June 7, 2008

2008 Super Regionals

Stanford gets by Cal State Fullerton

Bleich pitches six strong innings for Cardinal


By Abbey Mastracco

Abbey Mastracco is an intern and a major contributor to CollegeBaseballInsider.com this season. A senior at Long Beach State, Abbey is the sports editor for Daily 49er and was the beat writer for the LBSU Dirtbags. She has also reported on PGA events around the country. Abbey is a huge Sacramento Kings fan and likes the Giants, A's, Padres, 49ers and Chargers.


FULLERTON, Calif. - It wasn’t exactly the start that heavily-favored, nationally-ranked Cal State Fullerton expected.


Jeff Kaplan, the Titans’ leading arm who was coming off a regional-winning save against UCLA last weekend, struck out Stanford leadoff man Cord Phelps to start the first game of the Fullerton Super Regional Friday night. The sellout crowd that included actor and CSF alumni Kevin Costner at Goodwin Field went wild.


But their applause was quickly quieted, because before they knew it the first run of the game was scored. And it was not a Titan crossing the plate.


And before they knew it, they were down to their last out. With Corey Jones at the plate and the count full, Jones dropped a ball perfectly into the glove of Sean Ratliff in center field, giving the Cardinal a 4-3 win.


Stanford (38-22-2) head coach Mark Marquess, acknowledging the rich tradition of baseball at CS Fullerton (41-21), said the outcome of the game was just as good as the atmosphere. For his team, that is.


“It was a great college game, a great atmosphere and a great crowd,” Marquess said.


For Marquess, it was his starting pitcher, Jeremy Bleich, who was the hero of the game.


“We got a fabulous pitching performance from Jeremy Bleich,” Marquess said. “He gave us six strong innings. Just a phenomenal performance.”


Bleich (3-2) had little trouble with the Titans, giving up just one unearned run, allowing only three hits and striking out five. Bleich walked just two in his six-inning win.


However, Fullerton hitters were less than thrilled with Bliech’s performance, and their own as well.


“He’s a pretty good pitcher overall,” said Fullerton right fielder Erik Komatsu. “He’s coming off of an injury. But he threw a lot of fastballs I thought our team could have hammered. But we didn’t hit enough balls on the ground. Too many fly outs, too many easy outs.”


“We didn’t put the ball on the ground,” said Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano. “It’s the little things you have got to do.”


Kaplan (11-3), as well, failed to execute the little things for the Titans, as he quickly went downhill after striking out Phelps, which was one of only three of Kaplan’s punchouts.


Joey August (2 for 2 with two runs) was walked after Phelps’ strikeout. Kaplan looked to be out of it after getting Jason Castro to ground out. But the groundout had advanced August, allowing him to easily score from second when Brent Milleville looped a ball into the left field gap.


The damage had yet to be done. Kaplan struggled through the next five innings, giving up seven more hits, including two home runs. One was a nearly 400-foot, two-run jack by Castro (2 for 4, one run and two RBI) and one was a solo leadoff shot by Ratliff (1 for 2, one run, one RBI, two walks) that killed what looked to have been the start of a Fullerton rally, giving the Cardinal a 4-1 lead.


“The home runs were off decent pitches,” Kaplan said. “They put pretty good swings on them. Both were down.”


Kaplan’s home run pitches may have been down, but Kaplan admittedly left several up throughout the game as well. In 6.2 innings, Kaplan allowed four earned on eight hits, walking three and striking out three.


“I wasn’t down enough the whole game. I left too many balls up,”


The Titans did threaten the Cardinal’s lead and put up a good fight in the process. Komatsu’s two-run homer in the eighth put them within one run of tying, and a Gary Brown leadoff single in the ninth brought Goodwin Field to its feet. With two outs and Brown on second after a sac bunt, Jones battled Drew Storen, working the count full, but just got underneath a fastball, giving Storen the save, his seventh, and the Cardinal the win.


“It was a tough loss,” Serrano said. “We battled but came up a little short. But our backs are against the wall and that’s usually when we do our best.”


Stanford now stands just one game away from the College World Series. The two teams continue the best-of-three Super Regional series Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. PST at Goodwin Field. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.