Baseball Takes Series From Horns

After struggling offensively in the series-opener on Saturday, the Cardinal bats provided enough clutch hitting to win Sunday before erupting in a 13-9 victory on Monday. A nine-run third inning thanks to poor control from multiple Texas hurlers and a Chris Minaker grand slam was the difference in the rubber contest. Here is a complete recap from Stanford's series victory over the defending champs.

The 2006 Stanford Cardinal showed once again that they can compete with some of the best college baseball teams in the country after taking two-of-three games from the defending champion Texas Longhorns this weekend.  After mustering only four hits in a frustrating 4-2 loss in the series-opener on Saturday, the Cardinal used strong pitching and timely hitting to post a 5-1 victory on Sunday.  Monday's rubber contest saw Stanford plate nine runs in a marathon bottom of the third inning en route to a 13-9 series-clinching win.  The Cardinal improved their overall record to 6-3 and conclude their season-long ten-game homestand on Tuesday afternoon with a single game against the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Cardinal fans saw something on Monday that you don't often witness in college baseball: a complete meltdown of the Texas pitching staff.  A pitching staff that is the primary reason the Longhorns won national championships in 2002 and 2005.  On Monday, it was a staff that walked home four runners in a single inning before a game-changing grand slam off the bat of Chris Minaker for a nine-run frame.

Trailing 4-2, Minaker actually started the bottom of the third with a ground out.  Consecutive singles from Michael Taylor and Jason Castro put a pair of runners on before John Hester was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  A pitching change brought in talented freshman lefty Kyle Walker into the contest.  Walker had put up excellent numbers over his first three appearances (one start) this season.  The southpaw had recorded a whopping 11 strike outs compared to just two walks in 6 2/3 innings (two earned runs).  But this would not be his day.

A five-pitch walk to freshman third baseman Cord Phelps forced home a run before Brent Milleville also drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 4-4.  Then with Chris Lewis at the plate, Walker fired a pitch to the backstop scoring Hester with the third run of the inning to give Stanford the lead.  Lewis promptly drew a four-pitch walk to reload the bases before Joey August earned a hard-fought base on balls to bring home yet another run.

That ended Walker's afternoon as the rookie walked all four batters he faced throwing 20 pitches and just four strikes during his short outing.  Unfortunately for the Longhorns, new pitcher Kenn Kasparek (one of the top sophomore pitching prospects in the country with his 6'10" frame) wasn't much better.  He walked Jim Rapoport on a 3-2 pitch to force home the fifth run of the inning.  Then it was Minaker delivering the final blow.  The senior shortstop sat on a 2-0 pitch and blasted it over the fence in left field for a grand slam and a commanding 11-4 Stanford advantage.

The 13 runs scored and 14 hits collected were both season-high totals for the Cardinal on Monday.  Despite the gift-wrapping of many of those third inning runs, Stanford did have an impressive afternoon at the plate.  Minaker torched Texas pitching to the tune of a 4-for-5 performance with a double, home run, and five RBI.  Minaker hit third in the order all weekend and appears to be settling in comfortably in that spot.

The 4-5-6 hitters also came through with big days at the plate.  Taylor finished 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and an RBI.  Castro had his second straight multi-hit game when the frosh first baseman went 2-for-5 with two singles.  Meanwhile, Hester also had his second consecutive effective game with two hits - including his first double of the season - in four AB's.

Jim Rapoport plated Stanford's 12th run of the contest when he connected for a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the fifth.  The Cardinal's final run came in the eighth when Hester led off with a single and scored three batters later on a Lewis sacrifice fly to center field.

On the mound, junior lefty Blake Holler earned the victory with 4 2/3 quality innings of long relief.  Holler entered the contest for a struggling Matt Leva in the top of the third and pitched through the eighth.  He scattered eight hits with three runs allowed, but was effective due to no walks issued.  He also struck out four and overall did a very nice job protecting the big lead by throwing plenty of strikes.

Freshman Sean Ratliff finished the contest with two innings of work and one earned run surrendered (two runs total).  Ratliff walked just one and struck out four.  Over his first two appearances this season, the Colorado native has struck out a staggering ten batters in just 5 2/3 innings (one earned run).

Leva had some control issues during his brief stint walking two batters in the first inning that led to a pair of runs when Kyle Russell came through with a clutch two-out triple.  A leadoff walk in the third also led to a run when Preston Pehrson smoked an RBI double into right field.  Overall, Leva allowed four runs on just two hits spanning 2 1/3 innings.  He did walk four compared to just one strike out.

Texas      2 0 2  0 1 0  1 1 2   -   9  13   0
Stanford   2 0 9  0 1 0  0 1 X   -  13  14   2

WP: Blake Holler (1-0)
LP Randy Boone (0-2)

HR: Stanford - Chris Minaker (2), Jim Rapoport (1); Texas - Drew Stubbs (2)

Sunday's game saw a trio of Stanford hurlers combine on a five-hitter during the 5-1 Cardinal victory.  Matt Manship had a very impressive first four innings allowing just two hits and no runs with a pair of strike outs.  With Stanford leading 3-0, the Longhorns knocked Manship out of the contest in the top of the fifth.  Three singles produced a run cutting the lead down to two.  Manship was pulled with a pair of runners on, two outs, and All-American Drew Stubbs at the plate.  Reliever Nolan Gallagher walked Stubbs to load the bases, but did get out of the high-pressure situation by inducing clean-up man Carson Kainer to ground into a fielder's choice.

