Card Comeback Can't Match Bruin Blitz

If you arrived for the ninth inning of Saturday's game at Sunken Diamond, you witnessed a flurry of offense with Stanford's nine runs and 10 hits following five runs and five hits by UCLA. But the Bruins had already built a massive lead and held on for the 16-11 victory, their second straight of the series. Stanford's pitchers were skewered, while the umpires added controversy early and late.

The magnitude of Stanford's building blowout loss to UCLA on Saturday was hard to believe before the final outs for the Cardinal.  The visiting Bruins, who came into the game with a losing record, were on top by an 11-0 margin that was not yet done expanding.  UCLA scored in each of the first six innings of the game, and by the end of the afternoon, they would total 24 hits and 16 runs.

But it takes two to tango in a blowout.  Stanford's bats cooperated through seven innings, limited to just four hits.  In four of those frames, the Cardinal went down in order, one-two-three.  Stanford produced just one baserunner in the first four innings, while UCLA built a bigger and bigger lead.

The Cardinal feigned scoring threats in the fifth and sixth innings, each time ending with an embarrassing thud.  The fifth started with a one-out walk by junior Brian Juhl, who to that point represented both of Stanford's baserunners in the game.  He also roped a double down the left field line in the second inning with two outs, though quickly stranded in scoring position as sophomore Sean Ratliff struck out at the plate.  In the fifth, Ratliff did his part with an infield single deep to second base.  A wild pitch moved both runners 90 feet, and they were next joined by sophomore Cord Phelps after a seven-pitch walk.

Already down 8-0, Stanford had a hint of a badly-needed rally, but nothing would come of it.  Freshman Adam Gaylord took a called third strike, followed by senior Ryan Seawell striking out swinging.  The Bruins danced back to the dugout with the shutout still in tact.

The Cardinal again put two runners in scoring position in the sixth.  Junior Michael Taylor rapped Stanford's second infield single of the day to lead off, and then sophomore Brent Milleville knocked a double into left center.  Taylor advanced to third, and then surprise struck.  Bruins junior third baseman Jermaine Curtis pulled the old hidden ball trick, never giving the ball back to his pitcher after the ball came to him from the outfield.  Curtis put what he felt was a triumphant tag on Taylor, who was standing next to the bag, and third base umpire Kelly Gonzales called him out.  Taylor was not on the bag but appeared to have his foot touching its side.  The Stanford junior protested to no avail, finally walking back across the diamond after ripping his helmet off in disgust.  That would not be his last incident with the Pac-10 umpire crew on Saturday.

The sixth inning ended two batters later with a Juhl strikeout.  Stanford had already failed to pick up five runners in scoring position.

The umpire crew had done its part in the top half of the sixth to clear a Cardinal from the diamond, however.  Stanford was unable to find any success on the mound and made the move to its fourth pitcher of the day with no outs, this time pulling sophomore Tim Stilson after a pair of singles to open the inning.  In came sophomore Austin Yount, who earlier in the week started at San Jose State and threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in Stanford's win over the Spartans.  The lefthander opened this appearance with immediate disaster.  On his second pitch, Yount was taken out of the park for a three-run home run.

The next pitch from the sophomore southpaw was a breaking ball that plunked freshman Gabe Cohen, who was previously 3-for-3 on the day and would finish 4-for-5.  Home plate umpire Steve Mattingly did not hesitate, walking toward the mound and gesturing for the ejection of Yount from the game.  Stanford head coach Mark Marquess came out to argue the decision, which came without any previous transgression from Yount or another Stanford pitcher.  Mattingly also failed to give any warning prior to the ejection call.

With nobody yet warm in the bullpen, Stanford called sophomore Blake Hancock to the hill.  He netted three quick outs to escape the inning, but Stanford was in an 11-run hole with more ejections than runs scored on the day.

After a one-two-three seventh, the Cardinal came to life in the bottom of the eighth.  Sophomore Grant Escue led off pinch hitting for Seawell, who had already amassed three strikeouts in his three at bats.  Escue had seen limited action for the Cardinal but carried a .296 average.  He raised that mark with a double to right field that just ducked under the diving glove of Cohen.  Redshirt junior Adam Sorgi kept the Cardinal in business with a single to put men on first and third with no outs.  Taylor next connected for a single back up the middle - his second hit of the day and Stanford's first RBI as Escue scored.

