Baseball drops three of four to in-state foes

The Cardinal ended the Bruins' 22-game winning streak, but dropped the series, evening their conference record. Then, they lost in a non-conference matchup against Cal. They now face St. Mary's before their third Pac-10 series, versus Oregon.

Thursday, April 1 – UCLA 5, Stanford 4

With the game tied 5-5 in the top of the ninth and Stanford's Tyler Gaffney on second base, junior Jake Schlander delivered a single to center-field, which would have driven in the go-ahead run. However, Gaffney slipped after rounding third and was tagged out by catcher Steve Rodriguez, despite Gaffney's leaping attempt to reach home. In the bottom of the inning, Stanford closer Alex Pracher, who was in his fourth inning of work, gave up a leadoff single to shortstop Niko Gallego, who eventually reached third base on a sacrifice and single. Gallego scored the winning run on first baseman Dean Espy's one-out, bloop single to center field.

UCLA ace Gerrit Cole gave up one earned run (three total) on five hits in 5.2 innings. The righty uncharacteristically walked six batters and struck out five. He came into the game averaging more than one strikeout per inning.

Friday, April 2 – Stanford 8, UCLA 4

UCLA's 22-game winning streak was snapped when Stanford righty Jordan Pries threw a complete-game, eight-hit performance, leading the Cardinal to an 8-4 victory. Pries pitched at least into the seventh inning for his third straight start by, once again, throwing strikes and pitching to contact. He gave up eight hits, struck out four, and walked four, while throwing 133 pitches (fewer than 15 pitches per inning).

UCLA righty Trevor Bauer, a preseason First Team All-Conference selection, threw 114 pitches in 4.2 innings, surrendering seven runs, though only one was earned, on nine hits. Seven Stanford runners scored in the fifth inning after Gaffney reached on an error by Gallego. Stanford sent ten batters to the plate during the inning.

Saturday, April 3 – UCLA 7, Stanford 5

In the rubber game, UCLA's (23-1, 2-1 Pac-10) starting pitcher, Rob Rasmussen, threw six solid innings, gave up three earned on eight hits, and struck out eight without walking a batter. Rasmussen gave up one run in the first on an RBI single by Stanford first baseman Stephen Piscotty, but then settled down, save for a two-run homer he surrendered to third baseman Kenny Diekroeger in the fifth. Rasmussen is a potential first-round draft pick in this year's MLB Draft, with a low-90s fastball and above-average curveball.

For the Cardinal, Stanford's Brett Mooneyham and Dean McArdle gave up all seven of UCLA's runs through the first six innings. Scott Snodgress, Mark Appel, and Chris Reed pitched the final two scoreless innings.

Looking Back at the Keys to the Series

The last time the Stanford offense faced pitching of UCLA's caliber, they managed to scored five runs in three games at Texas. Now that the team has more experience, how will they respond against Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, and company?

Stanford scored a total of 18 runs on 26 hits in the series. However, UCLA committed a total of four defensive errors, resulting in eight unearned runs. Both Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer managed to give up one earned run each, lowering both of their earned-run averages. Still, the Stanford offense has taken huge strides since the Texas series and has proven it is dangerous against any pitching staff.

UCLA has a huge plus-29 run differential in the first inning. It will be important for the Cardinal to always remain within striking distance in order to keep the Bruins starting pitchers from becoming too comfortable and aggressive.

UCLA scored in the first inning of all three games, though their run differential in the first innings was only plus-two for the series. Thursday's starting pitcher for Stanford, Brian Busick and Saturday's starter, Brett Mooneyham, each got into trouble in their first innings of work, but held the damage to a minimum. The Stanford offense scored in two of the three opening innings off of three very good starting pitchers.

Like many of the previous series and much of the season, Stanford's success hinges on the performance of the starting pitching behind Jordan Pries.

With lefty Scott Snodgress, Stanford's usual number-two starter, in the bullpen, Stanford turned to Busick, who had amassed a 1.26 earned run average from the bullpen, in the opener against UCLA. Busick struggled in the first when he gave up one earned run, and then again in the fifth, when he was charged with two earned runs. It was his longest outing of the season, as he gave up six hits, struck out two, and walked two in 4.1 innings.

Coming off of his best start of the season two Sundays ago, the left-hander Mooneyham got the nod for the finale. He couldn't replicate his six-inning performance against USC, as he gave up five earned on six hits and five walks. He struck out six and threw 83 pitches total. Throughout the day, Mooneyham excelled from the windup and struggled from the stretch, as he walked all five batters during the latter. Mooneyham got into a lot of deep counts, resulting in the high pitch total, but his great stuff allowed him to generate the strikeouts.

Overall, Stanford is still looking for consistent rotation depth. Busick provided a solid outing, but doesn't have the stuff that Mooneyham or Snodgress both possess. Another reliever may get an opportunity to start in next week's series versus Oregon.

Monday, April 5 – California 2, Stanford 0

In a non-conference affair, LHP Chris Petrini and RHP Kevin Miller of the No. 30 Golden Bears (17-10, 3-3 Pac-10), combined to shutout the Stanford (13-10, 3-3 Pac-10) offense. Petrini, a senior, threw seven solid innings, giving up four hits, striking out seven, and walking three on a total of 133 pitches. Junior Kevin Miller pitched the final two innings, allowing two hits in the ninth, but retiring Jonathan Kaskow for the final out to get his first save.

Both of California's runs came in the second inning, when Stanford righty Chris Jenkins walked four batters. Then, Cal shortstop Marcus Semien drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly off lefty Chris Reed. Reed did not allow an earned run in 4.1 innings, while giving up four hits, striking out one, and walking three. After Mark Appel retired one batter in the sixth, Alex Pracher pitched two hitless innings for the Cardinal.

Notes

Interestingly, neither OF/DH Kellen Kiilsgaard (4-for-24) or RHP Danny Sandbrink (12.2 IP, 6.39 ERA) traveled with the team for the UCLA series. Sandbrink was an integral part of Stanford's College World Series run a couple of years ago and Kiilsgaard was one of Stanford's most productive hitters last year.

Up next will be a preview of this week, including the three game series versus Oregon. I'll also include some thoughts on Coach Marquess' strategies for assigning playing time.


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