Friday, June 9, 2000 • Box score
Stanford's steady-as-it-goes approach Friday night helped spoil the College World Series debut of Louisiana-Lafayette.
In what hardly was a spectacular display, the top-ranked Cardinal combined the solid pitching of Jason Young and Jeff Bruksch with timely hits for a 6-4 victory at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Louisiana-Lafayette didn't help its cause, walking 10 Stanford batters and committing critical physical and mental errors that enabled Stanford to gain early control of the opening-night game.
The Cardinal then neutralized the Ragin' Cajuns comeback attempt with solo homers by Joe Borchard and Edmund Muth.
"The homers by Borchard and Muth were big because they gave us a little bit of a lift," Stanford Coach Mark Marquess said. "Those were two big hits in a game that could have gone either way. I thought the difference was we got a couple of key hits and a couple of great pitching performances."
The Cardinal, making its 12th appearance in Omaha with a veteran team that includes five senior starters, also did little to beat itself. Young and Bruksch walked just one batter, and the Ragin' Cajuns couldn't capitalize on the Cardinal's only error.
Stanford's win, before the majority of the session-record crowd of 23,830, improved the Cardinal to 48-15 and moved it into a Sunday Bracket One winners' game against Clemson. The Tigers posted a 10-6 win over San Jose State in Friday's opening game.
Like Louisiana-Lafayette, San Jose is making its initial CWS appearance. Like the Ragin' Cajuns, the Spartans find themselves one loss away from an early exit.
"I think it's kind of fitting that two guys get here the first time," Louisiana-Lafayette Coach Tony Robichaux said, "and one of us is going to send the other one home."
The Ragin' Cajuns might have prevented putting their backs to the wall had they been able to avoid opening-night jitters. Left-hander Justin Gabriel, who had walked just 29 batters in 1051/3 innings prior to Friday night's start, walked seven Stanford hitters in 31/3 innings. He put three of the first four hitters he faced on base with walks.
"I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out where those walks were coming from," said Robichaux, whose team fell to 47-19. "Our first time here, the crowd. We knew whoever went out for the first time would be in a pressure situation.
"Our goal was to stay away from the big inning. Justin could have cracked right there and gave up a huge inning from the get-go. But he settled down, and I don't think the next out we'll see some of these things."
Stanford failed to capitalize on Gabriel's first-inning wildness. He caught a break when Craig Thompson was thrown out trying to advance from second to third on a pitch that scooted away from catcher Danny Massiatte. Gabriel then left two runners on when he got Borchard to line out.
"At that point, we could have gained some momentum," Gabriel said, "but I didn't go out there and attack their hitters as I should have in the next couple of innings. I let the game get away from me."
The Cardinal got to Gabriel for two runs in the third when Damien Alvarado singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice and moved to third on Eric Bruntlett's infield single. Muth grounded a ball to first baseman Jess Poche, who elected to get the out at first instead of trying to immediately throw home and get Alvarado.
The Cajuns followed Poche's mental error with shortstop Rick Haydel's boot of John Gall's grounder that scored Bruntlett with Stanford's second run.
"The ground ball to shortstop and the ground ball to first base were two mistakes we made under pressure," Robichaux said. "Those were two mistakes that could have changed the outcome of the ballgame."
Stanford doubled its lead in the fourth when Arik Van Zandt drew a one out walk. Alvarado and Thompson followed with run-scoring doubles to give Young a four-run cushion.
"Getting that early lead was huge," said Young, who improved to 9-1. "It gave me an opportunity to jump ahead of their hitters and pitch a little less fine. The key for me was doing exactly that because I didn't walk too many. So, when the home runs came, I didn't give up too many runs."
Young walked one and allowed six hits in 7 1/3 innings. Three of the Ragin' Cajuns' hits were homers but two came with no one on base.
Louisiana-Lafayette cut into its deficit when Haydel hit a two-run homer with one out in the fifth inning. Borchard got the run back when he connected on his team-leading 19th homer, a solo shot that made it 5-2 after five innings.
The teams traded again traded homers in the seventh, with Jarvis Larry connecting for the Cajuns and Muth for the Cardinal.
"They were trying to make a run at that point," Borchard said, "and our home runs were very timely. Especially Edmund's, because it kind of put the game out of reach."
Muth's 19th homer gave Stanford a 6-3 lead but the Cajuns knocked Young from the game when Nathan Nelson connected on a solo homer with one out in the eighth. Bruksch relieved and retired five of the six hitters he faced to finish off the Ragin' Cajuns with his 13th save.
In spite of the early jitters, Robichaux said, the Cajuns were in the game until the end.
"This was a game that went back and forth throughout, and we went down to the last pitch with a chance to win," he said. "For a ballclub being here the first time and playing a quality team to the last out, that's huge."
Equally important was the role Stanford's experience played in the win, Marquess said.
"It's always an advantage to have played here," Marquess said. "When you haven't played here, it takes a game or two for your players to get their feet on the ground. How do you do that? Sometimes you're a little shaky and you get a big hit or make a big pitch. It can be one play, one swing of the bat that relaxes the whole team.
"But it's difficult for anyone to come here and play the first time. Experience isn't the end-all, but I don't think there's any question it helped us tonight."