After opening its Pac-10 season with a win on Thursday night, the Stanford softball team played two more games to wrap up its series with rival California. The No. 9 Cardinal (27-5, 2-1 Pac-10) and the No. 14 Golden Bears (29-8, 1-2) split the final two games of the series. Stanford won Friday night’s contest, while the Bears took Saturday’s game.
This weekend’s series was the first conference series this year for Stanford, which up to this point has been primarily playing weekend tournaments in a round-robin format.
“Playing the same team three times in a row is a different mindset than playing five different teams,” said freshman pitcher Teagan Gerhart.
On Friday, Stanford’s offense found its stroke after being ineffective until the 12th inning of Thursday night’s game. The Cardinal scored two runs in the second inning off Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson. The Bears pulled within one run of Stanford’s lead by scoring in the third. However, the Card added three more runs in the fifth inning, knocking Henderson out of the game. Those two rallies proved to be enough to overcome Cal, and Stanford took home a 5-1 win.
Offensively, Stanford was led by All-American senior left fielder Alissa Haber. She had two RBIs in the game, both on a double in the second inning. The fifth-inning rally began with sophomore center fielder Sarah Hassman, who led off the inning with a bunt single and came around to score.
The Cardinal’s pitchers also continued their domination of Cal’s lineup. After shutting the Golden Bears down for no runs and just three hits in 12 innings on Thursday, Gerhart returned to the mound on Friday night. She pitched all seven innings and allowed six hits and one run. In a total of 19 innings, she allowed just one run and nine hits, throwing a total of 297 pitches.
Stanford’s defense also played the entire game without committing any errors.
“Any time you can beat a ranked opponent two [games] out of three, it bodes well for you,” said head coach John Rittman. “I really like the way we played the first two games.”
But Stanford was unable to carry its momentum into Saturday’s game. With Gerhart starting her third game in a row, Cal’s offense suddenly found its spark. It opened the game with a quick two runs, after its leadoff hitter reached on an error. Cal pitcher Valerie Arioto then sent a Gerhart pitch over the wall for a two-run home run.
The Bears continued to pound Gerhart, scoring two runs in both the third and fourth innings. After four innings, she was pulled from the pitcher’s mound in favor of freshman Jenna Rich, while Cal held a 6-0 lead.
“I know I could have done a lot better,” Gerhart said. “I needed to have a better mindset coming into this game.”
Meanwhile, Arioto, who had kept Stanford’s hitters off the scoreboard for more than 11 innings on Thursday night, continued to pitch extremely well. Though the Cardinal tallied seven hits, it was unable to score any runs. Cal’s defense also had a strong game – it surrendered just one error and turned two double plays.
“Mentally, we made some mistakes,” Rittman said. “Physically, you’re going to make some mistakes, but the mental ones cost us today.”
“You have to have good pitching, you have to play defense and you have to get timely hitting,” he continued. “That’s what Cal did today and that’s what we did in the first two games – you have to execute [in] those areas.”
Looking ahead, Stanford has four games next week – a single game at home against UC-Davis, then a series on the road against conference opponent Oregon State. The Cardinal and the Aggies have already squared off once this season, with Stanford taking a 6-2 win.
“We just can’t overlook [UC-Davis],” Rittman said. “We’ve got to come out with some intensity and be ready to play a mid-week game.”
Stanford will play UC-Davis on Tuesday at Smith Family Stadium. First pitch is at 6 p.m.