Time running out for baseball playoff push

The road to the postseason seemed to require a sweep or at least a series win against Arizona last weekend, but Stanford baseball (19-18, 8-10 Pac-10) was only able to manage a single victory over the Wildcats (19-20, 5-13 Pac-10). Stanford did bounce back with a victory over San Francisco (22-23) on Monday night, 12-4, but it did little to ease the sting of another disappointing weekend.

While it is difficult to currently project a scenario in which the Cardinal qualify for the postseason, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Stanford will need to play very good baseball the rest of the way, and probably take at least seven of the remaining nine conference games on the schedule. On top of that, they will need to continue to play strong baseball during the week, and probably take at least two of the three games they have against New Mexico (31-12) at Sunken Diamond the weekend after next. Even if all this happens, the postseason isn't a guarantee, but you never know what can happen if a team gets hot, and there still is time to hope.

The offense continues to give reason to be optimistic, even if it did wait until Sunday to show up in any force. Junior rightfielder Toby Gerhart, sophomore leftfielder Kellen Kiilsgaard, and senior first baseman Brent Milleville can all hit with authority, and they are all hitting for both average and power over the last several weeks. Sophomore second baseman Colin Walsh has been extremely effective at getting on base all year, and junior third baseman Adam Gaylord has been keeping his average around .300, and delivered a career-best four RBI in the Monday game.

On the mound, there is still cause for concern, however. Sophomore closer Drew Storen looks to be back to his nearly unhittable self, and freshman Brett Mooneyham pitched an excellent game on Saturday. But freshman Jordan Pries faltered on Friday, and junior Jeffery Inman still didn't look fully in control this weekend. Stanford needs to start raking in weekend victories, and that will be extremely difficult if any of the starters struggle any further.

Friday: Arizona 11, Stanford 1
Freshman starter Jordan Pries—making his first career Friday start—pitched three scoreless innings before getting into trouble in the fourth. The Wildcats sent ten men to the plate in that inning and scored four times, although Stanford was close to getting out of trouble a couple of times: Milleville nearly caught a foul ball over his shoulder, and Kiilsgaard nearly made a diving catch on a sinking line drive that would have ended the inning. Pries didn't make it out of the fifth—allowing two more runs—and took the first loss of his collegiate career to fall to 3-1.

On the other side of the diamond, Arizona starter Preston Guilmet pitched a gem, holding Stanford to just one run on five hits over seven innings. Guilmet allowed three men to reach in the first, but was able to keep Stanford off the scoreboard, and settled down to shut down the Cardinal offense. His lone blemish was a high homerun hit by Gerhart in the sixth inning—it was the first and only homer Guilmet has giving up in over 60 innings.

Saturday: Stanford 3, Arizona 1
Stanford turned to its other star freshman pitcher, Brett Mooneyham, to shut down the Wildcats and even the series on Saturday. The tall lefthander allowed just one run on four hits in 6.2 innings of work, and handed the ball off to sophomore close Drew Storen in the seventh inning, who picked up a seven-out save. Mooneyham struggled with control at times, but for the most part, got outs whenever Arizona threatened to score.

Stanford scored a run in the first inning after Arizona starter Kyle Simon walked the first three batters, but Arizona would tie the game in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from star first baseman Dillon Baird. But Milleville gave Stanford the lead right back when he smashed his eighth homerun of the year over the leftfield fence to make it 2-1. Perhaps the most important play of the game came in the next half-inning, when Arizona tried the squeeze play with a runner on third and one out. Mooneyham charged the bunt and flipped it to sophomore catcher Zach Jones, who absorbed a hit and put the tag down just in time to get Wildcat leftfielder Brad Glenn at the plate and preserve the lead.

Stanford's third run came when senior Joey August drove in sophomore Jake Schlander with an RBI single in the fifth. Mooneyham picked up the win to improve his record to 4-2.

Sunday: Arizona 7, Stanford 6
The Wildcats scored two runs in the first inning and held the lead almost the entire game, but Stanford was always right on their heels. Arizona never held a lead larger than 6-3, and that only lasted briefly, for every time Arizona scored after the fifth inning, Stanford put up the same number of runs in the bottom half the inning, but was unable to climb out of the one-run deficit.

Four Cardinal batters finished with multi-hit games, including Gerhart, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, two RBI and his fifth homerun of the season. Walsh, August and Jones all added two-hit games, Milleville delivered a pair of RBI, and Kiilsgaard went 1-for-2 with three walks, but the Cardinal weren't able to capitalize, stranding 13 runners on base.

Freshman outfielder Steve Selsky scored two runs on four hits for Arizona, and shortstop Bryce Ortega blasted a homerun and finished 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBI to keep the Wildcats in front.

Stanford starter junior Jeffrey Inman picked up the loss by allowing four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings to fall to 1-6, and Arizona pitcher Cory Burns tossed two shutout innings to earn the win in his first decision of the season.

Monday: Stanford 12, San Francisco 4
The Cardinal elected to pitch by committee, using six pitchers over the first five innings before turning to senior Max Fearnow and Storen to work the final four. Sophomores Danny Sandbrink, Alex Pracher and Michael Marshall and junior Brandt Walker pitched the first four innings and allowed just one run.

Stanford jumped out to an early lead on back-to-back RBI doubles from junior third baseman Adam Gaylord and sophomore shortstop Jake Schlander in the second, and ran that lead to 3-1 when Milleville came home on a double-play in the fourth. But the Dons plated three when second baseman Robert Abel blasted a three-run homer just inside the foul pole in left in the fifth to make it 4-3. San Francisco would hold that lead until the seventh, when sophomore second baseman Colin Walsh drove in Schlander and sophomore designated hitter Ben Clowe to retake the lead at 5-4.

The wheels fell completely off for San Francisco in the eighth, as the Dons committed four errors and allowed two pop-ups to drop between fielders as Stanford plated seven more runs in that frame, just two of them earned. The highlight came when Gaylord delivered a bases-loaded double to make it 10-4.

Gaylord finished with a career-high four RBI, and Fearnow picked up the win to go to 3-3 by pitching three shutout innings in relief.

Stanford will return to action Wednesday, when it hosts Sacramento State (23-19) at 5 p.m. Shortly after, look for a preview of this weekend's series against Washington State (21-18, 10-5 Pac-10) right here at The Bootleg.


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