Milleville popped out, and then August walked to load the bases.  Sophomore Jason Castro drove in a second run with a chopper to first that let Sorgi cross home.  Ratliff ended the rally and inning with his third strikeout of the game.

Stanford had actually smoothed its pitching problems at that point.  While Hancock was unexpectedly and abruptly called to the hill after Yount's ejection, he turned out to be the Cardinal's only pitcher of the day to throw successful innings.  He recorded nine straight outs through three innings of work.  The Kingwood (Tex.) High School product gave up one hit each in the seventh and eighth innings but retired all other Bruin batters.  Then trouble hit in the ninth.

Hancock had thrown no more than one inning of work previously in the season, and seven of his 11 appearances lasted one out or less.  The lefty had logged six combined innings in 2007 and on Saturday was working on his fourth inning against the Bruins.  In that light, it was not surprising to see him hit a wall.  Hancock quickly unraveled, starting with a lead-off walk - his first.  Then a double, two RBI ground outs and a single.  Then Bruin batting practice began, with back-to-back home runs launched over the left field wall.  Hancock's impressive work the three prior innings were forgotten after being blasted for five hits and five runs in the ninth, three of the runs coming with two outs.

UCLA finished their half of the frame with rapturous applause from the Bruin faithful in attendance.  The Stanford scoreboard showed the visitors with 24 hits and 16 runs at the home of a conference rival where they have often been pounded in the past decade.

Those five runs scored by UCLA in the top of the ninth looked like pure icing, but they proved important in the win.  Stanford roared back in the bottom of the inning with 10 hits and nine runs.  And it might have been more, if not for one more controversial call by the men in blue.

The final half-inning of the game started with a couple of seeing-eye singles.  Phelps punched the first into right field with an awkward, halting swing that somehow found the ball.  Gaylor popped out, and then the lefty Escue was replaced at the plate by sophomore righthanded hitter Jeff Whitlow.  Whitlow fisted a flare into right field that dropped in safely.  Marquess called freshman Brian Moon to the plate in the continuing effort to apparently empty the bench, though for the third time a Stanford pinch hitter delivered.  Moon singled up the middle to score Phelps, recording his first collegiate hit and RBI.  He would make noise again in this inning with his second career hit as Stanford batted around.

The big blow came next from Taylor, who crushed a 3-2 pitch way out of Sunken Diamond for a three-run homer.  It was the junior's fifth home run of the season and a spectacular blast of at least 450 feet, sailing over the tallest tree behind the left-center wall.  A Milleville walk and August pop single that dropped between Bruins down the third base line put two more aboard, but Castro lined out to right field with a hard-hit second out of the inning.  Stanford had a nice spurt of four runs, but with two outs could not dream of closing the rest of the gap in this 16-6 game.

Then junior Brendan Domaracki continued the rally with an RBI single up the middle.  Phelps followed with a double to the wall in right field to bring home two more runs.  The flood gates looked to be officially wide open when Gaylord dribbled one to the wall in left-center for his first career triple.  This was getting interesting.

Whitlow brought home another run with another Stanford infield single behind second base.  Moon came to the plate and notched the rare feat of his second career hit in the same inning as his first, with the added bonus of Whitlow advancing to third base on a throwing error.

Stanford was down five runs - the same number UCLA plated in the top half of the inning - and that could be narrowed to just a two-run deficit with one swing of Michael Taylor's bat.  Stanford was hitting everything from the Bruins in the ninth, and Taylor had already launched an epic home run in the frame.  Then Steve Mattingly struck again.  He called a third strike on Taylor on what looked like a clear checked swing.  The 6'6" junior did not break his wrist and did not cross the plate with his bat.  But Mattingly had ended the game with another stunning decision, this time running immediately from the scene.  Taylor ripped off his helmet and started up the third base line to argue before Whitlow gestured for his teammate to back down.  It was the second call to sting Taylor of the afternoon, spoiling his 3-for-6 and four-RBI performance.

Stanford had plenty to argue with the umpires at the end of the four-hour 12-minute game, which started as a laugher and ended closer on the scoreboard.  But the Cardinal had to look in the mirror to find the lead villain of the day.  The bats ultimately awakened and did enough damage - 11 runs on 17 hits - to win most games at Sunken Diamond.  But the pitching was terrible, through and through.  Stanford's "least scathed" hurler was Yount with one earned run, and he was only saved by ejection from more.

