/RF   3   0   1   0      0   1
Justin Turner        2B    3   1   2   0      1   0
Blake Davis          SS    5   1   1   1      0   1
Brett Pill           1B    4   1   1   0      1   2
John Curtis           C    4   0   0   1      0   2
Clark Hardman        DH    4   1   1   1      0   0
Danny Dorn         LF/CF   5   0   3   0      0   1
Evan McArthur        3B    4   0   0   1      0   2
Joe Turgeon          RF    2   0   0   0      0   1
 David Cooper        PH    1   0   1   0      0   0
 Joe Scott           PR    0   1   0   0      0   0
 Matt Fahey          LF    1   0   0   0      0   1

2B: Turner, Pill, Cooper
SB: Dorn
CS: Turner

                     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Jared Clark          3.1  5   5   5   2   1
Cory Arbiso          3.1  4   0   0   3   2
John Estes           1.1  1   0   0   0   0
Bryan Harris (L)     1.2  0   1   1   1   0

Stanford            POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Jim Rapoport         CF    3   0   2   0      2   0
Chris Minaker        SS    5   0   1   1      0   0
Michael Taylor       RF    4   0   0   0      1   1
Jason Castro         1B    5   1   1   1      0   1
John Hester           C    4   1   2   0      1   0
Chris Lewis          2B    3   0   0   0      1   0
Greg Reynolds        DH    0   0   0   0      0   0
 Brian Juhl        PH/DH   4   1   1   0      1   0
Ryan Seawell         LF    4   1   1   0      0   1
Austin Yount         3B    4   2   2   3      0   0

2B: Seawell
3B: Yount
HR: Castro, Yount
CS: Rapoport, Hester

                     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Matt Manship         3.1  6   4   4   0   2
Nolan Gallagher      3.0  3   1   1   0   3
Sean Ratliff (W)     3.2  1   0   0   2   6

* Stanford now has two wins in their last two at-bats to open the season.  Both victories have come by one run.  A trouble spot for Stanford last year, the Cardinal were just 8-11 in one-run games in '05 (plus 2-6 in two-run games).

* Stanford had only one series win over a ranked team last season (took 2-of-3 at home versus USC last February - a team that eventually lost in the super regionals).

* The Cardinal pitching staff has walked just two batters total over the first two games of this series.  Neither team has committed an error.

* Yount is Stanford's leading hitter through two games: 3-for-7 (.429), 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, 1.286 SLG.

* The Cardinal have now won six straight series' from Cal State Fullerton at Sunken Diamond.  Their last series win came back in 1994.

* Stanford looks for the sweep on Sunday afternoon when the series concludes at Sunken Diamond.  First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 P.M.  Matt Leva is scheduled to start on the mound for Stanford while Cal State Fullerton is expected to counter with right-hander Lauren Gagnier.

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