Stanford remains in solid baseball shape by taking two of three from USC

Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 8, 1998

Stanford remains in solid baseball shape by taking two of three from USC

In a key three-game series that determined the top spot in the Six-Pac Conference and the No. 1 ranking in the country, Stanford arrived home from its rain-marred trip to Los Angeles in great shape.

The top-ranked Cardinal (12-3, 27-5-1) took two out of three games from No. 2 USC (14-4, 28-8) with a pair of one-run games last weekend. Stanford won the opener last Friday night, 1-0, then split a doubleheader on Sunday, winning 7-6 and losing 7-4, after being rained out Saturday.

Stanford continues Six-Pac play this weekend with three games against rival California. The series opener is slated for Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in Berkeley, followed by a Friday matchup at 7 p.m. at Sunken Diamond. The series finale is Saturday at 1 p.m. in Berkeley.

The series victory over USC technically puts the Cardinal a half-game behind the Trojans in the Six-Pac race because USC has played more conference games. But Stanford owns a one-game lead in the all-important loss column and has the early advantage in head-to-head competition at 2-1.

The two teams meet for a three-game set at Sunken Diamond on May 9-11, which could determine the conference championship and the No. 1 ranking in the country, as well as the top seed for the NCAA West Regional.

The series opener was a true pitchers' classic as Stanford's Jeff Austin and USC's Seth Etherton battled for nine innings while the two explosive offenses could manage just 10 combined hits. And though Etherton came away with the better numbers, his only mistake was a big one in the top of the seventh inning.

That's when the Cardinal junior outfielder Jody Gerut blasted his 12th homer of the season, a solo shot, that gave Stanford a 1-0 lead. And that would be all the run support Austin would need as the lead held up.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Austin (9-0) remained unbeaten on the season by yielding only six hits, walking one and striking out eight in the complete game win. Etherton (8-1) was just as impressive, giving up only four hits, with no walks and fanning a career-high 15 batters.

After the series was halted by rain on Saturday, the two met for a twin bill on Sunday. And those games were as tight as the opener.

In the first game, Stanford junior Chad Hutchinson (6-2) gave up nine hits and three earned runs in 8 1/3 innings worked to earn the win.

With the game knotted at 3-3 in the sixth, junior Josh Hochgesang belted a solo homer to give Stanford a 4-3 lead. Hochgesang would add an RBI-single in the seventh as the Cardinal notched three more runs for a 7-3 advantage.

Freshman Justin Wayne continued his fine work from the bullpen and slammed the door in relief after the Trojans crawled within 7-6 in the ninth inning. It was Wayne's fourth save of the season.

Hochgesang finished with three hits and three RBI, with senior Jay Pecci and sophomore John Gall each producing a double in two hits. Junior Tony Schrager added two hits as Stanford pounded out 11 hits.

In the nightcap, USC snapped its eight-game losing streak to Stanford by jumping out to a quick 6-0 advantage after three innings and never looked back in a 7-4 Trojan win.

Hochgesang hit his sixth homer of the season for the Cardinal, but junior Brent Hoard (2-2) suffered the loss.

Gerut and freshman Joe Borchard each picked up a pair of hits for the Cardinal, with Gerut adding a double.

In the three games, USC outscored Stanford, 13-12, and outhit the Cardinal, 25-23. The two teams combined to commit just three errors for the the entire series.

--Craig Wentz 

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