Softball: One of the elite

By and
Feb. 22, 2011, 1:47 a.m.

For the Stanford softball team, the UNLV Louisville Slugger Classic was an opportunity to prove it belonged among the nation’s best. The No. 18 Cardinal made quick work of Utah State and Portland State in the opening doubleheader on Friday, split a pair of Saturday games by knocking off No. 23 BYU before falling to No. 9 Hawaii and then topped off the weekend with a big 5-0 upset win over No. 3 Tennessee.

Sophomore Teagan Gerhart (above) made her presence felt both on the mound and in the batter's box, helping No. 18 Stanford to a 4-1 record over the weekend. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Stanford (8-2) showed flashes of brilliance over the weekend and certainly justified its lofty preseason ranking by hanging with Hawaii and then shutting down a potent Tennessee offense thanks to pitcher Ashley Chinn’s one-hit shutout on Sunday.

Chinn, a senior, struggled at times last year with her control, but appears to have put those issues to rest with a masterful performance against the Volunteers.

Stanford’s bats came alive with production from all over the lineup to back the player affectionately known as “Chinny” by her teammates. Junior shortstop Ashley Hansen had three hits, and freshman designated player Danielle Miller got things started in the first inning with a run-scoring single.

Freshman left fielder Corey Hanewich gave Chinn some breathing room in the fifth inning when she doubled in two more runs.

That was plenty of support for Chinn, who threw her first complete game of the year and improved to 4-0, lowering her ERA to 3.54. The righthander used a continuing mix of pitches to keep the Volunteers offbalance, striking out six and retiring the last 14 batters in a row.

“I think the biggest thing that helped me in yesterday’s game was staying relaxed and confident,” Chinn said. “We were all pumped for that game and I really just wanted to go out there and get the job done for the team. I was feeling very confident yesterday, from start to finish,” she said. “and [associate head coach Trisha Ford] and [catcher Maya Burns] did a great job with pitch calls. I felt confident and aggressive with each pitch I threw.”

The Card started off the tournament hot in a game against Utah State that featured plenty of offense on both sides. The preseason All-American Hansen had four hits, including a double and her first home run of the season. It came as part of a Cardinal hit parade—four players had multiple hits, including four each from junior Sarah Hassman and Hansen. Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Teagan Gerhart hit her second home run of the year, and in all, Stanford banged out 19 hits and 18 runs in the 18-10 victory, shortened to six innings by the eight-run rule.

But the bats seemed to fall silent after the initial offensive explosion. It took a masterpiece from Gerhart (8IP, 5H, 1R, 0BB, 9K) in the nightcap against Portland State and some timely hitting from the pitcher herself in extra innings to knock off the Vikings, 3-1, in eight innings.

Gerhart again carried the load against BYU, going the distance while giving up just one earned run. She had plenty of help from second baseman Jenna Rich. The sophomore from El Segundo, Calif., didn’t waste any time in putting Stanford on the scoreboard, smacking a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right-center field with two outs in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.

The Cougars equalized in the bottom half of the inning, but Gerhart hit a two-run home run to deep center field to put the Cardinal on top for good. BYU pulled within one run after errors by Hanewich and Hansen allowed three unearned runs to score. But Rich homered again in the top of the seventh inning to provide the final 7-4 margin.

Facing a tough Hawaii team in the second game of the Saturday doubleheader was a difficult matchup for the Card, especially because the Rainbow Wahine sent their junior ace, Stephanie Ricketts, to the circle.

Ricketts didn’t disappoint; a home run from Miller was the only blemish on the San Jose native’s pitching line.

Stanford finished second behind Hawaii in the tournament, and will look to build off this early season success as it hosts the Stanford Nike Invitational this weekend. The Cardinal opens the three-day tournament with a doubleheader on Friday against Memphis and North Dakota State at Smith Family Stadium.

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