Baseball takes two, barely

Stanford (22-19, 10-11 Pac-10) desperately needed a series win to keep their postseason hopes alive. They got it – barely. After dropping the opener in a close game, the Card rallied to take the final two from the No. 2 team in the conference, Washington State (22-20, 11-7).

On a wet and windy weekend in Washington, the Cardinal kept its postseason dreams alive by taking two of three from the Washington State Cougars (22-20, 11-7). The series victory bumped Stanford up into a tie for sixth place in the conference with USC (although Stanford has better overall numbers), and caused the Cougars to slip from second place down into a tie with Oregon State for third.

Most importantly, though, the series win brought Stanford just three games back of second-place UCLA with two critical Pac series remaining. If Stanford can win both of those series, as well as a difficult non-conference match-up with New Mexico this weekend—and manage to pick up a sweep or two in there—the Card's chances for an at-large bid to the postseason remain reasonable.

But even if Stanford keeps rolling, they will have to get some help. The two remaining conference series for the Card are against USC and Oregon State—both tied with or ahead of Stanford in the Pac—and wins over those teams would immediately help Stanford gain ground. But they will still need teams like UCLA, Washington State and fifth-place Washington to stumble.

Still, a strong finish always looks good to the selection committee, and one could help Stanford stand out in a very tight group of teams around the country with good, but not outstanding records.

Friday: Washington State 3, Stanford 1
Freshman starter Jordan Pries tossed a complete game three-hitter—with no walks and seven strikeouts—but took the loss when the Cardinal bats could only provide him a single run of support. That run came when sophomore catcher/designated hitter Ben Clowe delivered a two-out single through the left side of the infield in the second inning to drive in senior first baseman Brent Milleville, who had drawn a walk and stolen a base earlier in the inning.

After that, Washington State starter Matt Way, who entered the game with a 2.14 ERA and .216 opposing batting average, shut the Cardinal down for the next six innings, and handed his bullpen a 3-1 lead in the ninth. The Cougars turned to their dominant right-handed closer, Jeremy Johnson, but Stanford loaded the bases with two outs for sophomore shortstop Jake Schlander. He scorched a ball up the middle, but Cougars second baseman Michael Weber made a fantastic diving stop and flipped the ball to second to end the game.

Weber also had a sacrifice fly and a home run for the Cougars. All three hits Pries allowed went for extra bases—solo home runs to Weber and left fielder Derek Jones, and a double to designated hitter Greg Legreid.

Saturday: Stanford 12, Washington State 9
Playing in a steady rain with strong winds blowing straight out to right, the Cardinal fell behind 7-3, but rallied to tie the game in the eighth and pushed across four more runs in the ninth to pick up the 12-9 win and even the series.

Stanford got on the board first, scoring a run in the first and two more in the third on a two-RBI single by Milleville, which made the score 3-0. But Washington State pushed across five in the bottom of the third on two fly balls to right field that the wind pushed all the way to wall—the first a three-run double, and the next an RBI triple.

Freshman starting pitcher Brett Mooneyham managed to go to just three innings allowing six earned runs before being relieved by senior Max Fearnow, who allowed just two more runs while working into the eighth, giving the Stanford bats a chance to rally.

After getting back one run in the fifth and three more in the sixth, the Card finally tied the game at 8-all when junior right fielder Toby Gerhart scored on a sacrifice fly. Junior third baseman Adam Gaylord delivered a one-out double in the ninth, and pinch runner Jeff Whitlow scored to give Stanford the lead for good on a sharp single to right by Schlander. Stanford added three more runs in the frame, and Drew Storen allowed one run in bottom of the frame to complete the victory.

Storen entered the game to get the final out of the eighth, and earned his team-leading fifth win. Junior center fielder Joey August and sophomore right fielder Kellen Kiilsgaard both finished with three hits.

Sunday: Stanford 3, Washington State 2
Pouring rain during batting practice pushed the start time back twenty minutes, but once it got started, this game finished up in a hurry. Neither team walked a single batter and in a game that last barely over two hours, Stanford held on for a 3-2 victory.

Cougar starter David Stilley was dealing until the fifth, when Clowe blasted his first homer of the season to left field to give Stanford a 1-0 lead. Milleville added a two-run shot in the seventh to put Stanford up 3-0.

Meanwhile, Stanford starter Jeffrey Inman cruised through six shutout innings before giving up a home run to open the seventh. He then turned things over to freshman lefty Scott Snodgress, who finished up the frame by allowing just an inherited runner to score. Danny Sandbrink picked up two outs in the eighth, and Storen pitched a perfect ninth—with two strikeouts coming on just seven pitches—to earn the save.

Inman improved his record to 2-6 with the win, and the save was Storen's seventh. Milleville and Clowe both finished with two hits for Stanford.

The Cardinal returns to action on Tuesday night when it hosts San Jose State at 5 p.m. at Sunken Diamond, followed by a 6 p.m. game at Santa Clara on Wednesday. Stanford is currently on a nine-game winning streak in midweek games.

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