Uploaded: Sunday, June 3, 2012, 9:08 PM
Updated: Sunday, June 3, 2012, 11:19 PM
Stanford baseball simply Super in regional final
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|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Alex Blandino was pretty good at any sport he tried and was on national championship-caliber soccer teams growing up in Palo Alto. He gave soccer a try as a freshman at St. Francis High and decided he was just a little better at playing baseball.
Stanford coach Mark Marquess, for one, is glad he made the choice to concentrate on baseball. The Cardinal may not be where it is now without him.
Blandino drove in four runs, three on a home run during the decisive rally in the fourth, to help Stanford beat Pepperdine, 8-7, in the championship game of an NCAA regional at Stanford on Sunday night.
"Soccer is something I love to do and I had fun playing as a freshman," Blandino said. "But I was always better at baseball."
"Alex has had a great season for us," he said. "He's playing a new position defensively and really solidified third base. He single handedly won a series against Arizona State for us. He doesn't get down. I'm on him all the time and he's come through a lot. He's matured as a player."
Blandino was named the national player of the week by Collegiate Baseball in late April after hitting four home runs, driving in 11 and batting .563 during the sweep of the Sun Devils.
"He crushed that fastball," Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said of Blandino's three-run shot in the fourth. "He's a good player and we were trying not to throw him fastballs. But in that spot we had to throw one."
Stanford already had taken a 5-4 lead a batter early, when Austin Wilson singled home two runs. Blandino then delivered the big blow.
"The key was to try and not get caught up in the moment," said Blandino, who dropped a foul ball that led to three Pepperdine runs in the first. "Obviously, the dropped foul ball cost us a couple of runs. I knew I was going to get something to hit there and wanted to put a good swing on it."
Mark Appel, who won Friday night's opener with a complete game, was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Menlo School grads Kenny Diekroeger and Danny Diekroeger, Eric Smith, Brian Ragira and A.J. Vanegas.
The Cardinal travels to Florida State for next week's best-of-three Super Regional. That winner advances to the College World Series.
Stephen Piscotty, a projected first-round pick in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Monday, had two hits, drove in a run and pitched into the seventh inning.
"He hits third in our lineup, he's our RBI leader and he's won four straight as a starter," Marquess said. "He's a fantastic competitor and a fantastic player. I just don't want him thinking he's a pitcher first."
Piscotty (5-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings for the win. He gave up seven runs, four earned, on 11 hits, walking one and striking out two. Sahil Bloom went the final 2 2/3 innings for his first save.
"I was not worried at all," Piscotty said of falling behind 4-0 early. "The big thing is to throw strikes. They beat me in the first inning, I got out of it, and found a groove. This is probably the biggest game I've ever played in my life. I got knocked around but never gave up."
Ragira reached base in 11 of his 14 plate appearances over the weekend. It was out of respect for his offensive power that Pepperdine walked him intentionally ahead of Wilson, who made the Waves pay with his two-run single.
"If they want to walk me and face Austin, go ahead," Ragira said. "We have run producers throughout the lineup."
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Posted by Joe Baldwin, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 4, 2012 at 10:44 am
Congratulations to the Cardinal baseball team for their sweep of the NCAA Regional, including twice overcoming 4-run deficits against
Pepperdine. Let's all root for them to beat Florida State next weekend
to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. They richly deserve to be there for a shot at another National Championship.