When Jeff Kaplan and Jeremy Bleich went head to head early in the season, the Stanford hitters got the best of Kaplan, knocking him out of the game after only an inning. Stanford went on to sweep Fullerton, but that, as coach Dave Serrano said, was a different Fullerton team, one still searching to find its identity. Fullerton turned its season around and played well enough to garner a #5 national seed, but lacked the same tenacity they showed in the second half of the season tonight as they fell to Stanford 4-3 in a lackluster offensive effort.
Kaplan(11-3) gave up 4 earned over 6 2/3, getting through the Stanford order twice with ease before getting hit hard in the 5th and 6th on homeruns by Castro and Ratliff. When talking about his performance after the game, Kaplan said, “The home runs came off decent pitches. They put pretty good swings on them. Both were down. I wasn’t down enough the whole game and left too many balls up.” For how the regional games went in Fullerton last week, Kaplan’s performance should have been enough to get him in contention for the win, but Bleich(3-2) stifled the Titan bats for six innings in his first start since his last meeting with Kaplan in February.
Stanford got on the board first with a Brent Melleville single to left, scoring Joey August. Kaplan got out of the inning giving up only that lone run, and held the Cardinal scoreless after that until the 5th. Leadoff hitter Cord Phelps struck out, but before he went down he hit a ball down the right field line foul that traveled about 400 feet. Joey August got on board with a single, and then yesterday’s 10th overall pick Catcher Jason Castro sent a line drive that just never seemed to get down, clearing the fence in left center and giving the Cardinal the 3-0 lead.
The Titans helped themselves out in the 5th when Freshman All-American Gary Brown singled, then advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw from Bleich. With Brown on third and no outs, Joel Weeks, who was snubbed out of a Regional All-Tournament Team selection in favor of UCLA’s Jermaine Curtis, lined a single down the third baseline to get Fullerton on the board. After a passed ball advanced Weeks to second, Dustin Garneau’s sacrifice bunt advanced Weeks over to third base. It wasn’t to be though, as the big Stanford lefty got 2B Joe Scott looking on a backdoor slider and Josh Fellhauer to groundout to first, keeping the score at 3-1.
Stanford continued to touch up Kaplan early in the 6th, as Sean Ratliff hit his 21st homerun of the season about 430 feet to right center, a solo shot that easily cleared “Hit it Here” sign. Ratliff is one of Stanford’s many left handed hitters in the middle of their lineup. This presents a problem for Cal State Fullerton because their bullpen only possesses one left handed arm in freshman Jason Dovel, who was brought in to get the last out of the 7th.
Even though this game started at 10:30 on the East Coast, that didn’t stop Yankee Fans from getting a good look at Stanford Pitcher Jeremy Bleich, who they selected 44th overall yesterday. These fans must have liked what they saw because Bleich completely shut down the Titans through the first 4 innings. Speaking of the draft, three Stanford players were picked on Day 2 along with six Titans, including RF Erik Komatsu who homered off of Jeremy Inman in the 8th inning, cutting the lead down to 4-3.
The Cardinal were unable to capitalize on a 9th inning double and HBP given up by Titan reliever Michael Morrison, striking out Jason Castro and Brent Melleville to allow the Titans to try and answer in the bottom of the inning. Gary Brown led off the 9th for the Titans with a single off the glove of 3B Zach Jones. Brown was sacrificed over to 2nd on a Joel Weeks bunt, but it wasn’t to be for the Titans, as Drew Storen was brought in and got his 7th save of the year.