Baseball Holds Off Trojans

The rain stayed away long enough in Los Angeles Friday night for the Stanford Cardinal to post a thrilling 7-6 victory over the host USC Trojans. Erik Davis escaped a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth while Chris Lewis provided the clutch two-out hit an inning earlier to put Stanford in front for good. Here is a complete game recap.

This year's Stanford Cardinal are certainly gaining experience in close games on the road during the young season.  Four of their first six games on this season-long eight-game roadtrip have been one-run affairs.  With Friday's 7-6 victory over the USC Trojans, Stanford has now won three of those contests as their overall record now sits at an impressive 11-5.

The series-opener at a windy and cool Dedeaux Friday certainly didn't lack for entertainment.  With the score tied at 5-5 and with USC holding onto all of the momentum, Stanford rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning to take the lead for good.  A leadoff walk to Michael Taylor and a one-out base on balls to Randy Molina set up the rally.  After Brendan Domaracki popped out, USC ace reliever John Dunn balked both Taylor and Molina to third and second base respectively. 

Second baseman Chris Lewis was at the plate and the senior continued his strongest offensive game of the year when he lined a 2-2 pitch into the left field corner for a double which easily scored both runners.  It was an impressive at-bat for Lewis as he quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 before taking a couple of balls and then getting a pitch he could handle and driving it down the left field line.  It was Lewis' third hit and second and third RBI as Stanford went ahead by a 7-5 score.

The bottom of the eighth inning saw lefty reliever Sean Ratliff work out of a huge jam to keep Stanford in front.  Fellow reliever Nolan Gallagher started the frame by allowing a single and a hit by pitch.  After striking out Hector Estrella, Gallagher was removed from the contest in favor of the southpaw Ratliff.  Leadoff hitter and left-handed bat Matt Cusick (with his .403 batting average) stepped to the plate and Ratliff induced the dangerous third baseman to ground a ball weakly to Cord Phelps for the second out.  With both runners now in scoring position, Ratliff remained calm striking out senior Blake Sharpe to maintain Stanford's 7-5 advantage.

After the Cardinal went down quietly in the ninth, USC and their Pac-10-leading offense went back to work in the bottom of the frame.  With one out, three consecutive singles against Ratliff loaded the bases.  Darin Vieira then stroked a line drive single into left field scoring one run to cut the Stanford lead in half.  With Ratliff all of a sudden on the ropes and a pair of right-handers due-up, Marquess again went to the bullpen summoning sophomore Erik Davis into the game.

Davis quickly went to work against J.J. Owen, a late-inning defensive replacement who was just 1-for-10 on the year.  With the tying run at third base and the potential winning run at second, Davis poured in two strikes to work ahead in the count.  Owen hung tough though as he took a couple of balls and fouled off a pair of pitches.  But on a 2-2 offering, Davis finally was able to retire the hitter as Owen popped out to shallow right center field with Taylor making the catch.  The fly ball wasn't nearly deep enough for the tying run to score, so the bases remained loaded.

Up next was the #9 hitter Estrella, one of the many experienced hitters in the USC lineup.  Davis again showed no signs of succumbing to the pressure as he quickly fired in a pair of strikes to run the count to 0-2.  After Estrella took ball one, the Trojan shortstop bounced the next pitch on a high hop to Chris Minaker.  The Stanford shortstop patiently waited for the ball and calmly flipped to Lewis covering the bag for the force out just ahead of the sliding runner to secure the Stanford victory.  It was Davis' first save of the season.

Jeremy Bleich was not available in the ninth inning after the freshman, who has already registered five saves on the year, was used in the bottom of the seventh.  In relief of starter Greg Reynolds, Bleich was on the hill with the Cardinal leading 5-2 and runners on at second and third.  With one out, #3 hitter Cyle Hankerd lifted a routine fly ball into right field.  The runner at third was preparing to tag-up and score, but it wouldn't be necessary as Taylor saw the baseball bounce off his glove and to the ground for an error.  The misplay made the score 5-3 with runners now on at second and third base.

Lucas Duda followed the costly error with a single into right field scoring another USC runner which forced a pitching change.  Gallagher came on and did a nice job to limit the damage although the first man he faced, Baron Frost, did produce a sacrifice fly to tie the contest at five apiece.

