Sloppy Defense Dooms Stanford

Defensive struggles continue to plague the Cardinal. On Friday, Stanford committed three late-inning errors resulting in six unearned runs as USC mustered an 11-8 series-opening victory at Sunken Diamond. Offensively, Stanford rapped out 14 hits, but it wasn't enough to overcome the miscues in the field. Here is a complete game recap.

The Stanford Cardinal should be kicking themselves right now after Friday's difficult loss to the 20th ranked USC Trojans.  Four errors - three of which were critical miscues in the late innings - led to six unearned runs for the Trojans as the visitors posted an 11-8 victory in the opener of the non-conference, three-game series.  To credit USC, the Trojan bats did post 21 hits while relievers Hector Rabago and Paul Koss coming up with some big pitches in the final two innings to keep Stanford behind.

With the score 5-3 USC, the Cardinal defense began to falter in the top of the seventh.  Facing relief pitcher Tom Stilson, Lucas Duda singled with one out to put a runner on base.  Michael Torres was up next and he grounded a ball to second base that appeared ticketed for a double play.  Adam Sorgi, who was making just his second start of the year in the field, made a nice play to glove the ball, but his soft throw to shortstop Cord Phelps was high, pulling his teammate off the bag and everyone was safe.  Like last Sunday, Sorgi made a number of excellent fielding plays this evening, but continues to struggle throwing the ball - certainly no surprise considering he's recovering from labrum surgery.

Still, the miscue would prove costly as Robert Stock followed with a single to load the bases setting the table for Hector Estrella.  Needing a strikeout, pop-out, or double play ground ball, Stilson managed to get Estrella to pop-up.  The fly ball sailed behind home plate, but was dropped by the running Brian Juhl for another error.  And Estrella would make the Cardinal pay when he then lofted a ball to deep center field for a sacrifice fly and a 6-3 USC lead.

Stanford though would battle back.  In the bottom of the seventh, Sorgi led off by reaching on an error and then Sean Ratliff took a pitch from Rabago and smacked a high fly ball over the fence in left field for a two-run homer.  The impressive swing of the bat for Ratliff, who went opposite field for the longball, was his second homer of the year.

Two batters later, Michael Taylor stepped to the plate and belted a pitch over the wall in center field - just to the left of the batters eye - for a mammoth solo homer and just like that, Stanford had tied the score at 6-6.

The Cardinal, however, would never enjoy a lead tonight.  In the eighth, it was again poor defense that set-up USC as they came through with their biggest inning of the night.

Stilson went back out to begin the frame, but allowed a single to leadoff hitter Nick Buss to put a runner on at first.  A pitching change brought David Stringer into the game, but the ace reliever surrendered a single to Grant Green as the wheels started to turn for the Trojans.  The dangerous Matt Cusick was then retired on a fly ball bringing #4 hitter J.J. Owen to the plate in perhaps what was the biggest at-bat of the night.

With runners on first and second and one out, Owen hit a sharp ground ball to Phelps at shortstop.  Off the bat, it was about as perfect a double play that Stanford could have asked for.  Instead, the ball bounced off of Phelps' glove and rolled away resulting in Stanford's fourth error of the night. 

Then with the bases loaded (instead of the inning being over), Duda brought home the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.  Torres followed with a bloop double down the left field line scoring two more for a 9-6 USC lead.  Then another bloop hit to left- this time a single from Stock - drove home another run.  After a single by Estrella, Roberto Lopez completed the scoring with a clean single up the middle and just like that, the Trojans were up 11-6.

Stanford managed a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth on a Grant Escue RBI double and a sacrifice fly from Michael Taylor, but the Cardinal left one runner on base as the inning ended.  Then in the ninth, while facing Pac-10 save leader Paul Koss, Stanford got a leadoff walk to Juhl, but the next three hitters were set down in order ending the marathon contest.

Jeffrey Inman, after throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings last Friday versus California, struggled tonight.  The freshman was tagged for five runs (all earned) on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings this evening.  Inman fanned nine batters last week against the Bears, but managed just one punchout during his entire stint on the mound tonight. 

A Stanford rally was prematurely cut short in the bottom of the fourth resulting in an ejection.  The Cardinal scored two runs in the frame to cut the USC lead down to 5-3 and had the bases loaded with two outs and DH Brendan Domaracki at the plate.  On a 1-2 pitch, Domaracki checked his swing on a high fastball and was promptly rung up by home plate umpire Steve Mattingly for strike three.  Domaracki barely even started his swing and it seemed clear to everyone in the ballpark that the pitch should have been called a ball.  In addition to the strike three call, what probably also frustrated Domaracki was that Mattingly didn't even bother with an appeal to the third base umpire.

