Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 13, 2012

Flexing baseball muscles

Cardinal tunes up for Oregon series with two big wins

by Rick Eymer

Kenny Diekroeger flexed his power muscles this week, a good sign that he and the fifth-ranked Stanford baseball team are headed in the right direction entering a key Pac-12 Conference series with No. 10 Oregon this weekend at Sunken Diamond.

Diekroeger collected six hits in nine at-bats in a pair of Cardinal nonconference victories this week, a 19-6 decision at California on Monday and an 8-3 win over visiting Pacific on Wednesday.

Diekroeger belted four doubles, added a home run and drove in five runs this week as Stanford (4-5, 21-7) upped its team average to .302.

He's not the only current power source, either. While Diekroeger improved to .336 on the season and recorded his team-leading 12th and 13th double of the year, he is tied with Stephen Piscotty for the team lead in extra-base hits with 15.

Eric Smith and Brian Ragira, the latter who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, each added two hits against the Tigers. Piscotty and Ragira combined to drive in 12 runs against the Golden Bears.

Smith leads the team with a .366 batting average with 34 hits and 22 RBI. Ragira is next at .363 with a team-leading 45 hits. Piscotty leads the team with 34 RBI.

The Cardinal will need its lineup to produce against the Ducks (8-4, 22-9), who are currently tied for second place with UCLA in the conference standings, a game behind Arizona.

Oregon brings the reigning conference Player of the Week (Brett Thomas) and the reigning conference Pitcher of the Week (Alex Keudell) to town.

Diekroeger hit a home run and doubled twice to support Garrett Hughes' four-hitter over five innings in Stanford's victory over Pacific.

Lonnie Kauppila added two hits and drove in two runs for the Cardinal, which has won three in a row and five of six since being swept by the Wildcats in Tucson.

The series with Oregon begins with a 5:30 p.m. game on Friday night and continues Saturday at 1 p.m. and noon Sunday, weather permitting.

Men's golf

Stanford freshman Patrick Rodgers is among the 10 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award, presented annually to the top player in collegiate golf. A record five freshman are on the list.

Rodgers has recorded six top-10 finishes in his eight events this season, including four top-five showings. He has one win on the season, capturing the Fighting Illini Invitational in his first collegiate event in September.

The other semifinalists are Auburn junior Blayne Barber, TCU freshman Julien Brun, UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay, Texas senior Dylan Frittelli, Clemson junior Corbin Mills, Washington freshman Cheng-Tsung Pan, Texas freshman Jordan Spieth, Alabama freshman Justin Thomas and Washington junior Chris Williams.

The three finalists will be announced Thursday, May 10, and all three will attend the black-tie banquet at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday, May 21, when the winner is announced prior to the start of the PGA Tour's Crowne Plaza Invitational.

The award, first presented in 1990 as part of an academic standard, revised its criteria in 2002 to its current standard of honoring the outstanding amateur collegiate golfer.

Sailing

Stanford is the top qualifier for the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference's Championships starting this weekend. The coed Cardinal moved up to No. 2 nationally in the latest poll and sits at No. 8 in the women's division. Stanford is No. 5 in the team rankings.

The championship season begins when the Cardinal hosts the conference team race at its Redwood Shores facility on Saturday and Sunday. The women travel to Hawaii for the women's championships on April 20 and 21. The coed championships are on the Central Coast April 28 and 29.

Softball

Stanford senior shortstop Ashley Hansen was selected among the 25 finalists for USA Softball's Collegiate Player of the Year award, announced Wednesday by the Amateur Softball Association of America. Hansen, the winner of the award in 2011, is one of the 25 remaining contenders for collegiate softball's top annual honor.

Hansen, the reigning collegiate player of the year, is hitting .379 with nine doubles, six triples and four home runs this season. She is second on the squad with 32 RBI and a .664 slugging percentage. Earlier this year, she broke former Cardinal Alissa Haber's career record for doubles and is two triples away from setting a school record in that category.

A list of 10 finalists will be named and released on May 9 and the final three will be announced May 23. The winner of the 2012 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced prior to the start of the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on May 29.

Hansen and her teammates will be home this weekend to face Oregon State, starting Friday (7 p.m.) and continuing Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon).

The 15th-ranked Cardinal is 3-9 in the Pac-12 (29-12 overall) after dropping two of three games to host UCLA this week.

The No. 16-ranked Bruins (4-5, 27-11) took the rubber game Wednesday, 5-2, after the teams split a doubleheader on Tuesday — Stanford winning the opener, 11-9, but losing the nightcap, 12-4.

The teams combined for 13 home runs over 12 innings of softball in the doubleheader, with Stanford contributing four in the first game and two more, both by Hansen, in the second contest.