Reynolds finished the evening by allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits over six-plus innings.  The junior right-hander allowed a single run in the bottom of the first inning and then promptly put up four consecutive zeros as Stanford mounted a lead.  USC got to Reynolds for a run in the sixth before the Stanford ace was pulled after a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh.  Reynolds threw 92 pitches on the night.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal offense had an excellent evening against USC All-American Ian Kennedy.  The 2005 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, Kennedy entered tonight's start with a 2.29 ERA and a .203 opponents batting average.  Stanford though didn't seem impressed as they touched up the future first round draft pick for five runs (all earned) on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings.  Kennedy, USC's career leader in strikeouts per nine innings (11.9), was held to just two punchouts the entire evening.

Minaker got the Cardinal on the board in the top of the third inning when he stepped to the plate with runners at second and third and two outs.  The red-hot shortstop drove an 0-1 pitch from Kennedy into deep right center field for a double and a 2-1 Stanford lead.

In the fourth, Randy Molina started things with a one-out walk and eventually scored on a Lewis single.  Then in the seventh, Phelps singled with one out which was immediately followed by a Joey August two-run homer to deep right field.  It was August's first career home run and it knocked Kennedy out of the game.  The blast gave Stanford a 5-2 advantage.

Stanford     0 0 2  1 0 0  2 2 0   -   7  11   1
USC          1 0 0  0 0 1  3 0 1   -   6  13   1

Stanford           POS  AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Joey August         LF   4   2   2   2      0   0
 Ryan Seawell       LF   1   0   0   0      0   1
Jim Rapoport        CF   5   0   0   0      0   1
Chris Minaker       SS   5   0   2   2      0   0
Michael Taylor      RF   3   1   0   0      1   1
John Hester          C   3   0   1   0      0   0
Randy Molina        1B   2   1   1   0      2   0
 Jeff Whitlow       PR   0   1   0   0      0   0
 Jason Castro       1B   0   0   0   0      0   0
Rex Petrill         DH   0   0   0   0      0   0
 Brendan Domaracki PH/DH 4   0   1   0      0   0
Chris Lewis         2B   4   1   3   3      0   0
Cord Phelps         3B   3   1   1   0      0   1

2B: Minaker, Hester, Lewis
HR: August (1st)
CS: Minaker

                     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Greg Reynolds       6.0   7   3   3   4   4
Jeremy Bleich       0.1   1   2   1   1   0
Nolan Gallagher (W) 1.0   1   0   0   0   2
Sean Ratliff        1.0   4   1   1   0   1
Erik Davis (S)      0.2   0   0   0   0   0



USC                 POS  AB   R   H  RBI   BB  SO
Matt Cusick          3B   3   1   0   0     2   1
Blake Sharpe         2B   3   1   0   0     1   1
Cyle Hankerd         LF   4   1   2   1     0   0
Lucas Duda           1B   5   1   3   1     0   0
Baron Frost          DH   3   1   2   2     1   0
 Michael Torres      PR   0   0   0   0     0   0
Daniel Perales       RF   4   0   1   1     0   2
 Josh Fogel          PH   1   0   1   0     0   0
 Spencer Pabst       PR   0   0   0   0     0   0
Darin Vieira         CF   5   0   3   1     0   0
Johnny Bowden         C   2   0   0   0     0   2
 Kyle Degener        PH   1   0   0   0     0   0
 Sebastian Salinas    C   0   0   0   0     0   0
 Matt Underwood      PH   0   0   0   0     0   0
 Garrett Gipe        PR   0   0   0   0     0   0
 J.J. Owen            C   1   0   0   0     0   0
Hector Estrella      SS   4   1   1   0     1   1

2B: Perales, Estrella

                     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Ian Kennedy         6.1   9   5   5   1   2
John Dunn (L)       1.2   2   2   2   2   1
Shawn Olsen         1.0   0   0   0   0   1


WP: Nolan Gallagher (2-0)
LP: John Dunn (1-1)
S: Erik Davis (1)

Records: #16 Stanford (11-5), USC (10-10)


Notes:
* Minaker extended his hitting streak to nine games with his 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI performance at the plate.  Minaker is hitting .382 to lead the team.

* August continued his impressive hitting at the top of the lineup with two more basehits including the round-tripper.  The home run was the first Kennedy had allowed this season in 41 2/3 innings.

* Molina earned the start at first base - his first of the season.  The sophomore went 1-for-2 with a single and two walks.

* Stanford is now 5-2 in one-run games this season.  The Cardinal are 4-2 on the current road trip.

* The three hits for Lewis tied a career-high.

* The Cardinal and Trojans continue this three-game series on Saturday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 P.M.  Matt Manship (0-1, 3.97 ERA) is slated to start on the mound for Stanford while USC is expected to counter with right-hander Ryan Cook (0-2, 7.20 ERA).

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