Baseball Bounces Back in Reno

Brent Milleville: 4-for-4, 5 RBI

Stanford Baseball did three novel things Tuesday: score throughout a game, pitch strong out of the bullpen and avoid imploding in the field. The result was a 9-4 victory at Nevada, ending the Cardinal's six-game losing skid. Two players had perfect days at the plate, and a third nudged his average briefly over .400. Junior David Stringer closed with two-hit shutout pitching the final five innings.

After an inauspicious start to Stanford's game Tuesday at Nevada, the Cardinal cruised the final five innings and outscored the Wolfpack 6-0 to come back for a 9-4 victory.  The win was the first for Stanford since March 27, when they beat San Jose State in a mid-week non conference game.  The Cardinal were losers of six straight coming into Tuesday.

"It's huge," says sophomore Brent Milleville of the win.  "When you have lost six games in a row, it's hard to get back on top and play pretty well.  I think we did play pretty well today, and I feel like this game could be a turning point for us."

It looked like early like the losing streak could climb to seven after Stanford went down in order in the top of the first, and then sophomore Austin Yount served up a lead-off triple to Mike Hale that hit the top of the wall in center field.  (Yount was pitching for the first time since his four-game suspension following a March 31 ejection.)  Two pitches later, a Yount wild pitch let Hale and Nevada score the first run of the game.  Two one-out singles and a five-pitch walk soon loaded the bases, when Yount came up with a big strikeout.  The next batter hit a chopper down the first base line, which could have been the third out but was not fielded cleanly by sophomore Jason Castro.  Ruled an infield single, Nevada plated another run and suddenly jumped to a 2-0 lead.

The next three innings were a see-saw affair at the plate and on the mound.  Stanford's bats awakened with six combined hits in the second and third innings, squandering opportunities in the former and seizing them in the latter.  After going down in the first frame without so much as a whimper, the Cardinal started the second inning with back-to-back singles by sophomores Joey August and Brent Milleville.  Castro was next to the plate, but he grounded into a double play to take away Stanford's advantage.  With two outs and August on third, freshman Toby Gerhart stepped into the batter's box.  He had not played since breaking a bone in his forearm on February 17 at Texas, and he delivered in his return with an RBI.  Gerhart hit to the Nevada shortstop, whose error allowed the frosh to reach first before the throw.

Gerhart subsequently stole second base in his first steal attempt at Stanford, though he was stranded.  It was Stanford's first stolen base since March 25 at Sacramento State.  Gerhart came into the game with a five-game hitting streak from February, but he finished Tuesday 0-for-4 at the plate with a walk.

While Stanford hurt themselves in the second by hitting into a double play with two men on and no outs, they took advantage of a strange opportunity in the third.  For the second straight inning, Stanford put two men aboard quickly.  Freshman Adam Gaylord's lead-off single and redshirt junior Adam Sorgi's one-out single put runners at first and third.  Junior Michael Taylor came to the plate and appeared to ground into an inning-ending double play.  The Wolfpack afterward cleared the field and camped out in their dugout, but Taylor was crumpled in the batter's box.  He had hit that ball off his left foot, and the Stanford trainer tended to the 6'6" 260-pounder while Nevada unflinching held in their dugout.  The umpires ruled the play a foul ball and brought the home team back onto the field.  Taylor stayed in the game and struck out on the next pitch, to much celebration by Wolfpack fans.

That changed after Nevada made a switch on the hill and brought in lefty Jarad Mitchell to face the lefthanded August.  On the first pitch, the Stanford sophomore singled back up the middle to score Gaylord and tie the game.  August finished the game 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.  Still with two outs, Milleville picked up his second hit of the afternoon on a bloop single that dropped into right field, scoring Sorgi and giving Stanford the 3-2 lead.

Yount had a terrible start in the first inning, garnering a quick visit to the mound from pitching coach Tom Kunis.  The sophomore righthander came back in the second with surprising success, retiring the side in order.  Yount threw just nine pitches, six of them going for strikes.

