Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 15, 2012

Cardinal wins 18th straight Learfield Directors' Cup

Disappointment for baseball in NCAA Super Regional; two individual titles at NCAA track and field championships

by Rick Eymer

The College World Series has yet to be completed, but that won't change the 2011-12 Division I Learfield Sports Directors' Cup Standings, as far as Stanford is concerned.

For the 18th straight year, Stanford has the top athletics program in the nation.

The Cardinal compiled 1384.25 total points by placing sixth place in women's track & field, ninth in women's rowing, 17th in softball, 18th in men's track & field and 19th in men's golf. Stanford scored in 25 sports, with the lowest-scoring five women's sports omitted due to the maximum of 10 allowed.

Stanford will be recognized at the NACDA Convention in Dallas, Texas at the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup luncheon Tuesday, June 26.

With the College World Series still to be accounted for, Florida is in second place with 1241.00 points, Ohio State is third with 1104.25 points, UCLA is fourth with 1064.75 and Texas is fifth with 1032.50 points.

The Pac-12 placed four institutions in the top 10: Stanford (1st), UCLA (4th), USC (6th) and California (7th).

The Learfield Sports Directors' Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution's finish in up to 20 sports — 10 women's and 10 men's.

The final Division I standings will be released June 27, 28 or 29 at the conclusion of the CWS.

Baseball

This is where Stanford's baseball season ended last year, although so much more was expected this time around. Even though it ended in disappointment, the Cardinal cannot look upon this season as a failure.

What will be remembered is Sunday's 18-7 setback to host Florida State, ending Stanford's season and sending the third-seeded Seminoles to the College World Series, where they will seek their first national title in their 21st trip.

But what to make of the Cardinal? Missing out on a chance at its first official visit to Omaha in four years may seem disastrous, but that would be missing out on a 41-win season that produced several notable achievements, including Mark Appel's 10-win year that led him to be selected in the first round of Major League League's First-Year Player Draft.

Appel may have gotten off to a bad start when he canceled a teleconference on draft day and issued a statement that did not mention the Pirates by name. Then he got belted around by the Seminoles in Friday's opener.

Stephen Piscotty was was drafted in the first round, by the St. Louis Cardinals. Piscotty finished the year with a four-hit performance against Florida State. Sophomore Austin Wilson had three hits, including a double and his team-leading 10th home run, and drove in three runs. The local trio of Palo Alto resident Alex Blandino and Menlo School grads Kenny Diekroeger and Danny Diekroeger had two hits each.

Stanford likely will have to replace its entire weekend pitching rotation. Brett Mooneyham was also drafted. The pitching staff is not entirely depleted, as A.J. Vanegas, Josh Hochstatter and Dean McArdle are among the candidates to fill those shoes.

Stanford staked Florida State to six runs over the first two innings on Sunday and never recovered as some impressive Cardinal streaks ended. Piscotty started all 172 games in his Stanford career. Jake Stewart, a ninth-round pick of the Tigers, ended his junior season on a 12-game hit streak.

"Two swings of the bat . . . five runs," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. "We couldn't contain them."

The Cardinal had 18 hits Sunday, but stranded 12 runners. Piscotty had four hits for Stanford, but he hit into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the seventh.

"I would have traded all four of those hits for that at-bat," he said. "It's tough."

Mooneyham (7-6) could not get an out in the second, facing eight batters and allowing five runs on three hits. A two-run homer by Jayce Boyd in the first was followed by a three-run homer by Sherman Johnson off Vanegas in the second to make it 6-0.

Stanford left five runners in scoring position over the first five innings, managing just one run in the third and another run in the fifth. Florida State pitchers benefited from three double plays.

"They made some really great defensive plays," Marquess said. "We hit into more double plays in these two days then we have in 30 games."

Appel finished his career 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 2012 and 18-10 with a 3.22 over 57 career games. Mooneyham finished his career 16-16 with a 4.70 ERA over 45 games, including a 7-6 record and 4.75 ERA this year.

Kenny Diekroeger finished his junior season with 170 career games and a .308 career average with 105 runs and 103 RBI. Stewart played in 148 games with a .265 career mark, 96 runs and 62 RBI. Piscotty had a .340 career average with 124 runs and 132 RBI.

Stanford had five four-year players on its squad (Christian Griffiths, Mooneyham, Brian Busick, Elliott Byers, Talt) and had seven players drafted -- Appel (1st), Piscotty (1st), Mooneyham (3rd), Kenny Diekroeger (4th), Stewart (9th), Eric Smith (18th), and Tyler Gaffney (24th).

Starters Alex Blandino (3B), Danny Diekroeger (2B), Brian Ragira (1B) and Austin Wilson (RF) are all underclassmen and will be back. Ragira led the team in batting (.329) and Wilson in homers (10) and runs (56). Piscotty had a team-best 56 RBI.

Track and field

Stanford senior Amaechi Morton had the best time in the nation most of the year, and then ran the best qualifying time in Wednesday's 400-meter intermediate hurdles semifinal. All he needed to do was win the final.

Mission accomplished. Morton ran a career-best time to win the NCAA title last week at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. He had finished second last year and third as a sophomore.

"Third, second, first; finally got the title," Morton said. "That was the plan this whole year since last year. Thank God I came in healthy and got through that. Title is what is most important right now. That was the main goal today."

Morton's time of 48.79 lowered his own school record and was the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. He edged Jamele Mason of Texas Tech by a hundredth of a second.

Morton joined Katerina Stefanidi with an individual title as she won the NCAA championship in the pole vault. They became the first pair of teammates to win individual titles since Ryan Hall won the 5,000 and Michael Robertson won the discus in 2005.

The Stanford women's team finished sixth following Saturday's final day.

Kathy Kroeger gave the Cardinal two more points with her seventh-place finish in the 5,000 and Katie Nelms added a point for finishing eighth in the 100 hurdles. Stanford had 25 points. LSU won the team title with 72, followed by Oregon.

Arantxa King recorded a career-best leap of 43-2 1/4 in the triple jump on her second try to advance into the final. In the final, King did not improve and settled for ninth with the same mark. The mark ranks fourth in Stanford history.

Benjamin Johnson also competed on Saturday, placing 11th in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 8:52.96 as the Stanford men finished 16th overall.

In addition, Miles Unterreiner was honored by the NCAA for his work in the classroom, earning the NCAA Elite 89 Award for being the student with the top grade point average at the NCAA Championships.

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