The players and fans of Stanford Baseball were itching for the Cardinal to get back in action after last taking the field two weeks ago in an up-and-down non-conference series against USC. Stanford was edged in two narrow, late defeats in the first two games before exploding for 10 combined runs in the eighth and ninth innings of the series finale and a 14-9 win.
There were no dramatics in either emotional direction for the Cardinal in their return to action Saturday against Sacramento State. The Hornets handled Stanford in the team's worst showing of the 2007 season, dropping a decisive 6-0 contest against a squad that entered with an 8-15 ranking and #244 RPI. The meek-hitting Cardinal scattered seven hits over nine innings against Alvaro Orozco. The Sacramento State junior threw a complete game after averaging just over five innings per appearance this year and allowing opponents to hit .315 against him.
"We weren't very competitive," says Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. "We didn't really put much pressure on them at all. We really didn't have anything going. I don't think we had a guy as far as third base. Their pitcher had a good game. We didn't strike out very much, but we didn't put much pressure on them and didn't do much with the bat offensively."
The Cardinal have not hit well this 2007 season, now sporting a team .280 batting average.
"You just keep working at it," Marquess offers. "Other guys will get a chance to play, and hopefully we can get some guys swinging the bat well. We haven't hit much for an average. We've done a pretty good job hitting with guys on base, but we didn't have anybody on base today. Obviously, we need to improve."
One bright spot on this dreary day was Adam Sorgi, who made just his third start of the season in the field. The redshirt junior missed all of 2006 after having surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, and after starting at DH and hitting fourth in Stanford's 2007 season opener, he has been scarcely seen on the diamond. Sorgi made his second base starting debut this year on March 4 against Cal, and days later he was reprised that role in the series opener versus USC. In both of those games, Sorgi batted ninth.
After his and Stanford's two week break for winter quarter finals and dead week, Sorgi surprised batting second in the lineup against Sacramento State. In the bottom of the first inning, the 6'1" lefty pulled a double down the right field line with one out. Michael Taylor and Joey August flied out in the following two at bats to close the inning however, with August battling 11 pitches before going down.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Sorgi again did his part, this time with two outs lining a hard single back up the middle past the glove of the diving Hornets shortstop. Taylor, who was hitless on the day and saw his career-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end, was next at the plate. The 6'6" 260-pound junior was in a 1-2 hole before patiently working his way back to a full count and ultimately reaching base on a seven-pitch walk. As in the first inning, though, August ended the threat with a fly out.
The fact that men on first and second with two outs was deemed a "threat" for Stanford on this day underscores the impotence of their offense. Sorgi's double in the second at-bat of Stanford's afternoon was the only extra-base hit for the home team. No baserunner for Stanford ever reached third base. The only inning that saw two Stanford hits came in the seventh, when Brian Juhl singled to right and then Brent Milleville singled the next pitch to left. The hint of a rally came with one out and the Cardinal trailing 4-0, but pinch hitter Austin Yount extinguished the flame with an inning-ending double play.
"I don't think it was a matter of swinging at bad pitches today, or really for the season," Marquess says. "It's a matter of hitting the balls that we do hit; we haven't hit them very hard."
After committing one or more errors in each of their first 17 games of the season, Stanford did manage their third straight errorless game in the field.
On the mound, Marquess made a change in the pitching rotation for Stanford. The Cardinal in their final two series before the break threw freshman Jeffrey Inman in a rare Friday starter's role. In his acclaimed debut in that first-game starter's role versus Cal on March 2, the frosh righthander was dominant with nine strikeouts and 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in a 1-0 win. A week later against USC, Inman was roughed up for 11 hits and five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work in an 11-8 loss. Starting instead on Saturday versus Sacramento State was sophomore Jeremy Bleich, who had been working in the second-day starter's role previously.
The Cardinal will play the Hornets again Sunday in the second half of this two-game home-and-home series, which only requires two starters. Marquess planned on throwing both Bleich and Inman in the first game, and that played out. Bleich went 5 2/3 innings and gave up just two runs, both earned. He struck out two and walked a pair. Inman came on in relief during the top of the sixth inning with two outs and men on first and second. Bleich nearly escaped that inning, when he netted a chopper from Ryan Blair to first baseman Jason Castro with one out and a man on first. Castro threw to Adam Gaylord at second, but the double play could not be completed with Bleich unable to cover first base quickly enough on the return throw.
Inman looked shaky right from the start, throwing balls on his first three pitches and ultimately walking the Sacramento State batter to load the bases. He then threw to a dangerous 2-1 count before netting a fly out to right to end the inning.
It was more two-out trouble for Inman when he returned to the hill in the top of the seventh. He had just a man on first before giving up a first-pitch two-out single. Then it was a triple by Montana Dye, driving in two runs. The ball was sliced toward the foul line, with Taylor racing toward it and diving but unable to get his glove under the ball.
"Average at best," Marquess assesses of his freshman pitcher. "I think he was a little inconsistent at times. He couldn't back up pitches very well. He got ahead a couple times and gave up a hit."
Inman faced problems faster in the eighth, giving up a seven-pitch infield single on a 2-2 count to lead off the top of the inning. Then he was tagged for a double down the leftfield line. Pitching coach Tom Kunis came out for a conference, after which Inman netted a line out to Sorgi at second base. Unfortunately for Inman and the Cardinal, he had no teammate on a bag where he could throw for a double play. With the top of the order coming around, Stanford intentionally walked Patrick Cummins to load the bases. Marquess went to the bullpen and another freshman, Andrew Clauson.
