Bats stay hot as baseball completes 3-1 spurt

The Cardinal offense led the way this week, beginning with a three-game sweep versus Pepperdine. Then, on Tuesday at Pacific, the offense generated 14 hits, but not many of them came with runners in scoring position, leading to a 9-4 loss. Still, the bigger concern, as Pac-10 play begins on Friday versus USC, is the starting rotation behind Jordan Pries.

Brett Mooneyham, who was supposed to be the Cardinal ace, pitched well on Friday versus Pepperdine, but struggled in two-thirds of an inning against Pacific on Tuesday.

Pepperdine series

Friday: Stanford 9, Pepperdine 8

Junior catcher Zach Jones provided late-game heroics with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, driving in Jake Stewart and giving Stanford (10-5) the 9-8 victory over Pepperdine (6-12). It was an up-and-down game, with Stanford pitchers combining for 10 walks and four hit batsmen. Those 14 free passes led to all eight of the Waves' runs. Lefty Brett Mooneyham, the starting pitcher for the Cardinal, had good stuff, as Pepperdine only managed two hits off of him in five innings, but he struggled to find the strike zone at times. He threw a total of 96 pitches while striking out five and walking four.

The Cardinal offense managed 14 hits, 10 of them off Pepperdine ace Cole Cook. Cook pitched well, only giving up two earned runs in seven innings, while he struck out four and walked one on a total of 111 pitches. Four of the 14 hits were produced by Jones, who had a double along with his game-winning hit in the ninth.

Saturday: Stanford 10 Pepperdine 0

The story of Saturday's matchup was Stanford starting pitcher, Jordan Pries, who earned his second win (2-1) by throwing a complete-game, two-hit shutout, as he struck out six, walked two, and threw 116 pitches overall. It was a close game through the first five frames, as the Cardinal maintained a 1-0 lead after a sac fly in the second by shortstop Jake Schlander. One week off of a solid, eight inning performance versus then-No. 13 East Carolina, Pepperdine's best left-handed pitcher, Matt Bywater, held the Stanford offense through five, but gave up three in the sixth and was pulled after recording two outs in the seventh.

The Stanford offense continued to mash, as every starter reached base. First baseman Stephen Piscotty extended the Stanford lead to 2-0 in the sixth on an RBI single and went 3-for-4, with two RBI and three runs scored. However, it was Schlander who broke the game open in the seventh. With two runners on, facing Pepperdine reliever Alex Najera, Schlander golfed a fastball over the left-field fence, his second home run of the year. Stanford added three in the eighth, as Pries completed his first career shutout.

After the game, Pries noted, "The key to my performance was my slider. I threw it throughout the game and was able to locate it pretty much wherever I wanted." He also said that the team has been ready to breakout for awhile, a good sign as Pac-10 play approaches.

Sunday: Stanford 11, Pepperdine 6

The Cardinal completed their first three-game sweep since the season-opening series versus Rice by riding their offense against a depleted Pepperdine pitching staff. For the offense, the day was highlighted by a line-drive home run to center field by starting third baseman Kenny Diekroeger in the fifth. "Deke" went 2-for-3 with a home run, double, four RBI, and three runs scored. Colin Walsh, Zach Jones, and Stephen Piscotty also had multi-hit games. For the series, Piscotty, who continues to produce at the cleanup spot in the order, went 6-for-12 with three RBI and five runs scored.

On the mound, Scott Snodgress started strong and, at one point, struck out five batters in a row, including all three in the second. However, in the third and fourth innings, the lefty walked four, as he seemed to lose command of his pitches. His curveball was sharp and on-target through the first two innings - he managed to buckle the Pepperdine hitters' knees with that pitch on several occasions. Snodgress struggled the second time through the order, mainly because he threw more balls and lost command of both of his pitches. Looking ahead, Stanford will need for Snodgress to show his early-game form more consistently if the team is to compete in the Pac-10.

Looking Back at the Keys to the Series

• Who will prevail in battle of Stanford's hot offense versus Pepperdine's very good starting pitching?

Only Pepperdine ace Cole Cook was able to have sustained success against the Stanford offense. Despite good early-inning performances by the other two Pepperdine starters, Matt Bywater and Robert Dickmann, they were not able to keep the Stanford offense at bay, as they both gave up more than five earned runs.

• How will Stanford's starting pitching, behind Pries, perform?

It wasn't spectacular, but it got the job done against a slumping Pepperdine offense. Both Mooneyham and Snodgress looked unhittable at times, as the duo combined to strike out 12 in 8.2 innings, while giving up only five hits. Yet, they also struggled with their command as they walked eight and threw a combined 173 pitches, an average of about 20 pitches per inning, in that same span.

• Will Pepperdine's offense be productive enough to win?

Pepperdine scored a total of 14 runs on 18 hits, compared to Stanford's 30 runs on 42 hits. Pepperdine combined for five hits heading into Sunday, so most of the offensive production came in the last game of the series. Overall, the offense's performance justifies the team's three losses.

• Can Pepperdine's bullpen hold their own versus the Stanford hitters?

Eight Waves relievers combined to pitch in 5.1 innings and gave up 10 earned runs, striking out six and walking seven overall. The Pepperdine bullpen was predictably shaky and was unable to hold the Stanford offense throughout the series.

Tuesday: Pacific 9, Stanford 4

Stanford reached double digits in hits for the eighth straight game (their last game with fewer than ten hits was the third game of the Texas series), but were unable to hit with runners in scoring position, as the team left 14 on base in a 9-4 loss at Pacific (13-7).

Mooneyham, despite pitching on three days of rest, got the start on the mound for Stanford. The lefty struggled out of the gate and only threw two-thirds of an inning, giving up one earned run and two overall on two hits and two walks. The decision was probably made on the basis of giving the lefty an extra day of work before the USC series. Needless to say, the move did not inspire confidence, as Mooneyham's trouble with locating the strike zone was once again his problem.

Stanford was also unlucky on the defensive side, as errors and walks allowed Pacific to extend their lead. An error in the first by third baseman Kenny Diekroeger allowed an extra run to score, as he misplayed a throw by left fielder Ben Clowe. Later, second baseman Colin Walsh misplayed a grounder to his left, which led to a three-run inning for Pacific. Walks by Danny Sandbrink and Chris Reed in the sixth led to another three-run inning for the Tigers.

On the other side, Pacific lefty John Haberman, who also batted sixth, came on in relief in the first and threw five solid innings, as he gave up three earned on six hits. Haberman kept Stanford off-balance, having good control of all three of his pitches, including a big curveball and deceptive changeup. The Cardinal offense often took defensive, unorthodox swings to foul pitches off against Haberman, especially when they were behind in the count.

It isn't often that an offense only manages to score only four runs on 14 hits, so look for the Stanford offense to continue to hit well as they move into Pac-10 play.

It is somewhat surprising to know that, in most instances, a team cannot really control how they perform in "clutch" situations in comparison to its normal production. That is, a player is most likely to perform at his normal rate of production, no matter the situation. In the game against Pacific, it was simply of matter of the offense getting unlucky, as the hits did not come at the right time. If the offense continues to generate double-digit hits, expect a lot of runs and a lot of success.

Up next, the Cardinal face USC on Friday for a three-game series at Sunken Diamond. Stay tuned for a preview of that series.

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