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Baseball: Disastrous fourth by Appel puts Card on brink of elimination; game two postponed to Sunday

Stanford didn’t exactly get the start to its Super Regional that it was hoping for.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Friday night against No. 3 Florida State, the Cardinal (41-17, 18-12 Pac-12) fell apart in a 17-1 embarrassment at the Seminoles’ Dick Howser Stadium that put the squad on the brink of elimination.

Just four days after being selected eighth in the MLB draft, junior righthander Mark Appel lost control in a seven-run top of the fourth, ceding six runs before recording an out. Two singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, and an error, two bases-loaded walks, two more hits and a wild pitch got Florida State (47-15, 24-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) rolling.

It was all downhill from there. In all, Stanford’s five pitchers handed over 17 free bases — 12 walks and five hit batters — and Seminole second baseman Devon Travis’ two home runs and six RBI added to the onslaught.

“We didn’t give them much of a contest tonight,” said Cardinal head coach Mark Marquess. “The one inning did us in. Mark has been so consistent for us for two years. He lost command a little bit…it got away from us.”

Appel — who had been a projected top overall pick before he slipped to eighth on Monday — said that the draft didn’t have an impact on his performance.

“I don’t think it had any distraction on tonight,” Appel said. “I prepared the same. Monday happened and then it was over and it was all Stanford, focusing on going out there and giving my team a chance to win. I didn’t have it. I didn’t do that tonight.”

Instead, it seemed as if the Florida weather was getting to the Cardinal ace, who was sweating profusely through the Seminole rally. Marquess had mentioned earlier in the week that his team had been affected by heat and humidity on its unsuccessful Super Regional trip to North Carolina a year ago, but didn’t expect the same result because this series’ games were to be played at night.

There were even fewer bright spots to cling to in the opener this time around. Junior centerfielder Jake Stewart went 2-for-3 and sophomore first baseman Brian Ragira had hits in all three of his at-bats, but the Cardinal only got two other base knocks. Freshman lefty sensation Brandon Leibrandt (8-2) only had to go six innings, and the Seminole bullpen struck out seven over the final three frames.

Luckily for Stanford, Saturday’s game was postponed due to rainstorms, giving the squad a little bit more time to regroup before it faces elimination. Redshirt junior lefthander Brett Mooneyham (7-5) will need to bounce back from two straight disappointing starts to keep his team’s season alive on Sunday at 4 p.m. PDT, as he faces another talented Florida State freshman in righty Mike Compton (11-2).

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the executive editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.