That success was fleeting, when Yount gave up a lead-off home run on the first pitch of the third inning.  Shaun Kort crushed the offering deep over the center field wall of Peccole Park, tying the game at 3-3.  Yount settled down afterward, retiring three of the next four batters, the lone exception reaching first on an error by Castro.  Nevada did not score that runner or the rest of the inning, which let Stanford escape unscathed from the error.  The Cardinal committed a whopping 11 errors last weekend in their series at Arizona State, keeping Sun Devil innings alive and costing Stanford dearly in the Thursday and Friday losses.  It is a modest improvement that Stanford made just one error in Reno.

In the bottom of the fourth, Yount threw all strikes and netted a groundout to start the inning.  He was then pulled for sophomore Tom Stilson, who immediately gave up a double to Nick Sansone, Nevada's #9 hitter.  A four-pitch walk put the next man on base, and a wild pitch moved Sansone to third.  It proved costly when groundout was able to score the runner and reclaim Nevada's lead, 4-3.  A passed ball, hit batsman and stolen base put Wolfpack runners on second and third before Stilson escaped the inning.

Stanford answered in the top of the fifth with two runs to take the lead for good, which gave Stilson the win, despite pitching just 2/3 of an inning.  He gave way to junior David Stringer to start the bottom of the fifth, who threw the final five innings and was clearly the best Stanford pitcher of the afternoon.  Stringer scattered two hits and never allowed a Nevada runner past second base.  He notched four strikeouts against one walk and retired the final seven batters he faced.  The performance gave the Palo Alto (Calif.) native his seventh save of the season, though his first since March 2.

"It felt good," Stringer says.  "I was actually having a little trouble with my curveball and breaking stuff.  That may be something that had a little to do with the elevation.  But when I got in the game, everything went away.  My fastball felt good out of my hand.  I think I was attacking down in the zone pretty well."

Stringer pitched with a lead all five of innings he threw on Tuesday.  Sophomore Sean Ratliff in the top of the inning led off with a home run to right field, his fifth of the season and third in Stanford's last three games.  Ratliff may be admired for his recent power surge, but the at-bat was most commendable for his discipline and fight at the plate.  He started down 1-2 in the count but fouled off three pitches and worked the count to 3-2 before hitting the ninth pitch out of the park.

Now it was the Wolfpack's turn to unravel at the mound, walking the next two Stanford batters.  Sorgi and Taylor moved to third and second, respectively, with an August sacrifice bunt.  Stanford has rarely laid down sac bunts this season, but this move paid off.  One batter later, Milleville rocketed a low line drive to right that went for an out but brought Sorgi home.  Stanford had the lead again at 5-4, and this time they would not relinquish it.  Stringer gave up a lead-off double to the right field corner to start the bottom of the fifth, but he next netted a strikeout when Chris Siewert bunted foul on an 0-2 count.  Stringer induced a 6-4-3 ground ball double play to finish the inning.

Stanford scored again in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to grow the lead to a 9-4 final.  The seventh mirrored the fifth with Sorgi and Taylor both reaching, though this time on singles.  (Sorgi's hit pushed his season batting average to .404, though a line out in the eighth dropped him to .396.)  Again it was Milleville at the plate, and he doubled the first pitch to left field and drove home both runners.  Milleville in the ninth rapped a second double for an RBI, driving in August.  Stanford's other run came on a Ratliff sacrifice fly after a Gaylord sacrifice bunt, bringing home sophomore Cord Phelps after his lead-off double.

Milleville's only out of the game was recorded as a sacrifice, giving him a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate and his first career four-hit game.  He also notched a new career high with five RBI.  Milleville drove in runs in four different innings for Stanford.  He was happy but humble upon his performance.

