Baseball Loses Series To USC

For the first time in ten years, the Cardinal have lost the season-series to the USC Trojans. After a spirited come-from-behind victory in the opener last weekend, the Stanford offense managed just three runs in the final two games - both losses. The Cardinal have seen their overall record fall closer to the .500 mark while they now sit at just 2-4 in Pac-10 play. Here is a complete series recap.

The Cardinal have officially dug themselves into a hole when it comes to contending in the Pac-10 Conference this year.  After dropping two-of-three games to upstart Washington State last weekend, Stanford managed just one victory in three attempts versus rival USC this past weekend.  That puts the Cardinal with a less-than-impressive 2-4 mark in conference play with all six of those games coming at the friendly confines of Sunken Diamond.  Meanwhile, their overall record is inching dangerously close to the .500 mark as it currently resides at 13-11 heading into this week's action.

Stanford and USC got together for a doubleheader on Saturday at Sunken Diamond after Friday's scheduled series-opener was postponed due to rain.  The opener of the twinbill was, without a doubt, one of the most exciting and encouraging efforts put forth by the Cardinal during the first half of the season.  In a game expected to be low-scoring with Greg Reynolds and Ian Kennedy on the mound, it eventually became a shootout with both clubs exploding in the middle innings.

Reynolds breezed through the first four frames allowing just one baserunner - a Matt Cusick solo home run - as he held onto a slim 2-1 advantage.  The Trojans though would get to the Stanford ace in the fifth and sixth innings to take a lead that looked as if it would be insurmountable.  A walk, a hit by pitch, a passed ball, and a ground out produced the tying run in the top of the fifth.  Then a clutch two-out RBI single from Hector Estrella brought home the go-ahead run.  The bleeding would not stop there for Reynolds though as Cusick followed with an RBI triple.  Then Blake Sharpe singled home Cusick.  An inning that started with what appeared to be a harmless one-out walk, all of a sudden became four runs up on the scoreboard and a 5-2 USC lead.

The top of the sixth would be more of the same for Reynolds.  Again a one-out walk started the rally.  After Darin Vieira singled to put a pair of runners on, Lucas Duda smacked a triple scoring two more runs for a 7-2 cushion.  That ended Reynolds' afternoon as the junior was officially tagged for seven runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.  A very surprising final result considering how strong he threw in the first four frames.

But for the second time this year, the Cardinal bats would have a good deal of success against the All-American Kennedy.  Trailing by that 7-2 margin, Chris Lewis brought home a run in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out RBI single.  Lewis would then play a huge role in the decisive seventh inning with yet another clutch two-out, run-scoring hit.

Three singles from Jim Rapoport, Michael Taylor, and Randy Molina produced the first tally of the inning.  John Hester then singled up the middle to score another run cutting the deficit down to 7-5.  Then with two outs and two runners on, USC elected to bring in their standout closer, Paul Koss, into pitch.  The first man he faced was Lewis and the senior third baseman got ahold of an 0-1 pitch and drove it over the fence in left field for arguably the biggest hit of the season thus far for the Cardinal.  The three-run blast gave Stanford an 8-7 lead as the club battled all the way back from their five-run hole.

Stanford added another run later in the seventh for some insurance before freshman Jeremy Bleich fired two no-hit innings to finish the contest.  For Bleich, it was his seventh save of the season.

The Stanford bats remained hot in the nightcap, but the team was unable to come through with the clutch hit which would have led to the victory.  The 3-2, 12 inning loss saw the Cardinal score both of their runs in the bottom of the first inning.  A pair of RBI doubles from Chris Minaker and Hester did the damage against SC starting pitcher Tommy Milone.  Stanford would finish the evening with 12 hits, but left 14 runners on base including the bases loaded in the 11th and 12th innings.

David Stringer made the start and threw well scattering nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.  The sophomore right-hander was charged with just two runs as he managed to not walk a single hitter to go with five strike outs.  Only one pitcher was used out of the bullpen during Saturday's second game and the performance put forth by Nolan Gallagher may have been the best of his career.

The sophomore allowed just two hits in 6 1/3 innings - a remarkable feat considering he was going up against the top offense in the Pac-10.  Gallagher managed to put up zeros on the scoreboard in the high-pressure seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and 11th innings with the game tied.  It took an unearned run against the Montana native in the top of the 12th to send USC to victory.

