Stanford will bat, in order:
1. DH Justin Ringo
2. RF Austin Slater
3. 1B Brian Ragira
4. CF Austin Wilson
5. 2B Danny Diekroeger
6. C Brant Whiting
7. LF Wayne Taylor
8. 3B Alex Blandino
9. SS Lonnie Kauppila
Mark Appel is getting plenty of attention on ESPNU, and rightfully so as a potential No. 1 overall pick (and dominant college pitcher), but Arizona State’s Trevor Williams is no slouch either. At 5-3 and with a 3.3 ERA, you wouldn’t necessarily think future first-round pick, or Friday starter on a team that will push for the College World Series, but dude plays in a desert, his 55 strikeouts to 13 walks is elite, and apparently his defense has let him down at times.
With an RPI of 14 and an offense that averages 6.3 runs per game, ASU is projected to host a regional. (The Oregons are projected as top-eight seeds, UCLA is a projected regional host ala ASU, and Arizona is the last team in the field.) Meanwhile, Stanford is so far out of the picture, thanks to their No. 98 RPI, that they’ll need to finish 10-2 to feel good about their NCAA Tournament shots, per the ESPNU jabber. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not pretty for a preseason top-10 team with as much talent as anyone.
In the top of the first, Ringo singles up the middle and tags to second on a foul flyout, but is stranded there as Wilson ends the inning chasing high strikes. Appel plunks a guy but allows no other runners in bottom of the first.
A Taylor single is all Stanford can muster in the second, while Appel strikes out the side in the bottom. I’m not sure Appel has thrown a ball thus far (other than the beanball), and he is operating at great tempo, so he looks to have his A game tonight.
Kauppila leads off the third with the Cardinal’s third single in as many innings. ESPN
professional curmudgeon scouting guy Keith Law spends much of his on-air segment talking up the MLB potential of Stanford’s first four hitters: Ringo, Slater, Ragira and Wilson. The mojo works, as Ringo walks to put two on with none out – and one wouldn’t think Appel will need much cushion. So Slater bunts over the runners to second and third. Then Williams, now struggling with control, walks Ragira.
One out, bases loaded, top three, scoreless game for Austin Wilson. It’s not hit especially hard on a 2-2 count, but hard to do better for placement than a Texas chopper up the middle. 2-0 Stanford, runners on the corners. After yet another grounder gets through the infield, this one courtesy Danny Diekroeger, you start to feel bad for ASU’s Williams, who hasn’t been hit hard yet, but finds himself down 3-0 against the No. 1 pitcher in college baseball. Brant Whiting hits into the inning-ending double play, but Appel has to like his odds midway through three.
Appel allowed only a single in the bottom of the third, but a busy fourth inning would beckon. Stanford picked up the fourth where they left off the third, with a Blandino walk and then Kauppila, Ringo and Slater singles to push the margin to 5-0. Ragira hit into the Cardinal’s second-straight inning-ending double play, but eight hits and five runs through four is solid work. A Trevor Allen double scores two for ASU, but thanks to Stanford’s top half of the stanza, the three-run cushion remains through four innings, now 5-2.
No runs for the Card in the fifth, but after Diekroeger reached on error and Whiting singled, Williams has thrown 99 pitches(!) through five. Stanford will be getting to the ASU bullpen sooner rather than later, which could pay dividends not only tonight, but also Saturday and Sunday. Appel, meanwhile, has thrown just 65 through five, and has nine strikeouts already after again striking out the side.
Washington 22, Arizona 1. No matter what happens the rest of the way this season, it could always be worse. In Arizona, both sides went 1-2-3 in the sixth, but ASU did so with three strikeouts, giving Appel six in a row and 12 total with three innings still to play. Who’s feeling 20?
ASU trots out Matt Dunbar (29.2 IP, 2.12 ERA) for the seventh, as Williams finishes with nine hits, five runs, three walks and seven strikeouts in six. Ringo, Kauppila and now, with a double, Austin Wilson each have multi-hit games. Dunbar has been hit hard, but after a Whiting dribbler to the mound, Wilson is stranded at second as we reach the seventh-inning stretch.
ASU loads the bases in the bottom of the seventh via error on Kauppila, single, and walk, as Appel cracks the century mark. But the only damage is a single run, unearned no less, as Appel induces a sac fly and then a groundout to Blandino at third. 5-3 after a great recovery by Appel, with the eighth inning up next.
Stanford looks on its way to a half-inning all its own of much sound and little fury, as they put two on but then suffer a Justin Ringo strikeout for out No. 2. In comes pitcher No. 3, Darin Gillies, Slater strikes out and indeed, two runners but no runs for the Cardinal. Appel et al will have a two-run margin with six outs to go.
After two straight outs to start the eighth, Appel is done for the day. He finishes with five hits allowed, three runs, two of them earned, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and 13 strikeouts on 121 pitches. If Garrett Hughes can record the final four outs without incident, Appel would move to 8-3. Hughes allows a single and a walk, so the go-ahead run is at the plate, but after a harmless groundout to Ragira at first, we’re onto the ninth. 5-3 Card.
Card do nothing atop the ninth, with a pickoff erasing a Wilson walk, but most important is that the 8, 9 and 1 hitters for ASU are coming up. It goes to form, as the 8 and 9 guys go strikeout and groundout, but the leadoff man walks. Casey, ahem, Michael Benjamin is at bat, and has a long, dramatic fly ball… into Austin Wilson’s glove at the edge of the warning track. 5-3, final.
RPI-wise, this was Stanford’s best win of the season. Take at least one this weekend, and the Cardinal are doing their part to dig themselves out of their early-season mediocrity. Still a long way to go, but that was a good first step.
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