June 3, 2006
Austin, Tex. - Stanford (32-25) moved on to Sunday's championship game of the 2006 Austin Regional with a wild 12-8 victory over defending national champion and No. 3 national seed Texas (41-20) in a winners' bracket game before a loud crowd of 5420 fans on Saturday at Disch-Falk Stadium. John Hester (2-4, HR, 4 RBI) hit his first career grandslam in the second inning and tied a career-high four RBI to help the Cardinal come back from an early 3-0 deficit, while Erik Davis recorded his third save of the season by thwarting a furious Longhorn rally in the seventh inning and pitching 2.1 hitless frames to preserve the Cardinal lead.
"Any time you get a big hit like that, it definitely lifts the spirit of the team," said Hester about his grandslam. "The fact that we were down by three and then gained the lead with one swing of the bat really turned the game around."
"It was a great game with many ups and downs," added Stanford head coach Mark Marquess, who moved into sole possession of 12th-place on the all-time win list for NCAA Division I coaches with his 1256th career victory. "I thought the key was John Hester's grandslam that put us right back in the game by putting us up a run. In the bottom of the eighth, those three runs we got were just huge. Overall, it was a great college baseball game, great crowd, good atmosphere and a big win for us."
Stanford will play at 4 pm, CT/2 pm, PT on Sunday against the winner of the day's first contest in an elimination game between North Carolina State (39-22) and Texas. A victory on Sunday for the Cardinal, who is playing in its eighth consecutive NCAA Regional title game, would move Stanford on to one of eight NCAA Super Regionals to be held Friday-Monday, June 9-12.
The trio of Jason Castro (3-4, 3B, 2 RBI), Chris Lewis (3-4) and Michael Taylor (3-4) combined for nine of Stanford's 16 hits and nine of the team's 12 runs with each player scoring three times and collecting three hits. Chris Minaker (2-5, RBI) also had a pair of hits while Jim Rapoport drove in a pair of runs.
Starter Nolan Gallagher (5-4) picked up the victory by lasting until two outs in the seventh inning despite allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
Carson Kainer (2-4, 2B, 4 RBI), Drew Stubbs (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, SB), Chance Wheeless (2-5, RBI, SB) and Nick Peoples (2-3) had a pair of hits each with Stubbs and Wheeless also scoring a pair of runs.
Texas took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Kainer drilled a three-run double down the left field line after Peoples, Stubbs and Wheeless had put together three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases. Third base umpire Harry Greer gave an original signal that the ball was fair but ESPNU replies showed the ball clearly fair. Marquess came out of the Cardinal dugout to discuss the situation but the ball was ruled fair.
Hester gave the Cardinal a 4-3 lead with one swing of the bat when he drilled his grandslam well over the fence just to the left of the large scoreboard in leftcenter field. Taylor, Lewis and Castro had loaded the bases for Hester with three consecutive singles to start inning.
Stanford increased its lead to 5-3 when Minaker led off the third with a single, moved to second when Taylor was hit by a pitch and third on a sacrifice bunt from Chris Lewis before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Castro.
Texas got the run back when Preston Clark went deep in the fourth inning with a two-out solo shot over the left field wall.
Stanford gave itself some breathing room with a wild four-run fifth that saw the Cardinal score three unearned runs and send 10 batters to the plate. Taylor and Lewis started the inning with back-to-back singles on balls through the infield. Castro then hit a slow bouncing ball that Texas second baseman Bradley Suttle was unable to come up with and was charged with an error, allowing Taylor to score from second and leaving runners on first and second. Hester then hit a hard shot that ended up as an infield single when the ball took a bad hop and hit Peoples in the face, knocking the Longhorns' third baseman out of the game and loading the bases with no outs. Joseph Krebs (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 SO) then relieved Texas starter and losing pitcher Kyle McCulloch (8-5), who allowed nine runs (six earned) on nine hits and two walks. Krebs struck out Randy Molina and got Rapoport to ground into a possible rally-ending double play, but the hard-hit ball ricocheted off the glove of Wheeless at first base and turned into a pair of unearned runs for the Cardinal when Lewis and Castro both came across to score. Krebs then walked Ryan Seawell to reload the bases before Grant Escue went down on strikes for the second out, but Minaker bounced an RBI infield single to shortstop to bring Hester home with the final run of the inning. Krebs finally got the Longhorns out of the inning when Taylor grounded out to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Texas roared back with a two-out four-run rally in the seventh. After Gallagher (6.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) retired the first two batters he faced in the inning, Hunter Harris started the uprising with a two-out single to left. Gallagher then walked Clay Van Hook on four straight pitches and threw one ball before to Stubbs before being replaced by Matt Manship (0.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER), who wasn't able to get an out with all four runs scoring on three consecutive hits against him. Stubbs' hard-hit grounder to the left side of the infield turned into a two-RBI double that scored both Harris and Van Hook when it took a bad hop and bounced by Molina at third base. Wheeless and Kainer followed with back-to-back RBI singles to score Stubbs and Wheeler before Davis came on preserve a precarious 9-8 lead by getting Jordan Danks to fly out to left field to end the inning.
"It always feels good to come in during a situation like that and kill a rally," said Davis. "It means a lot that the coaches have the confidence to use me in that situation."
Stanford scored three insurance runs in the top of the eighth to regain the momentum and give Davis a four-run cushion in the ninth. Three consecutive singles from Taylor, Lewis and Castro brought Taylor across with the first run of the inning. Lewis and Castro then moved over to second and third on a wild pitch from Randy Boone (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 SO), who then struck out Hester before he was relieved by Austin Wood (0.1 IP, 2 H), who allowed back-to-back RBI singles to Molina and Rapoport to end the day's scoring.