Cardinal Fall To Bears; Top Spartans

Stanford concluded a stretch of five games in five days on Tuesday with a 6-2 victory over the San Jose State Spartans. A four-run bottom of the eighth inning for the Cardinal was the difference and a welcome sight after the California Golden Bears struck late in the contest on Monday for a come-from-behind win. The two decisions keep Stanford at .500 for the year with a conference series against the Bears on tap for this weekend.

Under sunny skies in Berkeley, the Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears got together for a single non-conference game Monday afternoon.  A game originally scheduled for March 5th, the contest was pushed back due to wet weather in the Bay Area.  The two clubs participated in a pair of exciting one-run affairs in that series in March with Cal taking the opener, 7-6, on an Austin Yount throwing error in the bottom of the ninth inning.  Stanford then responded with a 6-5, 11-inning win in the second game to even the series.  With two results like that, it was no surprise to see these two rivals lock up in another tight affair earlier this week.

Unfortunately for the Cardinal, they would come out on the wrong end of a 4-3 decision as the Bears moved ahead in the 2006 season-series.  The pivotal inning was the bottom of the seventh as California struck for three runs - thanks in large part to poor control from a trio of Stanford relievers - to take the lead for good.

Leading 3-1, Coach Marquess sent freshman right-hander Max Fearnow into the contest in place of starter Nolan Gallagher to start the frame.  Fearnow promptly surrendered a double to Jordan Karnofsky before walking #9 hitter Kyle Spraker to put runners on first and second.

Marquess quickly made another change as sophomore David Stringer was summoned into pitch.  After excelling as both a starter and a reliever during the first half of the season, Stringer has fallen on some hard times over the past couple of weeks.  Monday was no different as leadoff hitter Rob Nesbitt was walked on five pitches to load the bases.  Still searching for a reliever who could find success on this afternoon, Marquess then made another pitching change as Yount was brought into the contest.

The Evans Diamond struggles though would continue for Yount - this time with the freshman on the mound.  Yount promptly hit the dangerous Allen Craig with a pitch to force home a run before Chris Errecart blooped a single into left field scoring Spraker for a 3-3 tie. 

With the bases still loaded and nobody out, Yount then had to face potent left-handed bat Brennan Boesch.  One of the top power hitters in the conference, Boesch though didn't even have to swing the bat as he drew a five-pitch walk to force home Nesbitt with the third run of the frame.  That tally gave the Bears a 4-3 lead and it would end Yount's afternoon.

Marquess finally found someone who could record an out in that fateful bottom of the seventh as southpaw Sean Ratliff entered the game (surprisingly not a batter earlier to face Boesch) and promptly set down the next two hitters on a fielder's choice ground out and a double play to keep the margin at just one run.

Offensively, the Cardinal mustered nine hits against a quartet of California hurlers.  In the three middle frames, Stanford was able to push across their three runs, but it certainly could have been a lot more.

Randy Molina was thrown out at second base in the top of the fourth trying to move up an errant throw back into the infield.  The fifth saw Chris Minaker step to the plate with the bases loaded and one out only to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.  Then in the sixth, Jason Castro was thrown out at home trying to score on a John Hester double.

In the late innings, Stanford batters (Minaker and Molina) both grounded into double plays to end any sort of threat.  Trailing by the one run, the Cardinal put one baserunner on in the top of the ninth when Chris Lewis reached on a one-out error.  But Ryan Seawell took a called third strike and Joey August grounded out to end the contest.

It was an excellent afternoon on the mound for Gallagher as the sophomore right-hander earned his first start of the season after 14 relief appearances.  Gallagher had been struggling in recent weeks in his short-relief role, but showed what he can do when given the chance to work through a lineup more than once with his effort on Monday.

