Stanford goes 2-1 in USC series

Stanford (12-7, 2-1 Pac-10) recovered from a 13-8 loss on Friday's Pac-10 opener versus USC (12-12, 1-2 Pac-10) to win the next two games off of strong starting pitching.

Friday – USC 13, Stanford 8
The Cardinal used six pitchers and subsequently lost the Pac-10 opener, as freshman Mark Appel struggled in his first career start against a good Trojan offense. After walking and hitting the first two batters, it was clear that Appel didn't have great command. He struggled through 2.2 innings, while giving up six earned and four walks. His replacement, Scott Snodgress, continues to improve, though USC scored five runs on the lefty. Snodgress gave up six hits in 2.2 innings, struck out four, and walked two. He had an easy fourth inning and gave up one run in the fifth, but in the sixth with Stanford ahead 8-7, Snodgress walked the leadoff batter and USC capitalized by getting three hits, all with two strikes, forcing Coach Marquess to change pitchers.

USC righty Kevin Couture gave up nine hits and five earned (seven total) in four innings against a still sizzling Stanford offense. Three of the runs charged to Couture came in the fifth, when catcher Zach Jones, right-fielder Tyler Gaffney, and first-baseman Stephen Piscotty each drove-in a run against USC reliever Shuhei Fujiya. Despite being shaky in the fifth, Fujiya settled down and had a relatively easy sixth and seventh to prevent Stanford from cutting into the three-run deficit. USC added two runs in the eighth as righty relievers Brandon Garcia and Chris Mezger assured a victory for USC at the end.

A few changes to the lineup by Coach Marquess seemed to have no effect on the Stanford offense, as the team racked up 13 hits, their ninth straight game in double digits. Colin Walsh, Zach Jones, and Tyler Gaffney each had at least two hits, as the trio continues to be productive at the top of the lineup. Jonathan Kaskow had a hit and drove in two, as the junior has a strong .405 average in 37 at-bats.

Still, USC's offense performed even better. Their top-of-the-order of second baseman Joe De Pinto, shortstop Taylor Wrenn, and first baseman Ricky Oropesa combined for eight hits, seven runs, and four runs batted-in. In the sixth, it was De Pinto's double, Wrenn's single, and Oropesa's triple that gave USC the lead.

Saturday – Stanford 5, USC 4
In a stark contrast from Friday's affair, Saturday featured good starting pitching from both sides, as Stanford reliever Brian Busick pitched two scoreless to preserve another one-run victory for the Cardinal. Stanford is now 5-0 in one-run games after Zach Jones drove in Kenny Diekroeger with a single in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. In two innings of work, Busick only allowed one baserunner and improved his earned-run average to 1.26. Starter Jordan Pries allowed threw strikes for most of the afternoon, keeping his defense on its toes and allowing it to make outs. He pitched seven innings, gave up three earned (four total) on eight hits, struck out three, and walked one. In his last two starts, Pries has lowered his earned-run average by more than 1.5 runs and his innings total has risen above his hits allowed total.

For USC, starter Ben Mount pitched seven innings, giving up seven hits and four earned. Reliable reliever Brandon Garcia had an easy eighth inning, but hit designated hitter Jonathan Kaskow to lead off the ninth. After a fielder's choice which allowed Kenny Diekroeger to reach base, a Jake Stewart single and Colin Walsh walk advanced Diekroeger to third base. Then, Zach Jones delivered with a single through the right side on the second pitch he saw from Garcia. It was Jones' second walk-off of the season and Stanford's fifth overall.

Sunday – Stanford 3, USC 1
Stanford starter Brett Mooneyham had arguably his best outing of the season on Sunday, pitching six innings and giving up one earned on six hits, seven strikeouts and six walks. Second batter Ricky Oropesa hammered the first pitch he saw from Mooneyham over the center field fence, but the USC offense couldn't capitalize on the free passes the lefty gave up. The only real threats from the USC offense came by way of walks, as Mooneyham once again had very good stuff. The USC hitters were late on Mooneyham's fastball and the lefty's off-speed pitches not only had good movement, but he was able to hit his spots with them when necessary. Mooneyham attributed his performance on "picking up the target earlier," a mechanical adjustment which had plagued him in the past. Stanford closer Alex Pracher allowed two hits in the final three innings, lowering his earned-run average to 1.76.

The offense scored fewer than four runs for the first time since the series at Texas and ended its streak of games with double-digit hits. First baseman Stephen Piscotty drove in the team's first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, scoring Colin Walsh. Then, Walsh delivered a two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the seventh on the first pitch he saw from reliever Chad Smith to give Stanford the 3-1 lead.

Monday – Stanford 1, University of San Francisco 5
Stanford couldn't overcome a four-run deficit in the first inning, as the Dons' (13-13) quintet of pitchers shut down the Cardinal offense. Shortstop and third batter Derek Poppert went 3-for-4, with two runs and two RBI, including a double in the first to give the Dons a 2-0 lead. On the mound, sophomore lefty Jordan Remer gave up one earned on two hits in 3.2 innings. Then, freshman righty Haden Hinkle allowed three base runners in three innings of work, locating a good fastball on both sides of the plate to keep the Stanford hitters off-balance.

The Stanford offense started out slow, and really didn't have many opportunities to score. Their best opportunities to cut into the deficit came in the fourth inning, when Kenny Diekroeger drove-in the Cardinal's only run, and in the seventh when Ben Clowe popped up with the bases loaded.

On the mound for the Cardinal, the first two pitchers, freshman Chris Jenkins and junior Danny Sandbrink, combined to allow all five runs (four earned), though a throwing error in the first inning certainly did not help. On a good note, Scott Snodgress, Dean McCardle (three innings pitched), Chris Reed, Mark Appel, and Garrett Hughes combined to give up two hits in seven innings of relief for Stanford.

Looking ahead, Stanford plays their second Pac-10 series of the season at UCLA (21-0) this weekend.

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