Clauson threw first-pitch strikes to each of the next two batters, but the at-bats concluded with a bloop single and sacrifice fly, each bringing home a run. Those two runs were charged to Inman, who finished with four earned runs, five hits and no strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.
Clauson ended the eighth inning with a pick-off move that caught a baserunner trying to steal third base. The 6'2" frosh came out again in the ninth inning and looked good initially, throwing some great strikes. But he plunked two of the four batters he faced in the frame, both times losing breaking balls, while also throwing a wild pitch.
A third freshman, Cory Bannister, came on for the final out. With men on first and second, he recorded a strikeout against the single batter he faced.
Bleich unofficially threw 81 pitches in the start, and he threw a lot of strikes. He made a few mistakes, though, which were enough to saddle him with the loss on a day when his teammates could not score at the plate.
"He didn't get any support at all," Marquess says of his sophomore starter. "He threw alright. They did a good job, hitting a couple hits with two strikes. He only gave up two runs, which is normally alright, but not today."
"I didn't do a very good job, especially in 0-2 counts," Bleich offers. "In situations I had the hitter beat, I didn't beat him. I made stupid mistakes and got hurt because of it. But it's something you learn from and try to take care of the next time you are on the mound."
"There were a bunch of counts and a bunch of situations where I gave up very poor hits due to the fact that I completely missed spots," the sophomore southpaw adds. "I completely made the right pitch in the wrong location. And at this level, you can't do that."
Bleich allowed just two hits through his first four innings, but the first three hits he gave up in the game were all for extra bases: two doubles and a home run. The home run came in the second inning off the bat of David Flores, who had a mere .227 slugging percentage and no home runs in 2007.
"It was a first-pitch fastball. He just ran into it," Bleich says. "It was down the middle of the plate - maybe it should have been down a little more. That happens... It's completely my fault. I have to keep the ball down better in that situation."
The 6-0 loss to Sacramento State was discouraging for both the Stanford hitters and pitchers. Sorgi, the only active fourth-year player for the Cardinal in the game, gathered his teammates for a players-only tongue-lashing on the first base line after Marquess addressed the team post-game. Stanford is 11-9 on the season and heading for trouble when Pac-10 play begins next week.
Bleich has his own words to offer to the young pitchers on the Cardinal staff after Saturday's surprising result.
"Baseball is a really funny game. Look at what happened today. Look at the guy from Sacramento State. He came out today and threw a complete game shutout," Bleich says. "Baseball is a funny game. You never stop working. What I tell the younger guys is that you never give up. You have to keep working because truthfully, the harder you work, the more luck you are going to have. The more things will take care of themselves. Just work as hard as you can and control the things you can control because those other things will take care of themselves in the long run."
Stanford returns to action Sunday at 2:00pm PDT at Sacramento State for the second half of the home-and-home short series. Junior Nolan Gallagher will take the hill as the starter. The 6'3" righthander came into the season projected as the Cardinal's ace and a top draft pick this June, but he is 1-2 with a 7.92 ERA thus far this season.
Marquess says that he will set the pitching rotation for next week's UCLA series after Tuesday's game versus San Jose State.
Sacramento State 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 2 0 - 6 13 0
Stanford 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 7 0
Sacramento State POS AB
R H RBI BB SO
Patrick Cummins 2B 3 0 1 1 2 0
Blake Crosby SS 4 1 4 1 0 0
Gabe Jacobo 1B 4 0 0 1 0 1
Jeff Giacomini DH 3 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Hannah PH/DH 2 1 1 0 0 1
Montana Dye RF 4 0 2 2 0 0
Ryan Blair LF 4 0 0 0 1 0
David Flores 3B 4 2 3 1 0 0
Travis Kirkman C 4 2 2 0 1 1
Tim Wheeler CF 3 0 0 0 0 1
2B: Crosby, Kirkman 2
HBP: Dye, Flores
IP H R ER BB SO
Alvaro Orozco (L) 9.0 7 0 0 2 2
POS AB R
H RBI BB SO
Sean Ratliff CF 4 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Sorgi 2B 3 0 2 0 1 0
Michael Taylor RF 3 0 0 0 1 0
Joey August LF 4 0 1 0 0 0
Jason Castro 1B 3 0 0 0 0 2
Grant Escue PH 1 0 1 0 0 0
Brian Juhl C 4 0 1 0 0 0
Nolan Gallagher DH 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brent Milleville PH/DH 4 0 2 0 0 0
Cord Phelps 3B 2 0 0 0 0 0
Austin Yount PH/3B 1 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Gaylord SS 2 0 0 0 0 0
Randy Molina PH 1 0 0 0 0 0
Brian Moon SS 0 0 0 0 0 0
IP H R ER BB SO
Jeremy Bleich (L) 5.2 7 2 2 2 2
Jeffrey Inman 1.2 5 4 4 2 0
Andrew Clauson 1.1 1 0 0 0 1
Cory Bannister 0.1 0 0 0 0 1
WP: Alvaro Orozco (4-2)
LP: Jeremy Bleich (1-3)
Records: Stanford (11-9), Sacramento State (9-15)
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!