The Montana native labored through a first inning that saw California strike for one run on three hits.  Gallagher gave up a harmless single in the bottom of the second and then nothing else the remainder of his outing.  The second-year player did not allow a single hit in the final 4 1/3 innings of his start before he was removed from the game to start the bottom of the seventh.  All total, Gallagher walked two and struck out two in his six innings.  He was pulled after throwing 80 pitches as his season ERA dropped all the way down to 3.27.

Tuesday was a different story for the Cardinal, as this time, they were the team mounting a significant late-inning rally.  Facing the San Jose State Spartans, Stanford pushed across four runs in the bottom of the eighth to snap a 2-2 tie en route to a 6-2 victory. 

Seawell started the frame with a single before he was bunted to second by Lewis.  #9 hitter Brent Milleville then provided what proved to be the game-winning hit when he singled into right center field scoring Seawell for a 3-2 Cardinal advantage.

But Stanford wasn't done.  Pinch-hitter Brendan Domaracki followed with a walk before Jim Rapoport singled to load the bases.  Milleville would then come home on the Rapoport single on an errant throw from the outfield.  The rally was capped off when Minaker singled into center field scoring two more runners to make the score 6-2.

Ratliff was used for the second consecutive game out of the bullpen and the freshman lefty again dazzled.  The Colorado product worked the final 2 2/3 innings allowing only one hit and no runs.  He walked just one and struck out three in picking up his second victory of the season.  Certainly the performances from Ratliff in these last two games have caught the attention of the coaching staff and likely have made Ratliff the go-to lefty arm out of the bullpen with Jeremy Bleich now in the starting rotation.

Speaking of Bleich, the freshman made the start on the mound versus the Spartans.  After throwing just 64 pitches in his two-plus innings last Saturday against Arizona State, Bleich had an opportunity to get some work on Tuesday before the upcoming series versus California.  Against San Jose State, Bleich put forth a solid three-inning stint yielding just one run on three hits with a single strike out.  Blake Holler (2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 SO) and Yount (1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO) also saw time out of the bullpen before Ratliff entered the contest.

The hitting star was again the senior Minaker.  In addition to his big two-run single in the eighth, the shortstop blasted a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth.  It was Minaker's team-leading sixth round-tripper of the season and the first non-inside-the-park homer hit by a Stanford player since April 21st (Milleville, at Arizona).

Monday:
Stanford         0 0 0  1 0 2  0 0 0   -   3   9   1
California       1 0 0  0 0 0  3 0 X   -   4   6   2

WP: Nick Tess (3-0)
LP: David Stringer (2-4)
S: Jeremy Burchett (4)

Records: Stanford (19-20), California (22-22)


Tuesday:
San Jose State   1 0 0  0 1 0  0 0 0   -   2   5   2
Stanford         0 0 0  1 0 1  0 4 X   -   6   7   0

WP: Sean Ratliff (2-0)
LP: Brandon Hennessey (2-3)

Records: Stanford (20-20), San Jose State (30-18)


Notes:
* Over the two games, Ratliff fired 4 2/3 scoreless innings with just one hit allowed, one walk, and four strike outs.  For the season, Ratliff now owns a 6.52 ERA with a whopping 24 strike outs (compared to just seven walks) in 19 1/3 innings pitched.

* Stanford didn't commit an error in the field on Tuesday for the first time in 12 games.

* Minaker extended his hitting streak to ten games with his 2-for-4 performance against the Spartans.  He's batting .450 (20-for-44) during the streak.

* Stanford has now won seven consecutive games against San Jose State dating back to 2002.  The Cardinal swept the two-game season-series in 2006 (13-3 victory in San Jose on April 8th).

* On Monday, all nine starters had one hit for the Cardinal accounting for the nine total hits in the ballgame.

* Stanford grounded into five double plays over the two games.  For the season, the Cardinal have now grounded into 35 double plays compared to just 24 from their opponents.

* Stanford returns to action on Friday night when they open a three-game conference series versus California (23-22, 8-10).  First pitch at Sunken Diamond is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. with reigning Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week Greg Reynolds (4-3, 3.66 ERA) slated to start on the mound.

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