Gallagher was credited with the victory after throwing 2 2/3 hitless innings out of the bullpen.  The sophomore from Montana struggled at times with his control issuing four walks, but he did manage to keep Texas off the scoreboard while also recording two strike outs in the process.  Gallagher has a spectacular 1.08 ERA over his first three relief appearances this season.  In 8 1/3 innings, he's allowed only three hits to go with ten strike outs and a sparkling .115 opposing batting average.

The third and final pitcher to see time on the hill Sunday was star freshman Jeremy Bleich.  Bleich earned his third save of the young season with 1 2/3 perfect innings in relief of Gallagher.  Bleich retired pinch-hitter Brett Lewis on an inning-ending double play in the eighth before a perfect 1-2-3 top of the ninth.  Bleich has yet to allow a run over nine innings (three hits, no walks, seven strike outs) this season.

Offensively, the Cardinal received two very big RBI hits to lead the way.  In the bottom of the third, a single and two walks loaded the bases for Taylor with two outs.  The Preseason All-American came through with the clutch hit when he smacked a double into right center field scoring all three runners for a 3-0 Stanford lead.  With his sacrifice fly later in the game and RBI on Monday, Taylor is co-leading the team with ten runs batted in (Minaker) through nine games played.

The other big hit came in the bottom of the fifth when Minaker connected for an RBI triple scoring August, who has earlier walked, giving Stanford a 4-1 lead.

Sunday was very significant for the Cardinal offense as they defeated one of the nations finest pitchers in Kyle McCulloch.  A Preseason First Team All-American and one of the aces of Team USA last summer, McCulloch was tagged for five runs (all earned) on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.  He struck out just two batters.

Texas      0 0 0  0 1 0  0 0 0   -   1   5   0
Stanford   0 0 3  0 2 0  0 0 X   -   5   8   1

WP: Nolan Gallagher (1-0)
LP: Kyle McCulloch (0-2)
S: Jeremy Bleich (3)

Another quality start from Greg Reynolds was wasted on Saturday in Stanford's 4-2 loss to the Longhorns.  Reynolds struck out six batters compared to just two walks over six innings.  But the junior right-hander left the contest trailing 3-2 after allowing a pair of runs on a two-out single in the first inning and a single tally on a wild pitch in the top of the fourth.  Reynolds labored slightly early in the game, but really found his groove over the middle frames striking out five batters over the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

Stanford could do very little against the pitching duo of Adrian Alaniz and Joey Parigi.  Alaniz allowed single runs in the first and second innings as the Cardinal tied the game at 2-2.  He would then allow just one more basehit (a Rapoport single) the remainder of his outing before being removed from the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

Parigi followed with 3 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the game.  The lefty only allowed one hit himself with no walks and a couple of strike outs.  He set down the Stanford hitters 1-2-3 in each of the eighth and ninth innings.

Erik Davis (2 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) and David Stringer (2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO) both pitched in relief for the Cardinal.  Stanford was out-hit by a 12-4 margin.

Texas      2 0 0  1 0 0  0 0 1   -   4  12   1
Stanford   1 1 0  0 0 0  0 0 0   -   2   4   0

WP: Adrian Alaniz (2-0)
LP: Greg Reynolds (0-1)
S: Joey Parigi (1)

* Stanford is now 5-1 this year against ranked opponents having swept CS Fullerton and taken two-of-three from Texas.  Both the Titans and Longhorns are currently ranked in the top ten (#9 and #7 respectively).  The Cardinal were unranked in Baseball America's Top 25 when the new poll was released Monday morning.

* The nine runs allowed by the Cardinal pitching staff on Monday was a season-high.  It didn't matter though with the 13-run, 14-hit offensive output from Stanford to record the series victory.

* Reynolds has now gone winless in his first three starts this season.  However, the ace starter still has an impressive 2.89 ERA to go with 18 strike outs and just two walks over 18 2/3 innings pitched.

* Stubbs had another big series against the Cardinal finishing 7-for-12 with a home run (solo shot on Monday) and three RBI.

* Stanford hitters struck out just 11 times in the three games this weekend - a remarkable number against one of the top pitching staffs in the country.  As a team, the Cardinal are only striking out 4.7 times per game (5.6 last year, 6.2 in 2004)

* Minaker had the top series of any Stanford hitter thanks to his huge Monday effort.  Overall, he went 5-for-11 with a home run and six RBI.  Taylor, Castro, and Hester also each recorded four hits over the weekend.

* August (.385, 5-for-13), Minaker (.286, 10-for-35), Castro (.267, 8-for-30), and Taylor (.258, 8-for-31) are the current team leaders in batting average through Monday.

* Minaker's five RBI on Monday was a career-high.

* Stanford concludes this season-opening homestand on Tuesday afternoon when the Nevada Wolf Pack come to town for a single game.  Nevada won both of their games over UNLV last weekend to improve their overall record to 3-5.  The Cardinal then travels to Fresno State for a three-game series beginning on Friday night.

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