Baseball advances to Regional Finals

Stanford never trailed Saturday, handling Arkansas with relative ease. Sunday, however, the Cardinal needed Brent Milleville's two-run shot in the ninth inning to take the lead for good against the pesky Aggies. The Cardinal now must win two from Pepperdine to advance to Super Regionals. Stay tuned to for the latest updates!

Stanford 8, UC-Davis 4

1. Stanford   002 100 005
4. UC-Davis 110 010 010

WP: Drew Storen: 2 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 K, 0 BB
Starter: Jeffrey Inman: 7 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 8 H, 5 K, 1 BB

LP: Justin Fitzgerald, 0.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 H

Key stretch:

First baseman Brent Milleville blasted the Aggies out of the Regional -- and Stanford into the Regional Finals against Pepperdine -- with a no-out, two-run shot to left in the top of the ninth, pulling Stanford ahead 5-4. Catcher Jason Castro led off the inning reaching on Davis first baseman Evan Hudson's fielding error to count for the tying run, setting the stage for Milleville's first hit of the day.

DH Randy Molina followed Milleville's blast with a double and then pinch hitter Toby Gerhart walked as the Cardinal tried to position themselves to add an insurance run. And third baseman Zach Jones, shortstop Jake Schlander and second baseman Cord Phelps all delivered, each hitting consecutive RBI singles to pull Stanford ahead 8-4 with one out in the ninth. Joey August's third double-play of the game would end the inning, but not after UC-Davis had gone through four pitchers in the ninth, attempting to stall Stanford's surge.

Davis looked to have won the game in the eighth, as Stanford reliever Drew Storen inherited Hudson on first with none out, saw Hudson advance to third on a Grant Hirneise single to right, and let Hudson score on Matt Dempsey's one-out lineout to left. The sac fly gave Davis a 4-3 lead, and left the visiting Aggies just three outs away from beating the Card for the fourth time this season and the second time in this weekend's Regional.

But Stanford's five-run ninth proved too much for the Aggies, who anticlimactically managed only two two-out singles off Storen in the bottom of the inning.

UC-Davis closed out their last Stanford contest hot, scoring four in a go-ahead seventh, and kept that offensive momentum early Sunday. Ryan Royster started the game with a double to left and scored on a Ryan Scoma sacrifice fly to left as Davis took a 1-0 lead in the first. In the second, Royster's groundout to second scored Hirnesie unearned, pulling the visiting underdogs ahead 2-0. Earlier in the inning, Stanford starting pitcher Jeffrey Inman mishandled a Dempsey bunt, allowing Hirneise to take third in the first of two Stanford errors on the game.

But Stanford responded, with Phelps' solo shot leading off the third, and Molina's two-out double scoring Castro to tie the contest at 2-2.

Stanford took its first lead of the game in the fourth, with some timely production from the bottom of its order, which had struggled up to this point in postseason play. No. 8 hitter Jones doubled to left-center with one out, and No. 9 hitter Schlander singled to the same spot to score Jones. Stanford led 3-2, but a Scoma RBI single in the fifth plated Royster and retied the game at three.

Stanford loaded the bases and Davis had runners on the corners in the seventh, but rightfielder Brendan Domaracki's foul out and a Ryan Scoma ground out ended each half of the inning.

The heroes:

Excuse the cliche, because it really was a team effort Sunday afternoon. Fifteen different Stanford players were on the field at some point during the game, and eight batters combined for the Cardinal's 17 hits.

Having said that, Milleville receives and deserves the headlines for his poise, hitting his two-run, go-ahead homer just three outs away from a potential season-ending loss. I'm a firm believer in the value of statistics in baseball, but Milleville really is a player who plays better than his numbers would indicate, as he thrives under pressure and has produced one clutch hit after another this season.

