Softball: Cardinal continue tourney triumphs

Feb. 22, 2010, 12:46 a.m.

In its second tournament in as many weekends, the Stanford softball team engineered another dominant performance. The Stanford Nike Invitational brought five teams to The Farm to play each other in a round robin format — Illinois, UC-Riverside, Nevada, Sacramento State and Fresno State. The Cardinal, in its first games of the season at Smith Family Stadium, played the first four of these teams and won all of its games by a combined score of 28-3.

While Stanford, currently ranked No. 13 in and USA Softball’s rankings, was scheduled to play a fifth game yesterday against No. 19 Fresno State (7-1), the game was cancelled due to rain.

“It would have been another quality opponent for us,” said Stanford head coach John Rittman. “It would have been a good test for our team, but unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.”

Softball: Cardinal continue tourney triumphs
Senior Shannon Koplitz hit .400 this weekend as the Cardinal won all four of its games in the Stanford Nike Invitational. Stanford used a combination of great pitching from junior Ashley Chinn and freshman Teagan Gerhart, who had 23 strikeouts between them, and an explosive offense, including left-fielder Alissa Haber’s eight RBIs to defeat the competition in its first four tournament games. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

The Cardinal had its first games on Friday, playing a doubleheader against Illinois (8-1) and UC-Riverside (2-6). Stanford was in dominant form in both games, beating the Fighting Illini 8-0 and the Highlanders 9-1. Both games ended in five innings as the Card run-ruled both teams.

The Stanford offense shelled Illinois starting pitcher Monica Perry for seven runs on 10 hits in just 3.1 innings. Perry came into the game with a 3-0 record, but was unable to make her mark on the Cardinal offense. Much of the firepower for Stanford came from the bottom third of its lineup: junior first baseman Melisa Koutz, sophomore designated player Jenna Becerra and sophomore center fielder Sarah Hassman sparked both of Stanford’s rallies, scoring five of the Cardinal’s eight runs between them.

Junior pitcher Ashley Chinn also turned in a strong performance. In five innings, she allowed only four hits and no runs while accruing three strikeouts. Even as the Cardinal offense piled up runs, Chinn did not give the Fighting Illini offense a reprieve.

“I’m going to stay aggressive with the hitters no matter what,” she said. “Whether we’re beating a team 10-0 or losing 10-0 or it’s a 0-0 ballgame, I’m just going to stay aggressive with the hitters and throw my game the best that I can.”

“[Illinois] is a tough team; they have a terrific offense,” Rittman added. “Ashley Chinn did a great job of shutting that offense down.”

In the next game, Stanford continued to play well, as its offense powered past UC-Riverside starting pitcher Amy Lwin and its defense completely shut down the Highlanders’ attack. Sophomore right fielder Maya Burns and sophomore second baseman Ashley Hansen were particularly strong for the Cardinal, driving in two and three runs, respectively, to lead Stanford’s offense in RBIs.

On the mound, freshman pitcher Teagan Gerhart rebounded well from a rough outing last weekend against Hawaii with a very strong performance. Riverside’s hitters were rarely able to catch up to her fastball and after five innings of work, Gerhart had only given up one hit and one unearned run while striking out seven.

Despite her rookie status, Gerhart has become one of the Card’s chief pitchers alongside Chinn.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to pitch as much as I have been lately, but it’s an amazing opportunity,” she said.

“That was a great first day of the tournament for us,” Rittman added.

Stanford continued to dominate its opponents on Saturday, the tournament’s second day. It defeated Nevada (3-5) 10-2 in another five-inning run rule game, and eked out a close 1-0 win over Sacramento State (3-7) in the second game.

Against Nevada, the Cardinal had a similar performance to its first two games of the tournament. The offense was once again extremely strong, and was led by senior left fielder Alissa Haber. She had four RBIs on two hits to lead all Stanford hitters. The Card was also helped by extremely poor fielding by the Wolfpack — its fielders committed three errors in the game, and of the 10 runs surrendered by pitcher Katie Holverson, only six were earned.

Meanwhile, the pitching load for the Cardinal was split between Chinn and Gerhart, who pitched three and two innings, respectively. Chinn gave up two hits and two earned runs, while Gerhart gave up only one hit while striking out four batters. Chinn also got the win, and her record for the season now stands at 4-1.

“We scored a lot of runs and put a lot of pressure on the Nevada offense,” Rittman said. “We got behind in that game 2-0 and we came back, so I’m very proud of the way our team came back in that game and pulled out a victory.”

Stanford’s last game of the tournament against Sacramento State was also its toughest. Stanford’s offense was uncharacteristically quiet and the game turned into a pitcher’s duel between the Hornets’ Shelby Voelz and Gerhart. Gerhart was able to prevail, pitching a shutout to preserve a fourth straight win for the Cardinal and improve her personal record to 4-0. Over seven innings, she gave up just three hits while striking out six.

“It was hard to know that I didn’t have any insurance runs, but it just made me pitch that much harder and be more consistent with my pitches,” Gerhart said. “If you miss one pitch, you know that it could change the outcome of the game.”

“[Sacramento State’s] pitcher did a great job of keeping us off-balance with her changeup,” Rittman said. “We hit a couple of balls hard right at people in key situations, and sometimes that’s the way softball is.”

“Good teams find ways to win close games,” he continued. “Our team did a good job of playing defense and got some solid pitching when the bats were shut down.”

The next challenge for the Cardinal will come at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. Starting on Thursday, Stanford will take on six teams over four days in a round-robin format. Its first game will be against Tennessee (5-2) at 8 p.m.

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.

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