Wednesday, June 6, 1990
Stanford shuffled its deck Wednesday night after losing its ace and still came out with a winning hand.
With All-America right-hander Stan Spencer sidelined by sore ribs, freshman Brian Sackinsky stepped in and pitched the Cardinal to a 4-2 victory over Georgia at the College World Series.
"We were expecting Spencer, but I don't think that threw us off any," said Georgia Coach Steve Webber after his team's first loss in the double-elimination portion of the tournament. "I don't think they could have gotten any better a performance than they got out of Sackinsky."
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander held the Bulldogs to six hits, two after the first inning when he surrendered both of Georgia's runs. He struck out a career-high 10, improved his record to 10-1 and kept the Cardinal alive in the tournament.
Wednesday's outcome before 16,109 - the third-largest crowd in CWS history - forced a third meeting between the two remaining teams in bracket one. Top-seeded Stanford, 59-11 and 3-1 in the CWS, and No. 4 Georgia, 50-19 and 2-1, will play Friday, with the winner advancing to Saturday's national championship game.
Oklahoma State, unbeaten in bracket two, will try to nail down a spot in the title game when it plays Louisiana State tonight at 6:37. A Cowboy win would eliminate second-seeded LSU. If the Tigers win, the two teams also would play for a third time on Friday.
Wednesday's game was billed as a showdown between the teams' All-America aces, with Stanford expected to start the 14-1 Spencer against Georgia left-hander Dave Fleming, who had shut out Mississippi State in the first round.
Spencer, a junior right-hander, had to be scratched when he experienced tightness in muscles in his rib cage.
"Stan had told me back at the hotel that his back was bothering him," Sackinsky said. "He said he would try to loosen up at the park and try to pitch.
"About an hour before the game, my pitching coach, Tom Dunton, came up to me and said, 'You've got the ball.' "
Georgia had roughed up Sackinsky for four hits and five runs, in one-third of an inning, in a relief appearance in Sunday's 16-2 win over the Cardinal.
Things didn't get much better at the start Wednesday for Sackinsky, who brought a bulky 5.09 ERA into the game.
Georgia's McKay Smith and Jeff Cooper opened the first inning with singles. Smith, who advanced to third on Cooper's hit, scored when Stanford catcher Troy Tallman threw the ball into center field on Cooper's steal of second base. Cooper wound up on third base on the play, and scored the Bulldogs' second run on an infield grounder.
Before the inning was over, Sackinsky gave up singles to Bruce Chick and Doug Radziewicz, and also received a visit to the mound from Stanford Coach Mark Marquess.
"I asked him how he felt, and he said great," Marquess said. "I said, 'Well let's start throwing it great then.' "
Sackinsky obviously is as good a listener as he is a pitcher. He retired 24 of the last 27 batters he faced, allowing only a third-inning single by Brian Jester, a seventh-inning double by Terry Childers and a one-out, ninth-inning walk to Chick.
"He was nails from the second on," Tallman said. "He had good velocity in the first inning, but he was leaving the ball up. It doesn't matter how hard you throw, when you leave the ball up you usually get hit around the park.
"After the conversation on the mound, he settled down. His fastball got down in the zone, he had a little more movement to it and he got stronger and stronger. He's been like that all year. Once he gets over that hump and gets settled down, he's one of the best we have."
Stanford, meanwhile, was facing one of the best in Fleming, who dropped to 12-6 despite matching Sackinsky's six-hit performance. Fleming retired the first nine batters he faced - without having a ball hit out of the infield - before Stanford nicked him for a run in the fourth.
Jeff Hammonds opened the inning with a single and scored on Troy Paulsen's single. Fleming came back to leave Cardinal runners at second and third by getting Tallman to fly out to left field.
Tallman ignited Stanford's decisive seventh inning with a one-out double. Fleming, 12-6, hurt himself when he loaded the bases by walking Roger Burnett and hitting slumping Tim Griffin with a pitch.
Up came Mike Eichner, playing for injured designated hitter David Holbrook. Eichner, with only eight at-bats all season, fell behind 1-2 in the count.
His next swing produced a dribbler in front of the plate. Fleming raced off the mound but couldn't field the ball in time for a play at the plate, allowing Tallman to score the tying run.
"I thought I had a a shot at getting the lead run at home but at the last moment, the ball kicked to my right," Fleming said. "I got my glove on it but I didn't have a chance for a play."
Hammonds then put Stanford ahead, stinging Fleming's next pitch down the third-base line for a two-run single.
Sackinsky made the lead stand up to put Stanford one win away from its third appearance in the championship game in four years. The Cardinal won in 1987 and 1988.
"We're alive," Marquess said. "I'm proud of the way our guys bounced back and put us in a position to get to the championship game. That what it's all about."