Cardinal drop third straight

Jeff Whitlow's two runs, two hits not enough

No. 6 Stanford lost its third straight game as visiting Cal used a three-run seventh to down the Cardinal 5-2 Saturday afternoon at Klein Field. Stanford (28-12-7, 10-7 Pac-10) dropped to 0-3-1 against the archrival Bears (32-15-2, 11-9) and clinched its first lost weekend series of the year. Craig Bennigson (4-3) earned the win, while Stanford's Erik Davis (7-2) chalked up only his second loss.

California 5, Stanford 2
California 001 000 310 5 7 2
Stanford 001 010 000 2 9 1

No. 6 Stanford lost its third straight game as visiting Cal used a three-run seventh to down the Cardinal 5-2 Saturday afternoon at Klein Field. Stanford (28-12-7, 10-7 Pac-10) dropped to 0-3-1 against the archrival Bears (32-15-2, 11-9) and clinched its first lost weekend series of the year.

Craig Bennigson (4-3) earned the win, while Stanford's Erik Davis (7-2) chalked up only his second loss.

"He gave us a chance to win," Coach Mark Marquess said of his lanky senior righthander.

Marquess added that the offense, which has scored just five runs two games into the series, needs a boost if Stanford hopes to bounce back in the finale, 1 p.m. Sunday. Stanford's two through four hitters were 0-for-10 Saturday, just a day after its six through nine batters hit a combined 1-for-15 in the series opener.

The Bears, meanwhile, were outhit 9-7, but did the little things right, bunting when they had to and making smart decisions on the base paths.

Still, Stanford looked in control with a 2-1 lead after six innings. But then Erik Davis started the seventh by hitting second baseman Josh Satin in the helmet.

While Satin was unfazed from the hit, the same could not be said for Davis. Forced to work from the stretch rather than the windup, Davis then walked the go-ahead run, centerfielder Brett Jackson, Cal's cleanup hitter. Davis regrouped to force catcher Dylan Tonneson into a flyout, but after another walk, Jeff Kobernus gave Cal a 3-2 lead with a one-out two-RBI single.

Then, shortstop Michael Brady, Cal's No. 9 hitter, attempted a suicide squeeze. Davis fielded the dribbler down the first base line and decided to try for the risky out at the plate. But his throw was wide of catcher Jason Castro, allowing for the run to score and all runners to advance a base on the error.

The Cardinal found a way out of the inning without further damage, courtesy rightfielder Jeff Whitlow's well-timed defensive gem. He caught DH Mark Canha's foul fly, then turned and fired a strike to Jason Castro, who tagged out Kobernus, trying to score from third.

But Cal was not finished. In the eighth, Davis showed signs of tire and saw a potential fifth complete game of the season draw to a close. Freshman standout Alex Pracher took the mound, but after Tonneson hit a seeing-eye single through the left side, the score was 5-2 and Pracher's afternoon was also done. Freshman lefty Michael De Groot took the reins for Stanford, and retired Cal's last four batters in order.

Unfortunately for the Card, Cal's bullpen was just as strong. Blake Smith pitched a scoreless seventh and a flawless eighth, when he struck out Stanford's first three hitters, second baseman Colin Walsh, pinch-hitter Brendan Domaracki, and catcher Jason Castro, swinging. Closer Matt Gorgen preserved Bennigson's win in the ninth, though a two-out rally did bring the tying run to the plate.

First blood came in the third inning, when Cal's Charlie Cutler knocked a sharp line drive into centerfield, scoring Smith from second base.

But the Cardinal responded that same inning. Whitlow poked a dribbler back to the mound, but Cal starter Craig Bennigson overthrew first base. As the ball trickled towards the Stanford dugout, Whitlow sped to third after the ruled single. Jake Schlander's rightfield single easily brought home Whitlow, retying the game at 1-1.
Colin Walsh followed Schlander with a line drive deep into the recesses of right-centerfield. But Cal centerfielder Jackson threw a lace to Tonneson, who tagged Schlander, trying to score from first on the play. A Toby Gerhart groundout to short ended the inning.

The southpaw Bennigson had yet to give up an earned run through four innings. But in the fifth, it was again Whitlow who started the action, this time with a leftfield single. Whitlow reached second on a groundout, then scored the go-ahead run for the Cardinal when second baseman Walsh knocked a line-drive single into the right-center gap. Walsh, however, was thrown out for greed when Bennigson cut off a throw to the plate, and fired to second before Walsh could arrive.

Both starters looked dominant in the sixth. Davis retired the first three hitters of the Cal lineup in order. Not to be outdone, Bennigson forced Stanford's three most productive hitters, Jason Castro, Brent Milleville, and Sean Ratliff, into a 1-2-3 inning.

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