Softball: Conference struggles

May 7, 2010, 12:42 a.m.

In its last nonconference game of the regular season, Stanford’s softball team did not fail to impress, beating Santa Clara for the second time this season. The No. 15 Cardinal (33-14, 5-10 Pac-10) played strong offensively and defensively, coming away with a 7-0 win.

Softball: Conference struggles
Senior left fielder Alissa Haber (above) has been one of Stanford's best hitters all season. She will need to continue that performance against Washington, which boasts the Pac-10's best pitcher in Danielle Lawrie. (BRYAN LIN/The Stanford Daily)

The offense got a quick lead, scoring one run in the bottom of the first inning, before expanding that lead with four runs in the bottom of the third on home runs by freshman shortstop Jenna Rich and freshman designated player Alix Van Zandt. The Card tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game firmly out of reach for the Broncos.

Once again, the heart of Stanford’s lineup was called upon to provide most of its offensive spark. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Hansen, junior third baseman Shannon Koplitz, Rich and senior catcher Rosey Neill collectively had five RBIs and went 5-12.

Stanford’s defense was also solid, with no errors in the game. By contrast, Santa Clara had three errors, which led to two unearned runs.

Like their defense, Santa Clara’s pitchers struggled to contain Stanford’s lineup. Starter Kaitlyn Rauschnot gave up four runs on five hits after two innings (including facing three batters without getting any outs in the third inning). Her replacement, Ali Nash, fared slightly better—over four innings, she gave up three hits and three runs, one earned.

While Stanford’s pitchers were strong as well, the most important development was the return of freshman Teagan Gerhart to the circle. She pitched two innings to close out the game, her first action since sustaining an injury three weeks ago. Prior to her injury, Gerhart had been the ace of Stanford’s staff, with a record of 22-6 and an ERA of 1.67.

Junior Ashley Chinn, the Card’s starting pitcher, went five innings and gave up six hits and no runs.

The Cardinal will now turn its attention to its next Pac-10 series, a three-game set against No. 1 Washington (40-5, 12-3). The Huskies have held the top spot in the national rankings all season, and currently lead the Pac-10 by two games over Arizona and UCLA.

Though Washington will surely put up stiff competition, Stanford will need to do well to improve its position in the conference. It currently stands in seventh place, a game behind California and three games behind fourth-place Arizona State, but still has a chance to end the season in the middle of the Pac-10.

“Each and every team in our conference is a high caliber team,” Hansen said. “That’s what makes Pac-10s so exciting; every team has the opportunity to beat the other team on any given day.”

The two teams enter the series with big differences in momentum. Washington has not lost a Pac-10 series all year, and has won its last four games (including a sweep over Oregon State). Meanwhile, the Cardinal has lost nine of its last 10 games against conference opponents—since April 11, Stanford has only won three games, two of which were against nonconference foes Santa Clara and San Jose State.

“Our team expectations are pitching, defense and timely hits,” Hansen said. “Keeping their hitters off guard with our pitching and making the defensive plays will set us up to win a close game.”

The Stanford pitching staff will struggle to control the powerful Husky offense, even if Gerhart returns to her pre-injury form. Washington boasts a lineup that is both formidable and balanced. Outfielder Kimi Pohlman is hitting .380 from the leadoff spot and has 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts. Catcher Shawna Wright, hitting from the cleanup spot, has provided much of the Huskies’ power, with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs. Pitcher Danielle Lawrie is also a superb hitter, with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs as well.

While Chinn and Gerhart will be counted on to contain this explosiveness, the Stanford offense will look to find any flaws it can in Lawrie’s pitching. In 35 appearances this season, she has a record of 30-2 and a miniscule ERA of just 0.98. She has also thrown 29 complete games and is holding opposing lineups to a .144 batting average, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of almost 13-to-1.

Lawrie was also named one of the Pac-10’s Players of the Week last week after allowing just one run total over a three-game series against Oregon State.

“Danielle Lawrie is a dominant pitcher,” Hansen said. “The key to beating her is going to be getting runners on, moving them into scoring position and getting [those] one or two timely hits when we need it the most.”

Stanford will play Washington in Seattle, Wash. on May 7-9. Friday’s game will start at 6 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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