Baseball treads water, going 2-2 in past week

Oregon wins two of three against Card, but Stanford takes out its anger in a beatdown of Santa Clara. Oregon State is now on deck as the Card will look to gain ground in the Pac-10 standings.

Friday – Oregon 5, Stanford 2

Stanford lost its fourth straight game, as the offense managed only five hits against lefty Tyler Anderson and righty Scott McGough. Anderson, who is Oregon's ace, had three pitches, a fastball, changeup, and breaking ball, which kept the reeling Cardinal offense from piecing a rally together. "Andy" gave up one earned (two total) on five hits in 5.2 innings. He struck out four and walked three on 108 pitches. After an unearned run scored in the first, the lefty allowed his only earned run in the sixth on a single by left fielder Ben Clowe.

McGough came out of the bullpen in the sixth to face pinch-hitter Jonathan Kaskow with a runner in scoring position and got him to fly out to left field. The righty was on-target throughout the game, showing command with a fastball that Stanford's hitters could not catch-up to. He pitched a hitless 3.1 innings, allowing one walk and striking out four.

Right-hander Brian Busick got his second start of the season, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in five innings, while striking out one and walking three on 72 pitches. Busick threw strikes, but got in trouble when he elevated his pitches. In the third inning, Oregon scored on second baseman Danny Pulfer's two-run home run to left field on a belt-high fastball from Busick. Oregon's strongpoint throughout the year had been strong pitching, but the offense seemed to capitalize on every one of Busick's mistakes up in the strike zone. The Ducks added one run in each of the fourth, sixth, and seventh.

Second baseman Colin Walsh, who batted right-handed against Anderson, was dropped to sixth in the lineup, presumably because he is not as good a hitter from the right side. First baseman/designated hitter Jonathan Kaskow did not start the game for the same reason, despite being Stanford's best hitter over the last couple of weeks (.400 average/.492 on-base/.520 slugging). Also, shortstop Jake Schlander batted fourth for the first time this season.

Saturday (Game One) – Oregon 9, Stanford 6

In an effort to stop the team's losing streak, the Stanford coaching staff decided to forego batting practice and infield/outfield warm-ups before the game, effectively letting the players simply "show up and play." Walsh returned to his normal second spot in the order, Schlander once again batted fourth, and Kaskow was re-inserted into the starting lineup.

Stanford righty Jordan Pries pitched his fourth straight quality start, but the eighth and ninth innings proved to be disappointing for the Stanford defense and closer, leading to a fifth straight loss. Pries threw seven innings and gave up one earned run on five hits, while striking out three and walking four on 101 pitches. Righty Mark Appel relieved Pries in the eighth, but a walk and fielding error by second baseman Colin Walsh started the Oregon rally. Stanford's right-handed closer, Alex Pracher, finished the eighth, but not before Oregon cut the deficit to 6-4. In the ninth, Pracher allowed a lead-off single to left fielder Mike Piazzisi and then hit Danny Pulfer on a 2-0 pitch. The bases were loaded after catcher Eddie Rodriguez reached on a bunt, which set-up freshman first baseman Jack Marder's go-ahead, three RBI double to left-center. Two more runs scored on a J.J. Altobelli RBI single, followed by third-baseman Kenny Diekroeger's throwing error.

As a whole, the offense hit much better with runners in scoring position and only left five runners on-base. Two freshmen, designated-hitter Eric Smith and center-fielder Jake Stewart, each had two hits and combined to score three runs at the bottom of the order.

Saturday (Game Two) – Stanford 2, Oregon 1

Brett Mooneyham's best start of the year helped Stanford end their five-game losing streak and salvage one game of the series. The lefty pitched eight innings and gave up one earned run on five hits, while striking out seven and walking five on 118 pitches. He cruised through the first seven innings and wiggled out of trouble in the eighth when he induced a ground ball double-play. After allowing two runners in the ninth, Mooneyham was replaced by freshman righty Dean McArdle. The two runners, who represented the tying and go-ahead runs, advanced to second and third on a Jack Marder sacrifice bunt. After an intentional walk, McArdle struck out Ryan Hambright on a 3-2 pitch and induced a KC Serna pop-up to end the game.

Stanford tallied eight hits, two of which drove in Stanford runs. Freshman designated hitter Eric Smith had an RBI single in the second inning and third baseman Kenny Diekroeger had a go-ahead, RBI double in the sixth.

Looking Back at the Keys to the Series

Can the Stanford offense improve its on-base average and return to early-mid season form? Remember, the Cardinal are not necessarily built around power, though there is certainly power potential. So, the key will be putting together quality at-bats that not only help score runs, but fatigue the opposing pitchers.
Stanford scored only 13 runs in the series, dropping their season average to under six runs per game. The team's average also dropped to .280. Frankly, the team was fortunate that Brett Mooneyham provided a great start in the finale, or else the club probably would have been swept.

Stanford has struggled to find a consistent middle relief options. Given that the starting pitching, behind righty Jordan Pries, has struggled, middle relief will be a key to preserving leads or keeping Stanford in the game.
Freshman Dean McArdle pitched two solid innings in relief, while junior righty Danny Sandbrink's two-inning performance in Friday's opener was encouraging. However, Mark Appel and closer Alex Pracher struggled in their only appearances.

How good is Oregon's starting pitching? Will the Ducks' offense have enough firepower against good, but not great, Stanford pitching?
Oregon's starting pitching proved to be strong. Lefty Tyler Anderson was terrific in Friday's performance while Alex Keudell had a solid performance in Saturday's finale. The Ducks outscored Stanford 15-13 in the series by putting together some offensive rallies. Against Busick on Friday, they seemed to capitalize on every mistake he made in the strike zone. They also staged a rally against a good closer in Alex Pracher.

Tuesday – Stanford 14, Santa Clara 0

Stanford's (15-13, 4-5 Pac-10) bats showed up against a shaky Santa Clara (14-16, 1-4 WCC) pitching staff on Tuesday at Stephen Schott Stadium in Santa Clara, while five Stanford pitchers combined for a two-hitter against a solid Santa Clara offense. Left fielder Stephen Piscotty and first baseman Jonathan Kaskow hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning, for their first home runs of the year and the first of Piscotty's Stanford career. Kaskow went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a bullet to center field that went further than 400 feet. Piscotty went 3-for-6 with four runs scored, including a blast that cleared left field by plenty. Overall, every starter except center fielder Jake Stewart reached base, and five players recorded more than one hit.

Brian Busick got the start on the mound and threw a solid two innings before being relieved by Mark Appel. Coming off of a shaky performance against Oregon, Appel was sharp, as he did not allow a hit in three innings of work. He worked quickly and threw a lot of strikes, at one point retiring the two-three-four hitters of the Santa Clara offense with relative ease. Lefty Scott Snodgress also looked on-target with both his fastball and curveball, as he struck out four and did not yield a walk in two innings. Dean McArdle and Alex Pracher pitched two perfect innings to finish the game.

The Santa Clara offense, which came into the game leading the West Coast Conference with a .327 batting average, struggled, and left-fielder/catcher Tommy Medica, arguably the team's best hitter, went 0 for 4 and committed two errors in left field, both of which led to Stanford runs. By the fourth inning, Stanford led 9-0, essentially putting the game out of reach. Santa Clara starting pitcher Chris Mendoza threw 79 pitches in three innings, as he got behind the Stanford hitters consistently. All five Broncos pitchers allowed at least one earned run and were constantly behind in the count, which allowed Stanford's hitters to be more aggressive.

Up next, the Cardinal will face the Oregon State Beavers (20-8, 3-3 Pac-10) starting on Friday in Corvallis, Oregon.

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