After the call, Domaracki argued with Mattingly and was quickly thrown out of the game.  Mark Marquess argued the call at length, but to no avail. 


USC         0 2 0  3 0 0  1 5 0   -   11  21   2
Stanford    0 1 0  2 0 0  3 2 0   -    8  14   4

USC               POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Nick Buss          CF   6   2   3   1    0   1
Grant Green        SS   5   1   3   1    1   1
Matt Cusick        2B   5   0   1   0    1   0
 Paul Koss          P   0   0   0   0    0   0
J.J. Owen          1B   5   0   1   0    0   1
 Will Rice        PR/LF 1   1   0   0    0   1
Lucas Duda         DH   4   1   2   1    1   0
 Hector Rabago     P/3B 0   0   0   0    0   0
Michael Torres    RF/LF 5   3   4   2    0   0
 Derek Perren      1B   1   0   0   0    0   0
Robert Stock        C   5   2   3   1    0   0
Hector Estrella   3B/2B 4   0   2   2    0   0
Mike O'Neill       LF   2   1   1   1    0   0
 Roberto Lopez    PH/RF 3   0   1   1    0   0

E: Torres, Cook
2B: Green, Cusick, Torres, O'Neill
3B: Green
SB: Green, Owen, Torres
CS: Buss

                      IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Ryan Cook            6.1   8   5   3   2   3
Hector Rabago (W)    1.2   6   3   3   0   1
Paul Koss (S)        1.0   0   0   0   1   1

Stanford          POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO   AVG
Sean Ratliff       CF   4   1   2   2    1   0  .333
Brendan Domaracki  DH   3   0   1   0    0   1  .276
 Grant Escue       DH   2   0   1   1    0   0  .286
Michael Taylor     RF   4   1   1   2    0   1  .250
Joey August        LF   5   2   3   0    0   1  .324
Brian Juhl          C   3   1   1   0    2   0  .333
Brent Milleville   1B   5   0   2   1    0   1  .295
Cord Phelps        SS   3   0   0   1    0   0  .236
 Austin Yount      PH   1   0   0   0    0   0  .250
Ryan Seawell       3B   3   0   0   0    0   1  .319
 Randy Molina     PH/3B 2   1   1   0    0   0  .250
Adam Sorgi         2B   3   2   2   0    0   0  .333

E: Juhl, Phelps, Sorgi, Inman
2B: Escue, Juhl, Milleville
HR: Ratliff (2nd, 7th inning, 1 on, 0 out), Taylor (3rd, 7th inning, 0 on, 1 out)
HBP: Sorgi

                      IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO   ERA
Jeffrey Inman        4.1  11   5   5   2   1  4.45
Tom Stilson (L)      2.2   4   2   0   0   1  3.24
David Stringer       0.2   5   4   0   0   0  2.35
Andrew Clauson       1.1   1   0   0   1   2  1.59

WP: Hector Rabago (2-0)
LP: Tom Stilson (1-1)
S: Paul Koss (9)

Records: Stanford (10-7), #20 USC (14-8)

* The four errors by Stanford was a season-high.  The Cardinal have yet to play an errorless game in the field this year (17 games) as their dismal .955 fielding percentage is last in the Pac-10.

* The loss was Stanford's first at Sunken Diamond this season (9-1).

* A bright spot tonight for the Cardinal was their offensive production as they mustered eight runs and 14 hits against two of USC's top pitchers (Cook and Rabago).  August led the offensive attack with three hits in five at-bats with Ratliff, Milleville, and Sorgi each contributing two hits.

* Taylor extended his hitting streak to eight games with his seventh-inning home run.  Taylor's three home runs and 12 RBI lead the club.

* Ratliff picked-up his third straight multi-hit game at the plate.  The sophomore center fielder is now tied for the team-lead in batting average (.333).

* The 21 hits allowed by the Cardinal pitching staff was a season-high (previous high was 17 in a 10-8 win at Texas on February 18).

* Only five of the 11 runs allowed by Stanford pitching tonight were earned.  The bullpen trio of Stilson, Stringer, and Clauson combined for 4 2/3 innings with six unearned runs surrendered.

* The lengthy nine-inning game registered three hours and 41 minutes.

The Cardinal and Trojans will play the second game of this non-conference on Saturday afternoon at Sunken Diamond.  First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 P.M.  Jeremy Bleich (1-1, 5.79 ERA) is slated to start on the mound for Stanford while USC is expected to counter with freshman right-hander Brad Boxberger (1-1, 1.84 ERA).

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