Coming out of his freshman year, there was no ceiling too high for 6'3" RHP Nolan Gallagher. He was a presumptive weekend starter and ace for the Stanford staff. The Montana native instead found himself moved to the bullpen for middle relief and work on weekdays. The sophomore has made great strides on the mound this month, however, scattering four hits and a single run in six innings with his first 2006 start at Cal on May 1. Gallagher had the starting nod again for a May 9 start at Santa Clara, where he threw three scoreless innings.
The nasty righthander notched the longest performance of his college career last weekend, when he took the hill in the second inning after Matt Leva was touched for four runs in the first frame at Washington. Gallagher went seven innings in long relief, giving up one run and striking out five Huskies to tie his career high. The Stanford sophomore was today rewarded for his recent work with yet another big role in a road game. Gallagher started today against UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium for the second game of the Cardinal's final Pac-10 series.
More attention was paid to the Bruins' starter, JC transfer Dave Huff, who came into the game with a 6-2 record and 2.77 ERA, walking just 21 hitters in 107 1/3 innings against 90 strikeouts. It was Gallagher, however, who remained on the mound through the Los Angeles afternoon, going nine innings for his first career complete game and a 6-2 Stanford victory. The Stanford starter's previous complete career high of innings pitched was the seven frames he threw seven days ago in Seattle. Gallagher also struck out seven UCLA batters today, another new career high.
"Not bad," Gallagher responded afterward when asked about his arm. "I think it's the warm weather, and whenever you are victorious, it doesn't feel as bad."
Stanford had only one pitcher all year who threw a complete game, and that was junior RHP Greg Reynolds, who had tossed three straight nine-inning wins before losing in a down performance last night. As Gallagher prepared for today's ninth inning, he consulted with his teammate on what he needed to do.
"I talked to Reynolds about what he does in the ninth, and he said he tries to be as dirty as he can," the sophomore says. "That's what I tried to do - empty everything out there."
Gallagher did just that, retiring the side in the bottom of the ninth, including a pair of strikeouts. He threw just three balls against seven strikes.
Gallagher gave up just seven hits today, with two runs (only one earned) and one walk against his seven strikeouts. The performance raises his record to 4-3, while lowering his ERA to 2.52. In his last five outings, Gallagher has given up just four earned runs in 26 2/3 innings for a 1.35 ERA.
Meanwhile at the plate, it was another power surge for a Stanford squad that has mostly been meek at the plate in 2006. Owners of just 31 home runs through 50 games this year, the Cardinal started the week second to last in the conference in home runs. The good news for Stanford when they have swung the big stick this year as that they have been undefeated, 10-0, in games with two or more home runs. That held true today, with the Cardinal going deep three times. The trio of home runs drove in four of Stanford's six runs.
The first home run came from Stanford's best hitter, both for average and power. Senior Chris Minaker is the only Cardinal with double digit home runs this year, and he tagged his 11th in the top of the fourth inning to turn a 0-1 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Stanford never again trailed. Minaker drove in a third run when he next came to bat in the fifth inning, bringing Ryan Seawell home from third on infield grounder. The shortstop leads Stanford not just in home runs but also RBI (60) and batting average (.353) among regulars, continuing his superb senior season.
The next batter for Stanford in the fifth was sophomore Michael Taylor, who had his nine-game hitting streak snapped Friday night (0-for-4). He had recently picked up his hitting with a string of multi-hit games, but somewhat mysterious has been the absence of power for the 6'6" 250-pounder. On an 0-1 pitch in this at-bat, he connected for his third home run of the year and second in the last seven days. The solo shot extended Stanford's lead to 5-1. The Bruins picked up a single run in the bottom half of the inning, though it would be their last of the game.
The final run of the afternoon for Stanford came in the top of the eighth, when senior Chris Lewis lined a solo shot over the left field wall. It was the second hit and second run on an eventful day for Lewis. He singled to lead off the second inning but was then picked off first base. Lewis again reached first his next time to the plate, though this time on a UCLA fielding error when he grounded to the third baseman. The Stanford senior took advantage of his baserunning opportunity this time, advancing to second on a ground out and then coming around to score on a Randy Molina single. The eighth-inning home run was Lewis' sixth of the season, and he finished the day 2-for-4.
Stanford is now even with UCLA in their final Pac-10 series of 2006. A victory on Sunday would not only close the season with four straight conference series wins, but it would also raise the Cardinal's season Pac-10 record to .500 - both important metrics for Stanford's NCAA Tournament hopes. No Stanford starter has yet been announced, though we would expect freshman Jeremy Bleich (4-4, 3.45) to take the hill after his superb Sunday start last week in Seattle, when he threw a career-high seven innings in a 10-2 win over the Huskies.
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