Cardinal Can't Stop USC Offense

For the first time this season, the Stanford Cardinal were blown out in a game. The potent USC offense produced 20 hits on Saturday afternoon en route to a convincing 16-7 victory. A quartet of Stanford pitchers struggled on the mound as the Trojans scored six runs in the bottom of the second and never looked back. The rubber game of the series is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.

USC showed off their Pac-10 leading offense on Saturday afternoon blasting four Cardinal pitchers en route to a convincing 16-7 victory.  With nearly every key hitter returning from a 2005 club that finished just one win shy of the College World Series, it's been no surprise to see the Trojans offense put up some big numbers this early-season.  On Saturday at Dedeaux Field, the Stanford Cardinal became their newest victims.

The key inning for USC came in the bottom of the second when they scored six runs against Matt Manship to knock the Cardinal starting pitcher out of the game.  Trailing 1-0, Baron Frost started the rally with a single.  Manship then endured some tough luck when the next man up, Darin Vieira, executed a perfect hit-and-run when he bounced a single through the left side - where shortstop Chris Minaker would have been standing had he not been covering the bag - to put runners on first and second.

Expecting a bunt then with Daniel Perales at the plate, Stanford put on a defensive play where Minaker raced to the second base bag to keep Frost close.  That left the entire left side of the infield open (which wouldn't matter if Perales were bunting).  Unfortunately, USC head coach Mike Gillespie has no intentions of putting on any sort of bunt play.  And the coaching decision opened the door for the huge inning.

Perales chopped a ground ball right to where Minaker would have been standing at shortstop for what could have been a double play.  Instead, it rolled out into left field and all of a sudden, USC had the bases loaded with none out.

A ground out off the bat of the next hitter, Hector Estrella, scored the tying run.  Then USC started to unload.  #9 hitter Johnny Bowden smoked a double into the left field corner to score both Vieira and Perales for a 3-1 Trojans lead.  After a walk and a fly out, Cyle Hankerd delivered the damaging blow when he grounded a ball down the left field line for a two-out, two-run double and a 5-1 USC lead.  With the floodgates now open, Manship was removed from the game in favor of little-used freshman Max Fearnow.  The Omaha native, who was making just his second career appearance, promptly gave up and RBI single to Lucas Duda for the sixth and final run of the frame.

USC wouldn't stop there as they pounded Fearnow and Blake Holler over the middle innings to extend their lead.  In the bottom of the fourth, Blake Sharpe, on a hit-and-run, lined a triple into the right center field gap off of Fearnow to score a run.  Sharpe later scored on a Duda sacrifice fly.

The bottom of the fifth brought Holler into the game and it would be a forgetful outing for the junior southpaw.  USC tagged Holler for a pair of runs in the fifth as Bowden came through with another RBI double before eventually scoring on a Sharpe two-out single.  Then the sixth inning saw the Trojans plate four runs against the struggling lefty to take a commanding 14-3 lead.  Perales, who went a perfect 5-for-5 on the afternoon, clubbed a double to score two runs.  Then it was Bowden coming through with a two-out, two-run single to extend the lead further.  The freshman catcher ended the day 3-for-4 with five RBI.

For Holler, it was an afternoon that saw him surrender a whopping six runs (all earned) on seven hits over two innings.

Stanford finished their day with 14 hits which tied a season-high.  The fact they still lost the game by nine runs speaks to how dominant and impressive the USC offense was.

Sophomore Randy Molina earned his second consecutive start at first base and came through with the best game of his young career.  Molina, a highly touted recruit out of Southern California, saw only six at-bats during the entire 2005 season.  Now receiving regular playing time for the first time on the Farm, the infielder is providing a big lift to the offense.

On Saturday, Molina went 4-for-4 with a double, three singles, and an RBI.  He was right in the middle of Stanford scoring rallies in the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh innings (the Cardinal scored single runs in each frame).  While Stanford did not lack for baserunners this afternoon, they often failed to capitalize and produce any sort of big inning.  The Cardinal put the leadoff runner on base in the second through the eighth innings and also benefited from six USC walks (in addition to the 14 hits).

In the top of the ninth, a lineup filled with reserves plated three runs on four hits.  Three consecutive two-out singles from Brent Milleville, J.J. Jelmini, and Grant Escue each scored runs.  For Jelmini and Escue, it marked their first career hits (it was Escue's first ever at-bat).  Sophomore back-up catcher Brian Juhl doubled earlier in the inning to start the rally.

