Fullerton sweeps baseball

You just can't win in baseball if you don't score runs. They doesn't have to be homers, or even a string of well-hit singles, but somehow you have to bring runners around. The Cardinal struggled mightily in this regard all weekend and, even though the pitching staff was very effective overall, was swept in three games by Cal State Fullerton to fall to 2-5 on the season.

Stanford mustered only six runs over the three contests and was held scoreless for a 14-inning stretch over the first two games of the series. Before the Sunday finale, only three runners got past first base safely. On the season, the team is hitting just .236 and has scored only 30 runs in seven games, for an average of 4.3 runs per game. Last season's College World Series team averaged over 7.5 runs per game.

At first glance, the pitching numbers aren't much better. The team's ERA currently stands at 6.49, opposing batters are hitting .295, and the staff has walked 31 and hit 14 batters in 61 innings. Plus, the combined score last weekend was CSF 20, Stanford 6.

Most of those 20 runs came in just a handful of innings, though, and the pitching staff made some improvement from the opening series with Vanderbilt.

Junior righty Jeffrey Inman, who was shaky early in his first start before finally settling into a groove, was dominant for five innings before being hurt by errors and softly-hit balls that seemed to magically find the gaps. Sophomore righty Danny Sandbrink, working from the bullpen, and senior righty Max Fearnow took steps backward, but the freshmen and sophomores in the bullpen were outstanding.

Southpaw freshman Brett Mooneyham got his first career start on Saturday and gave up three runs in the first inning, but was nearly un-hittable after that. Pitchers Scott Snodgress, Chris Reed, Carey Schwartz, Alex Pracher, Brian Busick and Michael Marshall combined for five shutout innings over the weekend and freshman righty Jordan Pries kept Stanford in what was a close game for nearly four innings on Sunday.

But bright spots in the bullpen don't matter if Stanford is only scoring a couple of runs a game. The Cardinal will need to find a way to get a few more balls to drop in and to bunch hits together if it is going to have a successful season. Only four games remain before the Finals break and conference play, and entering that break with upward momentum could help Stanford get off to a hot start in the Pac-10.

Friday: Cal State Fullerton 8, Stanford 1

Inman was locked in early and it looked like he might make a 1-0 lead stand up when he entered the sixth having allowed only a single hit. But Fullerton, without hitting the ball out of the infield in the air, pushed across four runs to take back the lead and end Inman's night.

Danny Sandbrink, bumped from the rotation this weekend in favor of Mooneyham, went to the mound in the seventh trying to hold the score at 4-1, but only got one batter out before loading the bases for Jared Clark. Clark tipped a foul with his first massive swing but connected on his second, crushing a grand slam well over the scoreboard in left field for the game's final runs.

Daniel Ranken struck out seven, walked none and allowed only a single run in seven innings to get the win for the Titans. Senior outfielder Joey August had a pair of hits for Stanford, sophomore first baseman Kaskow had an RBI single and sophomore shortstop Jake Schlander hit the ball sharply three times.

Saturday: Cal State Fullerton 3, Stanford 2

Mooneyham made his debut as a starter and struggled with control in the first inning, walking three and allowing three runs to score on just a pair of singles. But he hit his stride soon after, shutting the Titans down over the next four innings.

Scott Snodgress, another freshman lefty, and the sophomore side-armer Carey Schwartz shut down Fullerton over the next three innings, allowing just a single hit.

But the man on the hill for the Titans was even better.

Kyle Witten, a junior college transfer, pitched seven and two-thirds beautiful innings and held the Card to just a pair of singles until there were two outs in the eighth. Sophomore catcher Ben Clowe then drove a single up the middle and sophomore outfielder Kellen Kiilsgaard lined a double of the right field wall to put runners on second and third and chase Witten. Zach Jones, a sophomore catcher and third baseman, then lined a single to left off of Kyle Mertins to clear the bases and bring Stanford within one at 3-2.

Junior Toby Gerhart then narrowly missed putting one over the fence in right-center, caught to end the inning. In the ninth, the Card sent its three, four and five hitters to the plate, but couldn't get anything going as Fullerton closer Michael Morrison retired them in order.

Sunday: Cal State Fullerton 9, Stanford 3

Khris Davis put the Titans on his back in the final game of the series, almost single-handedly carrying them to a 9-3 victory. The right fielder finished 4-4 for six RBI and became the first Fullerton player in eight years to hit three home runs in a single game.

Cardinal starter Max Fearnow lasted just 2.1 innings and gave up five runs on six hits. Pries shut down Fullerton for awhile in relief, but eventually the Titans pushed four runs across to take a comfortable lead into the final innings.

Jones hit a home run for Stanford, and Kiilsgaard finished with two hits and two RBI. Fullerton starter Tyler Pill allowed just four hits and two runs in 5.1 innings and five Titan pitchers combined to allow just one run in relief.

The Cardinal's next game, a visit from St. Mary's, has been rescheduled to 5 p.m. Wednesday due to rain predicted for Tuesday afternoon.

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