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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 22, 2013

Stanford gets back to work

Cardinal baseball hosts Utah, softball on road, swimmers at NCAAs

by Rick Eymer

Mark Appel and the Stanford baseball team to open the Pac-12 Conference season on a good note when Utah visits to open a three-game series Friday night at 7 p.m.

The Cardinal (10-5) opened the season winning 10 of its first 12 games but then ran into a top UNLV club that swept Stanford in a three-game sweep before the break for finals.

The Runnin' Rebels used superior pitching to stop Stanford bats, winning 3-2, 12-2 and 5-1. The Cardinal defense was also faulty.

Appel (2-2, 1.20) allowed one earned run in his last outing and recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts. He has a conference-leading 43 strikeouts in 30 innings this season. Four of the nine runs scored against him are earned. Stanford has allowed 17 unearned runs through its first 15 games.

The Cardinal pitching staff has been outstanding all season, recording a 2.08 ERA. Bobby Zarubin (1-1, 1.08), Dean McArdle (1-0, 2.00) and John Hochstatter (0-1, 3.31) have contributed to the success. Sam Lindquist (0-0, 1.93) has three of the team's four saves.

The Stanford offense struggled leading up to its two-week break, with Menlo School grad Danny Diekroeger leading the team with his .286 batting average, 18 hits and two home runs. Brian Ragira is next at .283 and the team average is .244.

Utah (0-3, 9-9) was sweep by California in its conference opener but is coming off a 3-2, extra inning, victory over Utah Valley.

"We're looking forward to playing a really good team this weekend," Utah coach Bill Kinneberg said. "Facing Mark Appel is going to be a fun challenge for our guys."

Utah will start Mitch Watrous (1-0, 3.80) on the mound on Friday, followed by Joe Pond (2-2, 5.81) on Saturday and Dalton Carroll (1-1, 5,40) on Sunday.

Stanford is the last Pac-12 team to play a conference series. Oregon State, UCLA and California all swept series in their Pac-12 openers, while Oregon and Washington each won 2 of 3.

Stanford also will host Utah on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

Softball

No. 15 Stanford heads to No. 10 Oregon for a three-game series to open Pac-12 Conference play. The Cardinal (22-5) took an eight-game winning streak into finals break.

Stanford brings a team batting average of .303 into its series with the Ducks, led by Kayla Bonstrom at .358. She also has 16 RBI, fourth on the team.

Bonstrom is one of six Cardinal players with a batting average above .301. Two others are at .292 and above.

Jenna Rich is hitting .301 with a team-best 23 runs, 22 RBI and three home runs (with Erin Ashby). Hanna Winter (.327), Tegan Schmidt (.326), Leah White (.321), Ashby (.308) and Sarah Hassman (.303) are also above .300.

Cassandra Roulund is hitting "just" .292 but has six double, five triples and driven in 18 runs. Jessica Plaza is at .295.

Teagan Gerhart (11-3, 1.36) and Kelsey Stevens (9-2, 1.91) lead a strong pitching staff that also includes Nyree White (2-0, 1.00). Gerhart has 91 strikeouts in 87 innings and Stevens has 90 inb nearly 70 innings of work. The pitchers have combined for 11 shutouts on the season.

The Ducks (23-4) have taken the season series from Stanford each of the previous two years, both 2 of 3. The Cardinal had a 10-game win streak after it swept three-game series in 2008-10.

Last week, Oregon won its home-opening doubleheader over New Mexico by 10-0 (6 innings) and 4-0 counts.

Overall this season, UO sports a 2-3 mark vs. top-25 foes with wins over WCWS returnee and then-No. 11 LSU (10-2 (5) and then-No. 14 Michigan (13-4), and losses to then-No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0 (5), then-No. 14 Florida (1-0) and then-No. 20 Hawai'i (6-5). Adding in other games vs. 2012 NCAA tourney returnees, UO is 6-3 with its victories over Long Beach State (10-1), San Diego State (3-1, 3-2) and Long Island (8-1).

Women's swimming

It was only a year ago that Rachael Acker was the proverbial big fish while swimming for Gunn High and helping the girls win their first-ever Central Coast Section team championship. This week, Acker is still relatively a big fish but the pond has grown significantly.

Acker is a freshman at Cal and will be counted upon to help the Bears seek a three-peat at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind. The Bears won national titles in 2011 and 2012 after winning their first ever in '09.

Acker has an opportunity to be a part of something special for Cal as one of 14 Golden Bears (13 swimmers, one diver) competing, including defending national champs Caitlin Leverenz and Cindy Tran. Leverenz is the team's lone senior while Acker is one of five heralded freshmen that include Olympic gold medalist Rachel Bootsma plus 2013 Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet Elizabeth Pelton.

Acker also had a big Pac-12 meet as she won the 200-yard free (1:44.66), which ranks No. 11 in the nation, in addition to helping score points in the relays.

Acker will swim the 100 free (Saturday) and 200 free (Friday) at the NCAA meet and will be a part of the relay pool. The Bears won the 200 and 400 medley relays at NCAAs last year. Acker is a likely relay member in the 400 free, which has the No. 2 seed time of 3:12.37.

While Acker hopes to help Cal win its third straight NCAA title, USC freshman Jasmine Tosky from Palo Alto High will be battling to bring the No. 1-ranked Trojans their first national crown since 1997.

Tosky is one of four USC swimmers making their NCAA debut and will be counted upon to provide some big points. She is the No. 3 seed in the 200 fly (1:53,98) in addition to having the 13th-fastest time in the 200 IM (1:56.43). She's also a potential scorer in the 100 fly and will help out on the relays after helping the Trojans finish second to Stanford at the Pac-12 Championships.

Nearly three weeks after winning the Pac-12 Conference Championships, Stanford will be hoping to duplicate that effort in Indianapolis.

Stanford, which finished fourth in last year's meet, has won eight NCAA titles since 1983 and has finished second or third 16 times since 1981. The Cardinal was runner-up in 2010 in one of the most tightly contested NCAA Championships ever.

Stanford will have only 10 swimmers and no divers this week: Maddy Schaefer (50 free, 100 free, 100 back), Andi Murez (50 free, 100 free, 200 free), Maya DiRado (200 IM, 400 IM, 200 back), Felicia Lee (100 fly, 100 back, 200 back), Mary Olsen (100 breast, 200 breast), Andie Taylor (400 IM, 1,650 free), Allison Brown (500 free), Julia Anderson (200 free), Sarah Haase (100 breast) and Annemarie Thayer (100 back).

The Cardinal also qualified for each of the five relays: 200 free (1:28.86), 400 free (3:12.63), 800 free (6:57.12), 200 medley (1:36.54) and 400 medley (3:32.06).

Stanford finished the regular season with a 7-2 record in dual-meet competition. The Cardinal was ranked fourth in the final regular-season top 25 poll.

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