Stanford baseball had a disappointing second series in conference play in Los Angeles last weekend, dropping two out of three contests to its in-state rivals, the USC Trojans.
No. 11 Stanford moves to 15-9 overall and 3-3 in Pac-10 play after the disappointing series loss to the Trojans (13-19, 4-5 Pac-10). Though the Cardinal secured its first Friday victory since the season-opener at Rice on Feb. 18, the squad only put up three runs over the final two games of the series and didn’t overcome early deficits.
The fortunes of all three Stanford starters were reversed in the series, as Mark Appel’s losing record improved while Jordan Pries and Dean McArdle could not uphold their impressive first-half marks.
Appel came into the series with lackluster success on paper, yet he was hardly to blame for his 1-3 record. The sophomore righthander had just seven runs of combined support in his three losses.
But Appel made sure the line was different against the Trojans, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and pitching his first career complete game in an 8-1 win.
Eight different Stanford batters backed Appel by getting on base, totaling 17 base knocks–the fifth time in six games that the Cardinal had come up with more than 10 hits. Leftfielder Tyler Gaffney reached base five times, posting three hits along with first baseman Brian Ragira.
USC’s only run came on an error by center fielder Jake Stewart, as Appel improved to 2-3 on the year and maintained his solid 3.09 ERA.
Trojan starter Andrew Triggs also came out strong, but Stanford’s four-run fifth was more than enough in the series opener.
But the tables were turned the following night–at least on the mound. USC relied on shutdown pitching from starter Austin Wood (2-5), who went eight innings and allowed no earned runs in the win. The Cardinal’s only tally came off a fifth-inning error, as only four Stanford players got hits, and sophomore Kenny Diekroeger’s impressive 16-game hitting streak came to a close.
Pries (4-2) pitched relatively well for Stanford, but two wild pitches in the third and fourth frames led to a two-run deficit which Stanford never surmounted in the 3-1 loss.
One of the few offensive bright spots for the Cardinal was Gaffney, who had two hits and drew both a walk and a hit-by-pitch for the second consecutive night. Gaffney was never retired in the first two games of the series.
But he couldn’t get on base in his first and only at-bat on Sunday before an injury forced him to leave the game. Without his hot hitting in the middle of the lineup, Stanford stranded 12 runners on base and could only score twice. Five Cardinal hitters struck out twice each, including the three Stanford batters with the most hits on the season: Diekroeger, Stewart and senior Ben Clowe.
USC chased McArdle (4-1) from the game early, in one of his least impressive outings on the year, giving up four runs in two innings en route to his first loss of the season.
This was the righthander’s second struggle in recent starting appearances; he gave up four runs in just 0.2 innings two weeks ago against Long Beach State, though the Cardinal would eventually come back to win that game.
The same couldn’t be said against the Trojans, however. Stanford got two runs back in the eighth off a Zach Jones single, but Clowe’s second strikeout left the bases loaded, and the game ended 6-2. The loss marked the second straight matchup in which Stanford only scored in a single frame.
Clutch hitting was dismal in the series, as 28 Cardinal batters struck out and 26 more were left on base.
Stanford will try to get back into the win column this Tuesday against Pacific, hosting the Tigers at 5:30 p.m. at Sunken Diamond. The Cardinal is 6-0 in midweek matchups this season and have lost only once in nine home games.