Softball: Card over Oregon

May 18, 2010, 12:42 a.m.

No. 15 Stanford sweeps Ducks, looks to postseason

Softball: Card over Oregon
Sophomore All-American second baseman Ashley Hansen went 3-9 with six RBIs against Oregon over the weekend, leading the Card to its first Pac-10 Conference sweep of the season. (MASARU OKA/Staff Photographer)

After a sweep at the hands of Washington, the Stanford softball team was in need of a strong series against Oregon to salvage its conference season.

Fortunately, the No. 15 Cardinal (36-17, 8-13 Pac-10) made short work of the No. 20 Ducks (33-19, 8-13), sweeping a conference opponent for the first time this season. None of the games were closely contested – Stanford’s average margin of victory was over four runs – and the Card looks to carry the momentum as it enters NCAA Regionals on Friday.

With the sweep, Stanford ends its regular season tied with Oregon for sixth in the Pac-10, ahead of last-place Oregon State.

Stanford’s pitching was one of the keys to its success. Junior pitcher Ashley Chinn, who hurled all 21 innings for Stanford over the weekend, was able to bottle up an Oregon offense that harbored some dangerous threats. Chinn improved her record to 11-8 on the season after notching three wins.

Notably, the series did not mark the return of freshman pitcher Teagan Gerhart, who appears to still be recovering from an arm injury. She did enter all three games as a pinch runner, a role she has frequently played over the past two weeks, but Gerhart’s pitching return is still uncertain. Head coach John Rittman did not give any indication of considering her to be an option to pitch if Chinn began to struggle.

The Cardinal offense, however, overshadowed any questions of the team’s pitching roster. Stanford seemed to cure some of the offensive woes that have plagued it for much of the season. After scoring just one run against the Huskies, the Card exploded against Oregon’s pitchers, tallying 21 runs over the course of the three games.

The four pitchers used by the Ducks were all unable to effectively contain the Stanford offense, and the rotation found no stability – three different pitchers were charged with the three losses.

Once again, Stanford’s offense was led by its two All-Americans – senior left fielder Alissa Haber and sophomore second baseman Ashley Hansen. Haber went 6-12 against Oregon with three RBIs, while Hansen was 3-9 with six RBIs. Hansen especially epitomized the kind of “timely hitting” that Rittman had emphasized heading into the series.

The first game of the series, on Thursday night, seemed to be heading in the Ducks’ favor early on. But then Stanford took over and, in a performance that would set the tone for the rest of the weekend, the Card bats secured the victory, 9-4.

In the first inning, the Ducks scored four quick runs off Chinn, including a three-run home run by Oregon second baseman Kaylan Howard. Though it jumped out to that early lead, Oregon spent the rest of the game unable to start anything else offensively.

Meanwhile, Stanford responded resoundingly in the second and third innings, putting together a three-run rally in the second to draw within one run, then adding four more in the third to take a decisive 7-4 lead. The Card never looked back, and added another run each in the fifth and sixth innings.

Not one Oregon pitcher was able to play well – each of the three Duck pitchers gave up three runs, with the loss being charged to Mikayla Endicott, who only managed to stay in the game for 0.2 innings.

The second game of the series saw Stanford take control early, with a four-run first inning being its main catalyst. With solid pitching behind it, the Card cruised to a 5-1 victory.

Pitching her best game of the series, Chinn surrendered just three hits to the Ducks and gave up just one run in the fourth inning while striking out four batters.

For the offense, senior catcher Rosey Neill was a big contributor. She had two critical RBIs in the first inning that helped to establish Stanford’s offensive presence.

In her first appearance against the Cardinal, Oregon pitcher Sam Skillingstad was hammered for five runs in five innings pitched. After taking the loss, her season record stands at 11-6.

For the final game of the series, on Saturday, Stanford came out ready to sweep the Ducks. The Oregon offense continued to struggle against Chinn, while Stanford’s batters carried the day again. The game ended in a 7-3 Stanford victory.

Though Chinn had another strong outing, the real story lay in Stanford’s offensive barrage. The Cardinal notched 12 hits against Duck pitchers, including 10 against starter Jessica Moore. Along with Haber and Hansen, sophomore first baseman Jenna Becerra was a big offensive leader, going 1-2 with a walk and two RBIs.

Stanford will now turn its attention to the NCAA Regionals, which start next weekend. The Cardinal has earned the right to host the tournament’s first round, and its first game is on Friday against Texas Tech. The top seed in the regional is Hawaii, who earned the No. 16 overall seed. The winner of the Stanford Regional will take on the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional, which includes No. 1 overall seed Alabama.

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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