Stanford    0 1 0  1 0 1  1 0 3   -   7  14   0
USC         0 6 0  2 2 4  0 2 X   -  16  20   1

Stanford          POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Joey August        LF    3   0   0   0      1   1
 Ryan Seawell     PH/LF  2   0   0   0      0   1
Jim Rapoport       CF    3   0   1   0      2   0
Chris Minaker      SS    4   0   1   0      0   0
 Austin Yount      PH    1   0   0   0      0   0
Michael Taylor     RF    3   1   1   0      0   0
 Brian Juhl        PH    1   1   1   0      0   0
John Hester         C    3   2   2   0      1   0
 Jason Castro       C    0   1   0   0      1   0
Greg Reynolds      1B    0   0   0   0      0   0
 Randy Molina      1B    4   1   4   1      0   0
 Sean Ratliff      PH    1   0   0   0      0   1
Rex Petrill        DH    0   0   0   0      0   0
 Brendan Domaracki PH/DH 3   0   0   0      0   0
 Brent Milleville PH/DH  2   1   1   1      0   0
Chris Lewis        2B    3   0   0   1      0   1
 J.J. Jelmini     PH/2B  1   0   1   1      1   0
Cord Phelps        3B    4   0   1   2      0   1
 Grant Escue       PH    1   0   1   1      0   0

2B: Rapoport, Juhl, Molina

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Matt Manship (L)  1.2   6   6   6   1   0
Max Fearnow       2.1   5   2   2   0   2
Blake Holler      2.0   7   6   6   1   1
Matt Leva         2.0   2   2   2   0   3

USC               POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Matt Cusick        3B    4   2   2   0      1   0
Blake Sharpe      2B/SS  5   1   2   2      0   0
Cyle Hankerd       LF    5   1   1   2      0   1
Lucas Duda         1B    4   1   2   2      0   1
Baron Frost        DH    4   3   3   0      1   0
Darin Vieira       CF    5   2   2   0      0   1
Daniel Perales     RF    5   4   5   4      0   0
Hector Estrella    SS    4   0   0   1      0   1
 Garrett Gipe      PH    1   0   0   0      0   0
 Michael Torres    2B    0   0   0   0      0   0
Johnny Bowden       C    4   2   3   5      0   1
 Sabastian Salinas PH/C  1   0   0   0      0   1

2B: Perales 2, Bowden 2, Hankerd
3B: Sharpe
HR: Perales

                    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Ryan Cook (W)      5.2   8   3   2   2   1
Shawn Olsen        1.1   1   1   1   2   1
Kevin Zelenay      1.1   1   0   0   1   1
Ryan Schlack       1.0   4   3   3   1   2

WP: Ryan Cook (1-2)
LP: Matt Manship (0-2)

Records: #16 Stanford (11-6), USC (11-10)

* All 16 runs allowed by the Cardinal pitching staff this afternoon were earned.  The rough game resulted in their ERA jumping from 3.47 to 4.23.

* Matt Leva made his first relief appearance of the season today after four starts (5.06 ERA in 16 IP).  Leva worked a perfect bottom of the seventh before allowing a two-run homer to Perales in the eighth.

* Holler saw his ERA balloon up to 8.71 (10 ER/10.1 IP) after his difficult two-inning stint.  Opponents are now batting .396 (21-for-53) against him this year.

* Molina's perfect afternoon improved his batting average to .583 (7-for-12) on the season.  He's also drawn five walks resulting in a .706 on-base percentage (12-for-17).

* Senior catcher John Hester also produced a multi-hit game at the plate when he finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and a walk.

* Minaker (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to ten games with a first-inning single.  Freshman Cord Phelps (1-for-4) has also hit safely in six consecutive contests.

* Stanford has now recorded seven straight double-digit hit games.  They're currently 4-3 on this season-long eight-game roadtrip.

* This was only the second time this season (in 17 games) that the Cardinal have lost by more than two runs (8-2 defeat versus Kansas on February 10th).

* The Cardinal and Trojans will play the rubber game of this three-game series on Sunday afternoon.  First pitch at Dedeaux Field is scheduled for 1:00 P.M.  Left-hander Tommy Milone (4-0, 4.50 ERA) is slated to start on the mound for USC while Stanford has yet to officially announce a starting pitcher.  However, with Leva seeing time in relief this afternoon, it's expected that sophomore David Stringer (2-1, 1.46 ERA) will get the call.  It would be Stringer's first weekend start of his collegiate career.

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