Though it snapped a seven-game losing streak in the middle of last week against San Jose State, the Stanford softball team continued to struggle against Pac-10 competition. Over the weekend, it dropped two of three games to No. 7 Arizona State (39-11, 8-7 Pac-10). The No. 14 Cardinal (32-14, 5-10) has now lost its last three conference series, including sweeps at the hands of Arizona and UCLA.
“We still have to execute a few things,” said head coach John Rittman. “We have to get a few timely hits and eliminate some base running mistakes…against this competition, you almost have to play perfect.”
The first game of the series was a pitcher’s duel, matching junior pitcher Ashley Chinn against ASU’s Hillary Bach, the ace of the Sun Devils’ staff. Though Chinn pitched well, limiting the Sun Devils to three runs on nine hits, Bach was the better of the two – she gave up just one hit to the Cardinal, despite control problems that saw her walk four batters and hit three more with pitches.
“Bach’s a really good pitcher,” said senior left fielder Alissa Haber. “She does a really good job of changing planes and spotting the corners really well. I think we could have made adjustments a little bit better and a little quicker.”
The top three hitters in ASU’s lineup – center fielder Lesley Rogers, designated player Taylor Haro and shortstop Katelyn Boyd – proved to be the toughest challenge for Chinn. The three hitters went a combined 4-9, with Rogers scoring twice and Boyd driving in two runs.
Senior third baseman Shannon Koplitz was the only Stanford batter to get a hit in the game.
Saturday’s game was a stark reversal of fortune for both teams. Stanford won the game, 8-0, in a five inning game shortened by the run rule.
Freshman pitcher Jenna Rich handily shut down the ASU lineup. Over five innings, she gave up just two hits and one walk on an efficient 57 pitches.
With the Sun Devils resting Bach, the Cardinal offense took advantage of pitchers Sam Parlich and Megan Elliott. Parlich started the game, but only lasted 0.1 innings after giving up four runs.
After that outburst, Stanford would not look back. Though Elliott met with slightly more success, Stanford still managed to get two runs in the second inning and then one each in the fourth and fifth innings to run-rule the Sun Devils. Elliott pitched four innings in total, giving up four runs and five hits to Stanford’s lineup.
Three Cardinal batters distinguished themselves in the game – Rich, Haber and freshman designated player Alix Van Zandt. Rich went 3-3 with four RBIs and one run, Haber went 2-3 with a run scored and Van Zandt went 2-3 with two RBIs.
Sunday’s game was more similar to the first game of the series. The low-scoring affair was again decided by each team’s pitchers. Despite strong efforts from Chinn and Rich, who combined to hold the ASU offense to three runs, Stanford fell 3-2, losing both the game and the series.
Bach, in the circle again for the Sun Devils, did not pitch as strongly as on Friday – she gave up seven hits and two runs in seven innings pitched. She seemed to have mastered her control, however, giving up just two walks and hitting one batter, and the performance was just good enough to give her team the win.
Haber and Rich were once again the top two stars for Stanford’s offense, going a combined 4-6 with one RBI.
Stanford is now seventh in the Pac-10, only ahead of Oregon State. With just two conference series remaining, the chances that the Cardinal can fight its way back into contention seem slim at best.
However, Rittman’s outlook remains squarely focused on Stanford’s next few games.
“We’re really not worried about positioning in the Pac-10,” he said. “We are literally taking it one game at a time, trying to improve and control the things that we can control in our program.”
“Obviously, losing two out of three games in the weekend doesn’t bode well for the standings,” Haber said. “This is the best conference in the country…We’ll take it one game at a time and get ready for the postseason.”
Stanford will also benefit from the return of freshman pitcher Teagan Gerhart, who was the Cardinal’s ace prior to sustaining an injury three weeks ago. Rittman said that there is no definite timetable for her return, and that she is “day-to-day.”
Gerhart did play in this weekend’s series, entering Sunday’s game as a pinch runner.
Stanford’s next game is this Tuesday at home against Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Its next conference series is this weekend at No. 1 Washington.