Card Split Two Midweek Games

After getting swept at Oregon State last weekend, the Cardinal returned to Sunken Diamond for a pair of midweek, non-conference affairs. Monday saw Stanford's losing streak reach four games after falling to San Francisco. However, the Cardinal bats erupted on Tuesday in a 12-5 victory over the Sacramento State Hornets. Stanford scored early and often in the win as they managed to move their record back over .500.

In desperate need of a victory, the Stanford Cardinal pounded the Sacramento State Hornets, 12-5, on Tuesday evening at Sunken Diamond.  The Cardinal offense produced nine runs in the first three innings before cruising to the victory.  The win snapped a season-high tying four-game losing streak and improved Stanford's overall record to 16-15.

The Cardinal have often struggled offensively during the first half of the 2006 campaign.  Both veterans and freshmen alike have suffered through bouts of inconsistency and deep slumps.  Stanford may have reached rock bottom last weekend in Corvallis when the Cardinal mustered just one run total in three games en route to getting swept.  Stanford had a better showing Monday evening in their game versus San Francisco (more on that later), but finally managed to break through on Tuesday.

Facing a Sacramento State ballclub that entered the contest with a subpar 17-22 overall record (6-6 in the WAC), the Cardinal knocked around a pair of Hornets pitchers to the tune of nine runs on ten hits in the first three frames.

Ryan Seawell continues to see much more playing time - primarily in center field for the struggling Jim Rapoport.  In both non-conference games this week, the junior has been inserted into the leadoff spot in the lineup.  After reaching base safely four times on Monday (two singles, a walk, and an HBP), Seawell was right in the thick of things during Tuesday's opening three innings.  A single in the bottom of the first inning started a four-run rally.  A hit by pitch with one out in the bottom of the second jump-started a three-run inning.  Then in the third, Seawell came through with a single which eventually led to another run.  Seawell may not be the prototypical leadoff batter (contact hitter with above-average speed), but you certainly can't argue with the results of the last two nights.

In the first inning versus the Hornets, a single from #2 hitter Joey August put a pair of runners on before Chris Minaker belted a double to deep left center field scoring two.  Later in the frame, Chris Lewis continued to swing a hot bat when he delivered a clutch, two-out, two-run double to left center.

Stanford plated three more runs in the second when three consecutive singles from Seawell, August, and Minaker produced a score.  Then two batters later, John Hester ripped a double down the left field line scoring two more Cardinal runs.

Stanford's early outburst continued in the bottom of the third when Lewis led off with a double high off the fence in left center field.  After Brent Milleville lined a single to center, Cord Phelps scored Lewis with a sacrifice fly.  Milleville eventually scored when Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.  When the dust had settled, the Cardinal found themselves with a commanding 9-1 lead through three innings.

Matt Leva, who was making his first appearance since March 26th (Washington State series), earned the start against Sacramento State.  The junior began the year in the Sunday slot of the starting rotation before eventually moving to the bullpen.  On Tuesday, Leva was certainly on his game.

During a 73-pitch outing, Leva allowed only four hits and one unearned run in five innings.  He walked just one and struck out four.  Sac State's lone tally versus the Texas native came in the top of first inning when a two-base error from Joey August on a single led to a run.  Leva didn't allow more than one baserunner in any of his five innings en route to recording his second victory of the season.

Blake Holler, Austin Yount, and Erik Davis all saw action out of the bullpen for the Cardinal.  It's been a difficult year for Holler who was seeing his first game action since March 11th (at USC).  In that outing, the junior lefty was tagged for six runs in just two innings as part of Stanford's 16-7 loss. 

Holler started strong against the Hornets with a 1-2-3 sixth inning before allowing a run in the seventh and two more scores in the eighth.  All total, he allowed four hits and was eventually removed from the contest with a runner on and two outs in the top of the eighth inning.  Yount (2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER) and Davis (2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R) combined to finish the game for the Cardinal.

Stanford scored their final three runs of the night in the bottom of the eighth on the strength of five straight basehits.  A double to deep left center from Minaker started things before singles off the bats of Taylor, Hester, Jason Castro, and Lewis led to the runs.  All total, the Cardinal finished the evening with 15 hits.

Monday was a different story for the home team as Stanford ran into a hot San Francisco club.  The Dons, now at 24-15, exploded in the late innings to recover from a 3-1 deficit.  Three runs in the sixth followed by two more in the seventh, one in the eighth, and two in the ninth vaulted USF to a 9-4 victory at Sunken Diamond.

All the runs came against the Cardinal bullpen as relievers Nolan Gallagher (2/3 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB), Davis (1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO), and Sean Ratliff (3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO) had evenings to forget.  The damaging sixth inning was started by Gallagher and finished by Davis.

Meanwhile, Ratliff showcased excellent pure stuff before the Dons eventually got to him in the top of the ninth.  The freshman did punch out four batters during his stint on the mound.

Perhaps lost in Monday's defeat was the stellar starting appearance from Max Fearnow.  The freshman, who continues to see extended time on the mound of late, fired 4 1/3 quality innings in his first career start.  The Omaha product allowed a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning and then nothing after.  He was pulled after throwing 62 pitches with just three hits on the board, one walk, and three strike outs.  Without a doubt, the improvement of Fearnow since the beginning of the season has been impressive and has given Coach Marquess another capable arm to turn to out of the bullpen during weekend affairs.

Offensively, the Cardinal rapped out nine hits on Monday, but a pair of double plays and ten total runners left on base prevented any big innings.  Castro returned to the lineup after an illness prevented him from making the trip up to Corvallis.  In fact, with Hester catching all three games against the Beavers in a series that ended the previous afternoon, Castro was given the opportunity to start at the backstop position.  He delivered a fine game behind the dish while also providing two hits in four at-bats at the plate.

Other multi-hit games versus the Dons came from Seawell (2-for-3, RBI) and Lewis (2-for-4, 2B, RBI).  The 3-4 combo of Minaker and Taylor though went hitless in a combined nine at-bats.

San Francisco    1 0 0  0 0 3  2 1 2   -   9  11   2
Stanford         0 1 0  0 2 0  0 1 0   -   4   9   3

WP: Cole Stipovich (1-1)
LP: Nolan Gallagher (2-3)
S: John Quine (3)

Sacramento St.   1 0 0  0 0 0  1 2 1   -   5  11   1
Stanford         4 3 2  0 0 0  0 3 X   -  12  15   2

WP: Matt Leva (2-0)
LP: Travis Kane (2-4)

* Seniors Minaker (3-for-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI) and Lewis (3-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI) both provided three-hit, two-double, three-RBI games against the Hornets.  Minaker (.331) now trails just Randy Molina (.340) for the top batting average on the club.  Meanwhile, Lewis has seen his average climb to .269.  The third baseman hit .266 as a junior in '05.

* Other impressive hitting performances on Tuesday came from Seawell (2-for-5), August (2-for-3), and Hester (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI).  Taylor also finished with a pair of RBI.

* The Stanford defense struggled during these two games committing a combined five errors.

* The Cardinal started four freshmen (LF August, 1B Castro, DH Milleville, and 2B Phelps) during the Sacramento State game.

* Stanford returns to action this weekend with a three-game series at Arizona (15-19 overall, 3-6 Pac-10).  Friday's contest is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. (PDT), Saturday's at 6:00 P.M., and Sunday's finale at 12:00 P.M.  The Cardinal have announced Greg Reynolds (Fri.), Jeremy Bleich (Sat.), and Matt Manship (Sun.) as the three starting pitchers.

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