Although school is out and the spring collegiate season has ended, the competition hasn’t stopped for some Stanford athletes and alumni. During the 12th ISF Women’s World Softball Championships in Caracas, Venezuela, running from June 23 to July 3, Stanford University was well represented. Four Cardinal athletes — including current star Ashley Hansen and former standouts Alissa Haber, Jessica Mendoza and Lauren Lappin — helped the United States team win the world championship, marking the seventh consecutive title for the Americans.
Another prominent former Cardinal playing in the tournament was recent graduate and top-tier pitcher Missy Penna, who lent her efforts to the Dominican Republic.
Cardinal players made major contributions to the U.S. national team, including in the championship game against Japan. Hansen recorded the first United States hit in the game with a double and Haber drove in the team’s first run, Mendoza, with a single. After Haber’s RBI, the Red, White and Blue strung together six more hits in the fourth inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead, with former Cardinal Lappin scoring the final run of the inning.
The United States went on to win the world championship, 7-0.
With Stanford’s latest and greatest lending a hand, the United States team dominated the tournament, going undefeated in ten games and outscoring their opponents 95-6. A recent graduate, Haber had a historic tournament, breaking teammate Jessica Mendoza’s record of 16 RBI in the 2006 World Championships tournament by knocking in 21 runs of her own.
“I take pride in my pre-game batting practice. I get the opportunity to hit every type of pitch that helps me get ready to face all types of pitchers. My mindset is to no matter what make contact,” Haber told GoStanford.com. “I try to scout the pitchers and weaknesses then put a plan together that meshes their strengths and weaknesses and my own. Then of course I always try to relax and have fun!”
The United States opened the tournament with two victories, defeating China 1-0 and New Zealand 12-2. The Cardinal came up big as Hansen scored the only run of the game against the Chinese. In the same game, Lappin, a catcher, made a great defensive play, catching a Chinese player stuck between second and third base. In the second game, recent graduate and outfielder Haber went two-for-three with a double, two runs and two RBI.
Contributions from the Cardinal continued as Lappin went three-for-three in the fourth game against Botswana, recording three RBI and two runs in the third inning alone as the United States team cruised to a 20-0 victory.
In a crucial game against Australia, the United States’ most storied opponent, Haber helped the United States capture a 9-2 victory by leading the team on the day, going three-for-three with four RBI and one run.
“I was seeing the ball really well so I was very relaxed at the plate,” Haber said, again speaking to GoStanford.com. “I thought I would be more nervous playing but I really wasn’t. I think it has to do with the amount of talent on our team.”
“There are great hitters in front of you and great hitters behind you,” she added. “It’s nice knowing that if you can’t come through, someone else will. We all have each other’s backs and that really helps with my confidence at the plate.”
In the second-to-last game before the medal rounds, the United States defeated the Dominican Republic 10-1, where they faced former Stanford pitcher Penna. Haber continued her hot streak, going 2-3.
In the last game of the medal round, the United States continued to play fantastic softball, easily defeating the Czech Republic, 9-0. After that game — the last before the medal rounds — Haber led the team in batting average (.750), hits (12), doubles (6) and RBI (16, tying Mendoza’s tournament record).
The United States cruised against Canada in the first game of the medal round, winning 16-1 before beating Japan twice (once in the semi-final and then again in the final) to win the championship.
Haber and Hansen provided a big one-two punch in the batting lineup for the Cardinal during the 2010 season and were also ranked one and two in batting average on the team, respectively. Haber finished the season at .446 and Hansen at .337. This appearance doesn’t mark the first time they have appeared with the national team, as both Haber and Hansen became members of the U.S. squad in 2009.
Mendoza graduated from Stanford in 2002 (in 2003 Mendoza graduated with a master’s degree) and was a four-time NFCA First-team All American and a four-time member of both the Pac-10 and All-Pacific Region First-teams. She was a three-time Stanford athlete of the year as well. Mendoza is a veteran on the international scene, first competing for the USA in 2001.
Lappin played at Stanford from 2003 to 2006 and began competing internationally in 2003, leading the USA Softball Elite team and twice being named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Lappin has been a defensive cornerstone as a third baseman and catcher and also demonstrated her prowess with the bat, hitting .556 at the 2009 World Cup.
These four Stanford athletes will be back in action soon, as the United States National team will compete in the KFC’s World Cup of Softball at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City from July 22-26.