STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford baseball team lives on at the NCAA Regional, defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks, 5-1, in an elimination game Saturday at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond. Randy Molina had three hits Saturday, including his fifth home run of the season, and Austin Yount tossed five innings of one-run ball and struck out five to earn his fifth win.
With the win, Stanford now moves on to the next elimination game Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. to face the loser of this evening's Pepperdine-UC Davis contest. The winner of that contest will go on to the regional title game Sunday at 5 p.m., needing two victories against Saturday evening's winner.
Along with Molina's 3-for-4 performance at the plate, which included a double on top of his homer, Sean Ratliff had a pair of hits and an RBI, Jason Castro produced an RBI double, and Zach Jones knocked in a run.
Jeremy Bleich tag-teamed with Yount to limit the Razorbacks to just one run in the contest, earning his first save of the season after throwing four innings of scoreless relief and striking out four.
The Cardinal struck first in the contest, building an early 3-0 lead runs in each of the second, third, and fourth innings thanks to productive leadoff at bats. Molina led off the second with a bomb to right, his fifth of the year, and Cord Phelps walked to lead off the third, advanced to second on Toby Gerhart's groundout, then scored on Castro's RBI double down the left-field line. In the fourth, Molina's leadoff single started a string of three straight hits, as Ratliff bunted his way on and Jeff Whitlow singled through the left side to load the bases. Jones then lined out to left, but it was deep enough to score Molina and go in the book as a sacrifice fly.
Yount allowed only two hits over the first three frames against the Razorbacks, and got out of a jam in the fourth. Andy Wilkins' infield single was followed two batters later by a base hit from Jeff Nutt. A wild pitch put them on second and third with two away, but Yount escaped the inning as Casey Coon lined out to left.
Arkansas would get the needed two-out hit off of Yount the following inning, though, as three straight two-out singles produced the Razorbacks' lone run of the contest. Chase Leavitt and Ben Tschepikow started the sequence with base hits, then Leavitt was driven in by Logan Forsythe's base hit to center. A ball-handling error on the hit allowed Forsythe to advance to second, putting a pair of runners in scoring postion once more with two out.
But Yount's reflexes and glove prevented what would have been a game-tying single up the middle by Wilkins. On a 2-2 pitch, Wilkins smashed a low drive that skipped off the edge of the grass just before the mound dirt and disappeared into Yount's glove, then was gently tossed to first for the inning's final out, preserving the Cardinal's 3-1 lead.
Bleich would come on for Yount to start the sixth, set Arkansas down in order, then snag a comebacker of his own to take away yet another potential game-tying hit up the middle in the seventh. Once again with two outs, Leavitt, Tschepikow, and Forsythe would reach base on a pair of walks sandwiching Tschepikow's hit up the middle.
Just as two innings prior, Wilkins was snake-bitten again as his hard-hit ball up the middle was snagged by Bleich, who tossed to first for the putout and squelched Arkansas' rally.
Stanford would take advantage of the momentum shift by putting up a pair of insurance runs in the eighth. Brent Milleville's single was followed by Molina's double to right-center, and a wild pitch from Justin Wells brought Milleville across with the Cardinal's fourth run. Ratliff's sacrifice fly to right plated Molina with the game's final run.
The final two innings were not without drama, though, as Bleich extricated himself from a pair of late jams. In the eighth, Arkansas put runners on the corners with just one out, but Bleich struck out Aaron Murphree and got Tim Smalling to foul out to first to end the inning. A pair of walks in the ninth put Razorback runners on first and second with one out, but again, Bleich put out the fire with consecutive strikeouts to end the game.