Junior Jenna Rich homered twice and drove in six runs as the Cardinal outlasted the Bruins in the opener. Senior Jenna Becerra added a two-run homer and Leah White drove in three runs on two hits, including a home run.

In Wednesday's series finale, the Bruins belted two more homers.

Swimming and diving

Stanford swimming and diving earned three of the four Pac-12 Freshmen of the Year honors as Kristian Ipsen (men's diving), David Nolan (men's swimming) and Maddy Schaefer (women's swimming) earned the top conference awards.

Ipsen closed out an impressive freshman season after winning all 12 regular-season 1- and 3-meter events by being an NCAA champion in the 3-meter and an runner-up in the 1-meter.

He was only the second Stanford diver ever to win an NCAA title and the first to do it on the 3-meter board.

Ipsen also won both the Zone 1- and 3-meter and was eighth in his first-ever platform event at the regional championships to qualify for nationals. He closed out his freshman season in 10th on the platform at NCAAs after his two top-two finishes.

Nolan closed out the meet with a school-record and NCAA runner-up finish in the 200 back, after being an NCAA runner-up in the 100 back the night before. He opened up the meet with a third-place finish in the 200 IM. He also a part of four top-16 relay teams, earning the freshman seven All-America nods.

Nolan was named the Pac-12's Swimmer of the Meet, winning three individual titles and being a part of four relay wins in East Los Angeles. He won titles in the 100 and 200 back, as well as the 200 IM.

Nolan scored 50 points at the NCAA Championships, the 10th Cardinal swimmer to do so at an individual meet. Ipsen scored 44 points.

Schaefer earned four All-America honors in her first collegiate season, earning NCAA titles in the 200 and 400 free relays. Individually, she was eighth in the 100 free and 12th in the 50 free.

Schaefer closed out her freshman year as part of the American- and school-record setting 400 free relay team. The first time she was part of the school-record 200 free relay team. She also helped win Pac-12 titles in both relays.

Synchronized swimming

Stanford competes at the U.S. Nationals, which began Thursday at the Kino Aquatic Center in Mesa, Ariz. It marks the final competition of the season for the Cardinal.

Men's volleyball

Stanford senior libero Erik Shoji was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Men's Division I-II National Player of the Week for his performances in three men's volleyball victories over ranked teams last week.

Shoji, a three-time first-team All-America, had consecutive performances of 17 and 16 digs. Shoji had 17 digs in a sweep of Long Beach State, tying for the second-highest total in school history for a three-set match in the rally-scoring era, and tying for the most digs in the nation this season for three sets.

The defensive effort helped transition the Stanford offense to a .381 hitting percentage.

Shoji's 16 dig-performance came in a dramatic five-set victory over Cal State Northridge on Saturday that kept the fourth-place Cardinal in the running for the MPSF regular-season title.

The Honolulu native also had seven digs against Pacific and combined for 10 assists during the week. He earned Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week honors on Monday.

Shoji, who will be honored Saturday along with six teammates on Senior Night, now has five matches of at least 15 digs. No one else in the country has more than three.

Stanford (18-6 overall, 15-5 in the MPSF) concludes the regular-season with 7 p.m. home matches Friday against UC Santa Barbara and Saturday against No. 3 UCLA, both at Maples Pavilion.

This is the 11th time a Stanford men's volleyball player has been named a Sports Imports/AVCA Player of the Week, and the first for Shoji. The most for the Cardinal came the week of February 14th of this year when Brad Lawson took home the honor.

Women's water polo

Stanford hopes to put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season in the MPSF when the Cardinal hosts Cal in the annual Big Splash on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Stanford comes in with a 5-0 conference record and 19-1 overall mark after holding off No. 3 USC, 9-8, in overtime last weekend. At the same time, No. 5 Cal (4-2, 17-6) was upsetting No. 1 UCLA (5-1, 16-2) in Berkeley, 8-6.

Down three goals to USC and with its back to the wall late, Stanford roared back to stun the Trojans at Avery Aquatic Center. The win was the eighth in a row for Stanford, which took over sole possession of first place in the MPSF.

USC fell to 18-4 overall and completed MPSF play at 5-2.

Goalie Kate Baldoni and the Stanford defense came up huge in multiple pressure-packed moments. Baldoni made 16 saves while the field defense clamped down on the Trojans on two do-or-die occasions, the first forcing overtime and the second preserving the win.

Offensively, Kaley Dodson netted a hat trick, including the eventual game-winner scored 53 seconds into the first overtime period. Alyssa Lo scored two key second-half goals, while individual goals were scored by Jillian Garton, Ashley Grossman, Pallavi Menon and Kiley Neushul.

In Berkeley, Menlo-Atherton grad Becca Dorst scored three goals for UCLA against her sister, Cal senior Lindsay, who had eight saves in goal as the Bears snapped a 10-game win streak by the Bruins.

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