"It definitely feels great.  Along with everybody else, I've been struggling and not been hitting how I wanted to," says the 6'4" 240-pound sophomore.  "Those first two bats, I wasn't pleased with them at all.  I got jammed, hit it off the end [of the bat] and got two lucky hits.  But the next couple of at-bats I thought were a lot better.  That's just how baseball is.  Sometimes you get lucky on a soft-hit ball; sometimes you hit a ball hard right at someone."

"As a team, our offense hasn't been great obviously," Milleville admits.  "Everyone is trying to find out what is working for them.  It looked like today a lot of guys hit the ball well.  I think this was our best offensive game of the year.  We scored throughout the game, which is something we haven't been able to do.  I think the different approaches guys are taking seem to be working a lot better."

"Really, it was fun to get out there and get a win for the first time in a while - have a little success," Stringer says.  "The pitching has kind of been up-and-down recently.  The bullpen has been struggling a little bit.  I think - I hope, at least - that I did a good job of maybe setting the tone for the second half of our season."

The win pulled Stanford closer to a .500 record on the season, now 14-15.  The Cardinal are still 0-6 in Pac-10 play, however, and look to end that streak this weekend when first-place Arizona comes to Sunken Diamond for a three-game series starting Friday at 6pm (PDT).

BOX SCORE

Stanford    0 1 2  0 2 0  2 1 1  -  9 13 1
Nevada      2 0 1  1 0 0  0 0 0  -  4  8 1

Stanford           POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Sean Ratliff        CF   4   1   1   2    0   0
Adam Sorgi          2B   4   3   2   0    1   0
Michael Taylor      RF   3   0   1   0    1   2
 Jeff Whitlow      PR/RF 1   1   0   0    0   0
Joey August         LF   3   2   3   1    1   0
Brent Milleville   C/1B  4   0   4   5    0   0
Jason Castro        1B   3   0   0   0    0   2
 Brian Juhl        PH/C  2   0   0   0    0   1
Jeffrey Inman       DH   0   0   0   0    0   0
 Toby Gerhart      PH/DH 4   0   0   0    1   1
Cord Phelps         3B   3   1   1   0    1   1
Adam Gaylord        SS   3   1   1   0    0   0

E: Castro
2B: Milleville 2, Phelps
HR: Ratliff
SB: Gerhart

                     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Austin Yount        3.1   5   3   3   1   2
Tom Stilson  (W)    0.2   1   1   1   1   0
David Stringer (S)  5.0   2   0   0   1   4
 

Nevada             POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO
Mike Hale           LF   3   1   1   0    1   0
 Jason Sadoian      CF   1   0   0   0    0   1
Jason Rodriguez     3B   5   0   0   1    0   0
Shaun Kort         1B/P  4   2   2   1    0   1
Baker Krukow         C   4   0   1   0    0   0
 Tyson Jaquez       PH   1   0   0   0    0   0
Jacob Kaup         DH/P  1   0   0   0    1   0
 Terry Walsh       PH/1B 2   0   2   0    0   0
Cody Fierro         RF   2   0   0   0    0   1
 Trevor O'Sullivan PR/RF 0   0   0   0    1   0
Chris Siewert       SS   3   0   1   1    0   1
 Konrad Schmidt     PH   1   0   0   0    0   1
 Owen Mackedon      SS   0   0   0   0    0   0
David Ciarlo        2B   4   0   0   0    0   1
Nick Sansone       CF/RF 4   1   1   0    0   0

E: Siewert
2B: Walsh, Sansone
3B: Hale
HR: Kort
HBP: Kort, Fierro
SB: Kort

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Ben Colton        2.2   4   3   2   0   2
Jarad Mitchell    1.1   2   0   0   1   2
Jacob Kaup (L)    0.0   1   2   2   2   0
Matt Renfree      2.0   0   0   0   1   1
Mat Keplinger     0.1   3   2   2   1   0
Shaun Kort        1.2   1   1   1   0   2
Mario Rivera      1.0   2   1   1   0   0


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