Cyle Hankerd led off that final inning with a routine fly ball to deep right field.  Taylor drifted back, but the ball bounce directly off of his glove and fell to the ground.  The costly error, which was the second time Taylor had dropped a routine fly ball in the last month, put Hankerd on second base with none out.  After a sacrifice bunt was sandwiched in between a pair of intentional walks, pinch-hitter Josh Fogel brought home the go-ahead run with a groundball to Minaker at shortstop.  The ball was not hit hard at all, but was perfectly placed at deep shortstop which gave Minaker only one option for recording an out on the play (a force out at third base).  Minaker made that out, but Hankerd easily scored and USC took the lead.

Saturday's nightcap was no doubt a frustrating result for the Cardinal after they had so many chances to win the game in the late innings.  In the bottom of the ninth, Stanford put a runner on second base and one out.  But a Brendan Domaracki pop out and a Joey August strike out forced extra frames.

In the 11th, Stanford loaded the bases with two outs on a single, an error, and a hit by pitch.  Again, it was August stepping to the plate with a chance to win the game of the Cardinal.  The freshman worked the count full, but then went out of the zone to chase a high fastball for strike three.  Instead of a game-winning walk, it was yet another inning to be played.

Stanford again threatened in the 12th, now needing one run to keep the game moving.  A walk, a Taylor double, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out.  Needing now just a sacrifice fly to tie the game - or a basehit to potentially win the game - it was not to be for the Cardinal.  Pinch-hitter Austin Yount popped out to shallow right field while Lewis grounded out weakly to second base on the first pitch of the at-bat to send Stanford to a frustrating 3-2 defeat.

Needing a win on Sunday to claim an important series victory, the Cardinal bats went quiet.  Stanford mustered just four hits in a disheartening 6-1 loss to the Trojans.  The lone run was scored in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jason Castro led off with a double and eventually came home on a Cord Phelps double play ground out.

Stanford went down 1-2-3 in four of their at-bats on Sunday.  The Cardinal also hit into a season-high three double plays which resulted in Stanford leaving just one runner on base throughout the entire game.  On the rare occasion that the Cardinal hit a ball hard, it generally found the glove of a USC defender.

Matt Manship threw well in the loss allowing just two earned runs (three total) on seven hits over six innings.  He left the game trailing by a 3-1 score to start the seventh inning.  USC broke the game open in the top of the eighth when they touched up Sean Ratliff for three runs.

USC        0 0 0  1 4 2  0 0 0   -   7   7   0
Stanford   2 0 0  0 0 1  6 0 X   -   9  15   0

WP: Max Fearnow (1-0)
LP: Paul Koss (0-3)
S: Jeremy Bleich (7)

Saturday (Game Two):
USC        1 0 0  1 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 1   -   3  11   1
Stanford   2 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 0   -   2  12   1

WP: John Dunn (3-1)
LP: Nolan Gallagher (2-2)

USC        0 0 2  1 0 0  0 3 0   -   6  11   0
Stanford   0 0 0  0 0 1  0 0 0   -   1   4   1

WP: Ryan Cook (3-3)
LP: Matt Manship (1-3)

Records: Stanford (13-11, 2-4), USC (17-13, 4-2)

* The 15 hits recorded by the Cardinal in the series-opener was a season-high.  August (3-for-5), Rapoport (3-for-5, RBI), Lewis (3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI), and Molina (2-for-5, RBI) led the offensive attack.

* Minaker blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning on Saturday afternoon against Kennedy to give Stanford an early 2-0 lead.  For Minaker, it was his team-leading fourth home run of the season.  He hit just three all of last year.

* Fearnow recorded his first collegiate victory in the opener on Saturday.  The freshman right-hander fired a scoreless top of the seventh inning before giving way to Bleich to begin the eighth.

* Stanford committed just one error during the doubleheader.  Unfortunately, that one miscue (the Taylor dropped fly ball) resulted in the game-winning run for the Trojans in the nightcap.

* Gallagher's 6 1/3 innings was a career-high.  He allowed just one unearned run, walked six (three intentional), and struck out four.  Gallagher's season ERA of 1.66 (4 ER/21.2 IP) is the lowest on the staff.

* Stanford left the bases loaded in three innings during the Saturday nightcap.  They also grounded into a pair of inning-ending double plays with runners in scoring position.

* Top offensive players on Saturday night were Molina (3-for-5), Taylor (2-for-6, 2 2B), Hester (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), and Lewis (2-for-6).

* USC's Ryan Cook put forth the best outing of his young career on Sunday.  The freshman right-hander fired 8 1/3 innings with just four hits allowed, three walks, and four strike outs.

* The only hits on Sunday came from Molina (single in the 2nd), Castro (double in the 6th), Lewis (single in the 6th), and Domaracki (pinch-hit single in the 9th).

* Stanford lost the season-series (4-2) to USC for the first time since 1996.

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