Tenth Inning Dooms Cardinal

The Stanford offense struggled Tuesday night at Sunken Diamond as they mustered just four hits through the first nine innings. Fantastic pitching though kept them in the contest and forced extra frames. Unfortunately, the top of the tenth wouldn't be so kind. The Santa Clara Broncos struck for five runs in the extra inning to notch a 6-1 victory over Stanford and send the Cardinal under .500 for the first time this year.

It was the theme of both losses last weekend at Arizona.  Stay close through most of the game and then come apart in a late inning as your opponent puts up a crooked number.  This formula led to a pair of losses on Saturday and Sunday in Tucson and then it happened again Tuesday night at Sunken Diamond versus the Santa Clara Broncos.

With the game tied, the Broncos erupted for five runs against a trio of Stanford hurlers in the top of the tenth for a 6-1, extra-inning victory.  Facing David Stringer, Eric Newton led off the frame with a sharp single through the middle.  After a strike out, Gabe Alcantar singled through the middle to move Newton over to third base.  #9 hitter Brady Fuerst was up next and the SCU shortstop came through with the biggest hit of the night when he smoked a double into the right center field gap scoring both runners.  The Broncos though were hardly content to stop there.

Freshman Sean Ratliff was then summoned into pitch and it wouldn't get any better for Stanford.  Pinch-hitter Ryan Conan singled to put runners on the corners before Matt Long lined to a single into right center plating Fuerst with the third run of the inning.  After a strike out, Coach Marquess brought in right-hander Erik Davis to face clean-up man, and right-handed bat, Dustin Realini.  But the matchup wouldn't go in Stanford's favor as on a 3-2 pitch, Realini lined a single into right field scoring two more Santa Clara runs.  When the dust had settled, the Broncos had a commanding 6-1 advantage and Stanford had just three outs to spare.

And much like the first nine innings in Tuesday's contest, Stanford would make very little use of those outs.  Jason Castro, Jim Rapoport, and Randy Molina went down 1-2-3 on three ground outs in the bottom of the tenth to finish the game.  All total, Stanford recorded just four hits in their ten innings.

Stanford has now lost three consecutive games while their overall record has fallen under .500 for the first time this season (17-18). 

The Cardinal's only run on Tuesday came in the bottom of the third when Molina singled with one out, was balked to second, and scored on John Hester's clutch two-out double into the left field corner.

Stanford's only other hits this evening were off the bat of Chris Minaker - a two-out double in the first and a one-out single in the ninth.  With the game tied at 1-1, the Cardinal had an opportunity in that bottom of the ninth thanks to Minaker's single and Chris Lewis' two-out, intentional walk.  But pinch-hitter Brendan Domaracki's hard ground ball up the middle was fielded cleanly by pitcher Jeff Lombard for the out.

Stanford's offense was retired 1-2-3 in six of their ten plate appearances. 

On the mound, Matt Leva came through with a spectacular performance in a starting role.  The junior right-hander went the first six innings yielding just one hit and no runs.  Making his second consecutive Tuesday start, Leva allowed just two baserunners during his stint on the mound - a two-out walk to Daniel Nava in the bottom of the first and a two-out single to Realini in the fifth.  Leva struck out four during his 78-pitch performance.

Over his last two starts, Leva has not allowed an earned run spanning 11 innings.  The Texas native has surrendered just five hits while his season ERA has dropped all the way down to 3.48.  His .214 opponents batting average is the lowest mark of any pitcher on the Cardinal staff.

Stanford surrendered a single run in the top of the seventh inning as Santa Clara tied the contest at 1-1.  Max Fearnow started the frame by allowing a double to Nava on a sharply hit ground ball down the right field line.  After a key strike out of Realini, Nava moved over to third base when Kris Watts grounded out to the right side of the infield.

Then with Newton at the plate, Fearnow fired a low breaking ball in the dirt that Newton actually offered at.  Unfortunately, Hester was unable to get his body in front of the ball as it bounced off of his equipment and rolled to the left side.  It was plenty far enough from the plate for Nava to score as Santa Clara moved into tie.  Fearnow did rebound to strikeout Newton moments later.

Nolan Gallagher needed just five pitches for a 1-2-3 eighth inning before Stringer put up a zero on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth.

SCU used four different pitchers Tuesday night with no hurler throwing more than three innings.  Lombard notched the win with scoreless ninth and tenth frames.

Santa Clara    0 0 0  0 0 0  1 0 0  5   -   6   9   1
Stanford       0 0 1  0 0 0  0 0 0  0   -   1   4   1

WP: Jeff Lombard (2-1)
LP: David Stringer (2-3)

Records: Stanford (17-18), Santa Clara (24-18)

* The Cardinal return to action this weekend when they welcome the 16th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils to Sunken Diamond for a three-game series.  The opener on Friday night is scheduled for a 6:00 P.M. first pitch.

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