But how about Schlander and Jones? In the Regional preview, we wrote one of Stanford's biggest obstacles to postseason success was how the bottom of the order would order fare, and pointed out that the bottom of the order went 0-for-9 in the first game against Davis. Today, however, the freshman pair went 5-for-9, with the last two of those hits each scoring a key insurance run in the ninth. Schlander, in particular, deserves praise for a team-high three hits and two RBI.

Leadoff man Phelps and No. 2 hitter August also combined for five hits, as did Castro and Molina in the three and five spots. Between Jones and Schlander, Phelps and August and Castro, Milleville and Molina, Stanford's 17 hits truly came from top, middle and bottom of the order.

Inman insured that those runs would be enough, scattering just three earned runs in seven innings pitched. One underrated key to Inman's day was that he didn't allow Davis more than one run in any given inning. Given that Davis is more of a hit-for-contact than hit-for-power team, they need a big inning like their four-run seventh Friday to win ballgames. Inman didn't let them have it. Secondly, Inman went a full seven innings, saving key pitching depth as Stanford now prepares to face Pepperdine for a trip to the Super Regionals.

Milleville and friends gave him breathing room, but Storen also did a nice job of making sure the win would hold up, snuffing out Davis' last-gasp chance in the ninth.

Tough day at the ballpark:

August did have two hits, but he more than erased that with three double plays. Given that August is a ground-ball hitter and given how many baserunners Stanford had on the bags, the stat is understandable, but it still cost the Cardinal six outs.

Next up:

Stanford must win two from Pepperdine to advance to Super Regionals. The first contest went underway shortly after Stanford finished off Davis. The second, if necessary, would come Monday afternoon.

Stanford 5, Arkansas 1

1. Stanford (34-22-2): 011 100 020 5R 10H 1E
3. Arkansas (34-24):  000 010 000 1R   9H 1E

WP: Austin Yount (7-3): 5 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 5 K, 0 BB
Save: Jeremy Bleich: 4 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 4 K, 5 BB

LP: Dallas Keuchel (7-3): 4 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 K, 1 BB

Key stretch:
Stanford didn't win this game with a single, explosive inning. Instead, a run apiece in the second, third and fourth gave the Cardinal some distance, and two more in the eighth all but eliminated the Razorbacks from postseason play.

DH Randy Molina's lead-off homer in the second started the Stanford scoring. In the third, catcher Jason Castro's double to left scored Phelps, and in the fourth, Jones' line-out to left scored Molina from third.

Three straight Arkansas singles accounted for their only run in the fifth, Yount's final inning. But Yount snared Andy Wilkins' two-out shot up the middle on one hop -- and fired to Milleville on first to end the inning, and Stanford's only real jam.

Bleich struggled with control, as his five walks suggest, and his save would not be without drama. Arkansas stranded seven baserunners in the game's final three innings, but Bleich again snared a Wilkins dart up the middle to end the seventh. He then induced a strike out and foul flyout to end the eighth, and two strikeouts to end the ninth.

A Milleville single, Molina double, wild pitch and Ratliff sac fly accounted for Stanford's final two runs in the eighth.

The heroes:
 (3-for-4, three runs, one RBI) scored most of Stanford's runs and outhit all his teammates, but it was his solo shot to start the second that gave Stanford a lead it would never relinquish. That homer also snapped the Cardinal out of the offensive funk that plagued them against UC-Davis the day previous, as Stanford would add runs in each of the next two innings.

Ratliff (2-for-3) and Phelps (1-for-4, one walk, one run) were the other Stanford batters to reach base multiple times on the afternoon.

The pitchers, especially Bleich, got lucky, because it's not often that an opponent manages just one run on nine hits. But both Yount and Bleich contributed to their luck with nifty glovework to end big innings, and Bleich especially saved his best stuff for the biggest at-bats.

Tough day at the ballpark:
Gerhart, Schlander
and Jones were the only three Cardinal not to hit, though Jones was credited with an RBI for his fourth-inning lineout to left.

Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel surrendered three runs and six hits in just four innings. That's not great, but the Razorbacks' five through nine hitters going just 2-for-20 was what really sunk the Hogs.

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