Entering the weekend on a three-game losing streak, the Stanford baseball team hoped to rebound in its third Pac-10 series of the year against Oregon. Instead, the Ducks (21-11, 4-5 Pac-10) took two out of three games from the No. 22 Cardinal (14-13, 4-5).
The results from this series do not bode well for the remainder of Stanford’s Pac-10 campaign. The Ducks are one of the conference’s weaker squads – the school just reinstated its Division I baseball program.
Though the series was originally scheduled to be played over three days, Sunday’s game was moved to Saturday in anticipation of inclement weather.
On Friday, Oregon came away from Sunken Diamond with a 5-2 win. Two Oregon pitchers, Tyler Anderson and Scott McGough, combined to five-hit Stanford’s lineup. While freshman third baseman Kenny Diekroeger stood out with two hits and an RBI, the rest of the Cardinal lineup was unable to capitalize on opportunities. In total, seven runners were left on base.
Stanford’s pitching staff also found difficulty in containing Oregon’s hitters. In his second start of the year, sophomore pitcher Brian Busick gave up four runs in five innings. The three relievers that came after him – sophomore Chris Reed, freshman Dean McArdle and junior Danny Sandbrink – were more effective, allowing just one run in the final four innings. Busick took the loss, dropping his season record to 2-1.
The Ducks extended Stanford’s losing streak to five games on Saturday, taking the first game of the doubleheader 9-6 and decisively winning the series.
However, for most of the game it appeared that the Cardinal would be able to take home its first win of the series. After seven innings, Stanford led 6-1 and looked poised to get the final six outs with ease. Freshman Eric Smith, the designated hitter, had a breakout day, going 2-for-3 with a triple and also hit by a pitch. Entering the weekend, he had a .182 average in only 22 at-bats.
After the game, Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said that Smith would figure more prominently in the Cardinal lineup in future series.
“He did a great job for us today and gave us a lift when we needed it,” he said. “He’s going to be a real good hitter.”
But Stanford’s pitching fell apart in the last two innings. The Ducks mounted a three-run rally in the eighth inning to bring the score to 6-4, then broke the game open with five runs in the ninth to take a 9-6 lead. Despite Stanford’s attempts to draw even, its offense was shut down by Oregon’s relief pitchers in the last two innings.
The Cardinal relievers managed to choke away the solid start by sophomore pitcher Jordan Pries, who gave up only one run on five hits through seven innings. While Pries earned a no-decision for the game, he has been Stanford’s ace this season. In seven starts, he has a 3-1 record and a 3.06 ERA, with two complete games. He has also pitched 50 innings, a much higher total than any other Cardinal pitcher.
However, the two pitchers that came on in relief of Pries, freshman Mark Appel and junior Alex Pracher, were unable to hold down the Oregon offense. Appel only got one out in the eighth while giving up three runs, and Pracher gave up five runs in the ninth before freshman Sahil Bloom got the final out of the game.
“We had that 6-1 lead in the eighth and then we gave it away,” Marquess said. “That was unfortunate, and we needed a good performance.”
The final game of the series saw Stanford save itself from the sweep with a 2-1 victory.
Stanford’s offense was not particularly strong against Oregon starter Alex Keudell, scoring only two runs off him in six innings. Keudell gave up only one walk while striking out six.
Keudell’s removal from the game in the seventh inning generated some controversy, as Oregon’s pitching coach was ejected from the game after irking the umpire during a conference on the mound. Such ejections are highly unusual in college games, and came on the heels of a hotly disputed interference call on Keudell.
Nevertheless, the two pitchers Oregon used in relief were also strong, holding the Cardinal to no runs in the final two innings.
Meanwhile, sophomore Brett Mooneyham, the starting pitcher for Stanford, pitched eight excellent innings, allowing just one run on five hits (and that run came on a walk which drove in a runner after Mooneyham had left the game). He had five walks while striking out seven. Mooneyham had not been pitching well up to that point – he entered the game with a 7.52 ERA.
“My mechanics were a lot smoother,” Mooneyham said. “It made it easier for me to repeat and throw strikes. There was also great defense behind me.”
McArdle closed out the game in the ninth inning to earn the save.
The Stanford defense was also stellar, turning three double plays and giving up no errors.
The next game for Stanford is a mid-week contest at Santa Clara (14-15, 1-4 West Coast Conference). While the Broncos should not pose too much of a challenge to the Card, Stanford has not had much recent success in similar midweek games against nonconference opponents. Santa Clara recently split two games with Pepperdine, which the Card swept earlier in the season.
The first pitch against the Broncos will be at 6 p.m. on April 13 in Santa Clara, Calif.