The starter was freshman Jeffrey Inman, who stumbled in his last two appearances following the famed nine-strikeout 7 2/3-innings shutout performance against Cal on March 2.  It was more rocky times for the freshman on Saturday, lasting just 1 1/3 innings, by far his shortest start of the season.  Inman did not have his stuff, but he was also hurt by his teammates.  UCLA plated three runs in the first inning against him, though it could have been a scoreless frame instead.  With one out and a man on first, Inman netted a hard-hit ground ball to Sorgi at second base.  He failed to field what could have started an inning-ending double play.  The next at-bat, Inman gave up a three-run home run.

Inman was pulled in the second after a single, sacrifice bunt and RBI double.  In came junior Max Fearnow, whose first act was a pick-off move to second base.  Gaylord did not catch the ball cleanly, advancing the runner to third, who scored next on a sacrifice fly.  Juhl ended the inning throwing out a stolen base attempt at second, which he repeated again in the next inning.

Fearnow was pulled in the fourth inning after he gave up hard-hit doubles in each of the third and fourth.  Stilson was next to the mound, giving up an RBI single before a strikeout and pop out.  He would be pulled in the sixth for Yount, but his third inning was one of the more interesting mini-stories of this game.  The sophomore lefty was touched for two singles and a double to start the inning before a visit from Marquess.  It looked likely that another hook was coming, but the Cardinal coach left Stilson in the game.  He responded excellently, with three straight outs after throwing first-pitch strikes to each batter.  Stilson recorded a strikeout and threw 12 strikes among his 15 pitches after the meeting with Marquess.

Unfortunately for Stilson and Stanford, those snippets of success were as rare as the clouds in the sky on the bright and sunny day at Sunken Diamond.  The loss dropped the Cardinal into a quick 0-2 hole in Pac-10 play and secured their first home series loss to UCLA since 1997.

BOX SCORE

UCLA         3 2 1  1 1 3  0 0 5  -  16 24 1
Stanford     0 0 0  0 0 0  0 2 9  -  11 17 2

UCLA             POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Jermaine Curtis   3B   6   1   1   2    0   0
Alden Carrithers  2B   5   3   4   2    0   0
Brandon Crawford  SS   6   3   4   2    0   1
Cody Decker       1B   5   2   3   6    0   0
 Tim Stewart      1B   1   1   1   1    0   0
Gabe Cohen        RF   5   2   4   0    0   0
Will Penniall     DH   4   0   1   0    0   0
 Casey Haerther  PH/DH 2   0   0   0    0   0
Mickey Weisser    LF   4   1   2   2    1   1
Brady Dolan       CF   5   2   2   0    0   0
Ryan Babineau      C   4   1   2   1    0   1

E: Carrithers
2B: Curtis, Decker, Wisser, Dolan, Babineau 2
HR: Crawford, Decker 2, Stewart
HBP: Cohen
CS: Crawford, Penniall

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Tim Murphy (W)    5.2   4   0   0   3   7
Garett Claypool   1.2   3   2   2   1   2
Brendan Lafferty  1.0   3   3   3   0   1
Jason Novak       0.2   7   6   6   1   1


Stanford           POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Ryan Seawell        DH   3   0   0   0    0   3
 Grant Escue        PH   1   1   1   0    0   0
 Jeff Whitlow      PH/DH 2   1   2   1    0   0
Adam Sorgi          2B   4   1   1   0    0   0
 Brian Moon         PH   2   1   2   1    0   0
Michael Taylor      RF   6   1   3   4    0   2
Brent Milleville   1B/C  4   1   1   0    1   0
Joey August        LF/CF 3   1   1   0    2   1
Brian Juhl           C   2   0   1   0    1   0
 Jason Castro      PH/1B 2   0   0   1    0   0
Sean Ratliff        CF   4   0   1   0    0   3
 Brendan Domaracki  LF   1   1   1   1    0   0
Cord Phelps         3B   4   2   2   2    1   0
Adam Gaylord        SS   5   1   1   1    0   2

E: Sorgi, Gaylord
2B: Escue, Milleville, Juhl, Phelps
3B: Gaylord
HR: Taylor

                    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Jeffrey Inman (L)  1.1   5   5   4   0   1
Max Fearnow        2.0   5   2   2   0   0
Tom Stilson        1.2   6   3   3   0   2
Austin Yount       0.0   1   1   1   0   0
Blake Hancock      4.0   7   5   5   1   0


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