Card Drop Heartbreaker To Trojans

After a number of close victories during their recent winning streak, the tide is starting to turn for the Cardinal. On Saturday, USC rallied for two runs against Jeremy Bleich in the ninth inning for a dramatic 2-1 victory over host Stanford. Bleich carried a three-hit shutout into the ninth, but couldn't hold off the Trojans in the final frame. Here is the game recap.

On a personal note, this will be my final article for The Bootleg.  After graduating from Santa Clara University last December, I took a full-time position with the minor league San Jose Giants as their play-by-play broadcaster.  I decided to hang around the Stanford Baseball program until mid-March, but with my job starting next week, the time has come for me to say goodbye to The Bootleg.  The last 7 1/2 years writing here was an experience I'll never forget and I thank everyone for reading.

Now to Saturday's recap ...

Jeremy Bleich was on his game for eight innings Saturday afternoon against USC.  Unfortunately, he couldn't slam the door in the ninth and the USC Trojans rallied for two runs to post a dramatic 2-1 victory over the host Cardinal.  The loss sends Stanford to 10-8 on the season with the Cardinal now needing a win on Sunday to avoid getting swept at home for the first time in ten years.

Bleich was nearly unhittable during the first eight innings as the southpaw kept USC hitters off-balance for much of the afternoon.  The sophomore allowed just three hits in the first eight frames : a one-out double in the second, a one-out double in the fifth, and a leadoff single in the seventh. 

USC's only serious threat against Bleich came in the top of the second when Lucas Duda doubled with one out which was followed by a walk to Johnny Bowden.  But Bleich responded with a back-to-back fly outs of the next two hitters to keep the Trojans off the scoreboard.

In the seventh, with the game still scoreless, Duda started things off with a single before a sacrifice bunt from Bowden.  But the runner would be stranded at second base, as Bleich fanned both Darren Gemoll and Hector Estrella to retire the side.

Stanford scored their only run of the afternoon in the bottom of the seventh inning with a freshman driving home the score.  Cord Phelps started the rally with a one-out walk before Ryan Seawell was hit by a pitch.  Adam Gaylord then stepped to the plate and the freshman shortstop delivered the big hit when he smoked a ground ball up the middle to plate Phelps for a 1-0 Stanford lead. 

However, on the whole, it would be a struggle for the Cardinal bats today with runners in scoring position.  After the Gaylord hit, new pitcher Kevin Couture set down the next two batters to keep the Stanford lead at one.  All total, the Cardinal went 1-for-10 this afternoon with runners in scoring position.

Bleich worked a perfect 1-2-3 eighth inning before the pivotal top of the ninth.  Leading hitter Matt Cusick led off with a clean single to right field putting the potential tying run on base.  Cusick was lifted for a pinch-runner in Spencer Pabst and the move paid off as Pabst promptly stole second base to put himself into scoring position.  After J.J. Owen lined out to right, it set the stage for another Bleich vs. Duda match-up. 

Duda had already picked-up two hits against Bleich today, but Mark Marquess left in his starting pitcher as he still had a lefty-versus-lefty matchup.  Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Duda singled sharply into right field easily scoring Pabst to tie the game at 1-1.

Bleich responded by inducing Bowden to pop-out, but then Duda stole second to move the go-ahead run into scoring position.  After Gemoll walked, the right-handed bat of Estrella stepped in.  And with Bleich still on the mound, Estrella grounded a ball through the right side for a single.  Duda raced around third base and scored ahead of the throw from Michael Taylor and USC had their first lead of the day.

In the bottom of the ninth, Stanford went down quickly and quietly against ace closer Paul Koss.  Castro led off by popping-out before pinch-hitter Austin Yount popped-out and pinch-hitter Randy Molina struck out.


USC         0 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 2   -   2   6   0
Stanford    0 0 0  0 0 0  1 0 0   -   1   6   0

USC              POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Nick Buss         CF   3   0   0   0    1   0
Grant Green       SS   4   0   0   0    0   1
Matt Cusick       2B   3   0   1   0    1   0
 Spencer Pabst   PR/RF 0   1   0   0    0   0
J.J. Owen         1B   4   0   0   0    0   0
Lucas Duda        LF   4   1   3   1    0   0
Johnny Bowden      C   2   0   0   0    1   0
Darren Gemoll     DH   3   0   1   0    1   1
Hector Estrella   3B   4   0   1   1    0   1
Roberto Lopez     RF   3   0   0   0    0   0
 Michael Torres  PH/2B 1   0   0   0    0   0

2B: Duda, Gemoll
SB: Pabst, Duda

                    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Brad Boxberger     6.1   6   1   1   1   1
Kevin Couture (W)  1.2   0   0   0   0   2
Paul Koss (S)      1.0   0   0   0   0   1

Stanford         POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO   AVG
Sean Ratliff      CF   4   0   2   0    0   0  .342
Brendan Domaracki DH   3   0   0   0    0   1  .250
 Grant Escue      PH   1   0   0   0    0   0  .267
Michael Taylor    RF   4   0   1   0    0   1  .250
Joey August       LF   4   0   1   0    0   0  .317
Brian Juhl         C   4   0   0   0    0   1  .308
Jason Castro      1B   4   0   1   0    0   0  .167
Cord Phelps       2B   2   1   0   0    1   0  .228
 Austin Yount     PH   1   0   0   0    0   0  .242
Ryan Seawell      3B   2   0   0   0    0   0  .306
 Randy Molina     PH   1   0   0   0    0   1  .231
Adam Gaylord      SS   3   0   1   1    0   0  .320

2B: Ratliff, Castro
HBP: Seawell
SB: Ratliff

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO   ERA
Jeremy Bleich (L) 8.2   6   2   2   4   3  4.91
Max Fearnow       0.1   0   0   0   0   0  4.82

WP: Kevin Couture (2-0)
LP: Jeremy Bleich (1-2)
S: Paul Koss (10)

Records: Stanford (10-8), #20 USC (15-8)

* The Cardinal played an errorless game for the first time this season (18 games).

* Ratliff remained red-hot at the plate with two hits in four at-bats.  It was Ratliff's fourth straight multi-hit game.

* Taylor extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning single.  The hitting streak matches the longest of his career.

* USC's Koss recorded his Pac-10 leading tenth save of the season.

* With the victory, the Trojans have now claimed four straight series victories over Stanford dating back to 2005.

* The Cardinal are now just 1-7 versus ranked opponents this year.

The Cardinal will try to avoid the three-game sweep when the series concludes Sunday afternoon.  First pitch at Sunken Diamond is scheduled for 1:00 P.M.  USC is slated to start left-hander Tommy Milone (2-2, 5.74 ERA) on the mound while Stanford has yet to officially announce a starting pitcher.

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