Softball: Finishing strong

May 13, 2010, 12:43 a.m.

Softball looks to end skid in season’s final series

With the regular season coming to a close, the Stanford softball team will try to use its remaining games to build momentum for the postseason. The No. 17 Cardinal (33-17, 5-13 Pac-10) has one conference series left — a three-game showdown at home against Oregon.

Softball: Finishing strong
The No. 17 Stanford softball team has struggled recently, losing 12 of its past 15 games. The Cardinal will look to break that streak this weekend when it takes on No. 20 Oregon. (BRYAN LIN/The Stanford Daily)

After a strong start to the season, Stanford has played poorly, going 3-12 in its last 15 games, with two of those wins coming against weaker, nonconference opponents. Arizona, UCLA and Washington have all swept the Card.

The No. 1 Huskies (43-5, 15-3 Pac-10) dealt Stanford a couple of tough losses last weekend, with two of the three games decided by slim, one-run margins.

The series victory secured the conference title for Washington.

“We have to bounce back,” said head coach John Rittman. “We could have won two of those games.”

Stanford’s last chance to improve its fortunes will come this weekend against the No. 20 Ducks (33-16, 8-10). Like Stanford, Oregon had a hot start to its conference season but has fizzled out somewhat since. It has lost its last four series, against Washington, Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona. However, the Ducks managed to salvage a win in each one of those series, except against the Bruins.

Oregon currently sits in fifth place in the Pac-10, a game behind the Sun Devils. Stanford is seventh in the standings, out of the cellar by just a game over Oregon State.

“Oregon is a much improved team,” Rittman said. “They have four good pitchers they can go to, so it’s going to be a challenge for us. We have to bring our ‘A’ game to win this weekend.”

The Ducks’ pitching staff is one of the team’s strengths. Unlike many teams, which rely on a single, dominant pitcher, Oregon uses two starters in tandem — Jessica Moore and Sam Skillingstad. Moore has an ERA of 1.64 and a 14-10 record, while Skillingstad has posted a 2.60 ERA and an 11-5 record.

Overall, the Oregon staff has a team ERA of 2.22, slightly better than Stanford’s combined ERA of 2.57.

Neither Duck starter should provide a similar challenge to last weekend, when the Card faced off against Danielle Lawrie, arguably the best college pitcher in the country.

Offensively, Oregon is led by right fielder Sam Pappas, who is hitting .407 with 46 RBIs and 11 home runs on the year. Left fielder Allie Burger, the leadoff hitter, should also pose a challenge to Stanford — she is hitting .400 for the season with 24 RBIs.

Stanford’s pitching staff has been the team’s strength over the past few weeks, and the Cardinal will look to continue that success against the Ducks. Junior pitcher Ashley Chinn, Stanford’s likely starter for all three games this weekend, does not have flattering stats — she owns an 8-8 record and a 2.97 ERA for the season. However, she has shown flashes of brilliance in her last two series. Chinn gave up just three runs in her two starts against the Huskies and combined with freshman Jenna Rich to hold Arizona State to just six runs in three games two weeks ago.

Also notable for Stanford’s pitching is the return of freshman Teagan Gerhart, who emerged as the Card’s ace prior to an injury a month ago. According to Rittman, Gerhart’s status is currently up in the air, with no definite timetable for her return. She did enter the Washington series as a pinch runner, indicating that her return to the circle may be imminent.

Rittman, though, will continue to exercise caution.

“We’d like to have her back as healthy as possible for the postseason,” he said.

On the offensive side, Stanford will have to improve on its performance from last weekend in order to have a shot at taking down Oregon. The Cardinal lineup has performed abysmally over the team’s slump — it only scored one run in three games against the Huskies, and it scored only two runs in the team’s two losses to the Sun Devils.

While senior left fielder Alissa Haber has been performing well, maintaining a .437 batting average, the rest of the lineup has not followed suit. Collectively, the Cardinal is hitting just .292.

“We’re getting ourselves opportunities, but we’re not getting timely hits,” Rittman said. “We need to work on continuing to hit pitches in the zone.”

Stanford will play Oregon at Smith Family Stadium today through Saturday. Today’s game starts at 7 p.m.

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

Login or create an account