Softball goes nearly perfect over break
After a 12-day hiatus for finals, the No. 9 Stanford softball team (25-4) got back on the field during spring break and won 10 of its 11 games.
Freshman Teagan Gerhart, who has assumed the role of ace of the Cardinal pitching staff, started all 11 games in the circle and really emerged as a potential star.
Gerhart began the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic by throwing three consecutive no-hitters, including a perfect game in the first game of the tournament on March 19 against Santa Clara. In Stanford’s 8-0 six-inning victory over the Broncos, Gerhart was utterly dominant, striking out 13 of the 18 batters she faced.
A day later, Gerhart tossed two more no-hitters. In the first game, a 7-0 Cardinal victory over Princeton, only a fourth-inning error by freshman shortstop Jenna Rich prevented Gerhart from having back-to-back perfect games.
She picked up right where she left off in the second game of the day, an 8-0 five-inning Stanford victory over Saint Mary’s. In that win, Gerhart allowed just one base runner, a fifth-inning base on balls. Gerhart also contributed with the bat, hitting her first home run of the season.
Gerhart, who is 18-3 with a 1.28 earned run average, has steadily improved as the season has gone on, and it has not gone without notice.
“I think Teagan is doing a really good job,” said senior left fielder Alissa Haber. “She is getting better every time out and gaining confidence. Half the battle with her was her knowing she can compete at this level and she doesn’t have to strike everybody out. She is starting to realize she has a defense behind her.
“I’m very confident with her as our starter,” she added.
In the tournament, the Cardinal also beat Cal Poly 8-0, though Gerhart’s sister (and also sister of freshman outfielder Kelsey Gerhart) Whitley, a freshman on the Mustangs, did not see any action in the game.
Although the Cardinal breezed through the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic and a single-game victory at UC-Davis on March 23, it would pick up its fourth loss of the season during the second weekend of break at the Stanford Invitational.
After starting the tournament with a five-inning 12-0 trouncing of Cal State-Bakersfield, the Cardinal came out flat against a talented Brigham Young University team in its second game on March 26 and lost 4-2.
Stanford simply didn’t hit — the team managed just six hits — or play defense behind Gerhart, as the Cardinal made three errors in the loss.
The Cardinal actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third, only for the Cougars to tie it up an inning later and take the lead for good in the fifth.
Haber believed that the team’s performance against BYU was unacceptable.
“This most recent loss to BYU was an eye opener,” she said. “It reminded us that we have to score runs and play good defense to win games.”
Stanford did win the remainder of its games in the tournament, wrapping up its pre-conference schedule.
Various players were the hitting stars for the Cardinal over the course of the two tournaments, although for the season the offense is still being led by Haber, sophomore second baseman Ashley Hansen, senior third baseman Shannon Koplitz, freshman shortstop Jenna Rich and senior catcher Rosey Neill.
Haber leads all batters by a wide margin with a .484 batting average, which is good for ninth in the nation, to go along with 36 runs scored. She is second on the team with both five home runs and 10 stolen bases.
Rich has added immediate power to the middle of the Cardinal order. The talented freshman leads the team with nine home runs and 30 runs batted in.
All five players have started all 29 of the Cardinal’s games and are hitting .354 or higher.
Stanford will now have to kick its game into a higher gear as Pac-10 Conference play begins this weekend when the Cardinal plays host to rival Cal. The Pac-10 is expected to be the toughest conference in the nation again this season. Action against Cal begins Thursday at 7 p.m. at Smith Family Stadium.