Stanford softball ended a strong regular season on a bit of a downer last weekend, dropping two of three at No. 1 Arizona State. With the series loss, Stanford ends its 2011 season at No. 11, finishing with a very respectable 38-15 overall record.
The Cardinal finished its brutal conference schedule just under .500, with 10 wins and 11 losses. That means Stanford closes the year fifth in the eight-team conference, one game behind Arizona and Oregon and one ahead of both Washington and UCLA. Seven of the eight Pac-10 teams are ranked nationally in the top 15, making it arguably the toughest and deepest conference in the country. Arizona State (50-6, 17-4 Pac-10) entered the series as the unanimous number one in the polls, riding a 12-game conference winning streak after sweeping its last three series.
Thursday’s 3-1 loss was a close game, as the Card failed to convert despite opportunities. Sun Devil Katelyn Boyd led off the game with a solo home run to left, putting the Cardinal in an early hole. Stanford loaded the bases in the first and third innings but didn’t tally until the fifth, when junior shortstop Ashley Hansen tied the game with her eighth home run of the year.
Hansen was recently named one of ten finalists for USA Softball’s Player of the Year, putting up career offensive numbers for the Cardinal. She finished the season batting an astounding .506 with a .568 on-base percentage, 24 doubles and nine home runs. She went 7-for-11 with three runs, two RBI and two home runs in the ASU series.
Arizona State responded in the bottom of the fifth, scoring twice on Krista Donnenwirth’s shallow single to center. Sophomore pitcher Teagan Gerhart took the loss, giving up six hits and an unusually high five walks. Arizona State’s rookie pitcher Dallas Escobedo got the win.
On Friday, the Cardinal offense exploded for six runs to break Arizona State’s 12-game winning streak. Stanford starter Ashley Chinn and Gerhart combined to limit the opposition to just one run on five hits. Gerhart was credited with the win after she took over in the third for Chinn. ASU’s Mackenzie Popescue got tagged with the loss after giving up four runs in just two and a third innings of work.
Stanford relied heavily on the long ball, with three players going yard for the Cardinal. Junior center fielder Sarah Hassman started the scoring with a two-run shot in the third, plating junior Jenna Becerra. It was Hassman’s first collegiate home run. Hansen kept the inning alive with an infield single, and junior second baseman Jenna Rich gave Stanford a 4-0 lead with a two-run home run of her own.
ASU would get its only run of the game in the bottom of the third, when catcher Katelyn Castillo drew a walk, stole second and then proceeded to score on two wild pitches by Chinn.
In the fifth, Stanford picked up another run as Rich singled in Hassman for her third RBI of the game. Hansen then capped off the scoring for the Cardinal with a solo home run in the top of the seventh.
Saturday’s rubber match saw Escobedo dominate the Cardinal lineup. The Cardinal registered just four hits — two each by Hassman and Hansen — and only scored when Escobedo pitched a four-walk third. Gerhart also allowed just four hits, but surrendered seven walks in allowing four earned runs.
All four ASU runs came in the fifth. Boyd doubled in the first run, and Stanford then intentionally walked catcher Kaylyn Castillo, which backfired when right fielder Annie Lockwood lined a home run to left. The one win and two losses over the weekend push Gerhart to 22-11 on the year, while Escobedo’s two wins moved her to 27-3 on the year.
With the regular season finished, the Cardinal now turns its focus to the playoffs, which start this weekend. Stanford earned a No. 15 seed and will be hosting its regional, which includes Nebraska, Pacific and Fresno State. The Cardinal’s first postseason matchup is against Pacific (37-17) on May 20.