Coming into the Easton Invitational, No. 5 Stanford softball’s season had been defined by incredible starting pitching, highlighted by a perfect game and a 46-inning streak without allowing a single run. While the pitching was solid over the final two days of the invitational, it was Stanford’s offense that propelled the Cardinal (17-5) to a successful weekend in Fullerton, California.
Stanford’s bats exploded during the three-day tournament, as the Card tallied 32 runs and hit .318 over the course of five games. The team’s best offensive display came on Saturday morning against Cal State-Fullerton, when the Cardinal notched 14 hits in routing the Titans 14-1; six Stanford players recorded at least two hits in the five-inning mercy-rule victory.
Senior Jenna Rich had a fabulous weekend at the plate, as the shortstop from El Segundo, Calif., hit .333 while registering 6 RBIs. In a 7-6 loss to Iowa on Friday afternoon, Rich went 3-for-3 and logged the first of her three multi-RBI games during the invitational.
Rich gave Stanford an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out double. After a walk in the third inning and a single in the fourth, Rich’s one-out single in the sixth inning scored Hanna Winter, cutting the deficit to one. Ultimately though, the comeback would fall just short.
A now four-year starter for the Cardinal who has appeared at shortstop, second base, pitcher and designated player throughout her Stanford career, Rich has been Stanford’s most dangerous power hitter since her freshman season, leading the team in home runs and RBIs in each of the last three years.
That trend continued at the Easton Invitational; in addition to six RBIs in five games, the NFCA All-American also belted her third home run of the season on Sunday morning to open the scoring against Indiana. Rich’s leadoff shot in the second inning jump-started the Stanford bats, as the Card would pound 10 hits in the contests to pummel the Hoosiers 7-0. Rich now leads the team with 19 RBIs and 15 walks.
Sophomore Erin Ashby also helped key the potent offensive attack, as the La Crescenta, Calif., product batted .375 and drove in four runs. In her first year as a full-time starter, Ashby has been a stabilizing presence for Stanford, and her versatility has allowed her to split time at both catcher and first base.
On Saturday against Fullerton, Ashby emphatically put the Cardinal on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning with a two-run blast to left field. In the next inning, Ashby followed up her home run with a one-out double to right field that plated her third RBI of the game. After driving in only one run last year, mostly as a pinch hitter, Ashby already has 12 RBIs on the young season.
After dominating opposing hitters in the previous three tournaments, Stanford pitchers struggled on Day One of the Easton Invitational. In the opener against Iowa, freshman Kelsey Stevens gave up five earned runs in only 1 1/3 innings of work.
But Stevens, who was last week’s NFCA National Player of the Week for her flawless showing at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, rebounded from the rare loss to shut down Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. The freshman struck out nine Wildcat batters while yielding only four hits and two runs in picking up her ninth win of the season, a 5-2 victory for Stanford.
Teagan Gerhart also lost her first start of the Easton Invitational on Friday afternoon against Wisconsin; even though Gerhart allowed only one earned run, three errors by a normally sure-handed Stanford infield doomed the Cardinal, as the unranked Badgers dropped the Card by a score of 4-0.
However, like Stevens, Gerhart would not be denied a victory for long. In her next two starts against Cal State-Fullerton and Indiana, Gerhart sent a resounding message in reaffirming her place among the elite pitchers in the Pac-12, as she conceded a mere four hits and one run in the two games combined.
Stanford softball returns to action on Wednesday when the Cardinal will travel to Davis, Calif., to take on UC-Davis. Stanford will also host its second tournament of the season, the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic, this weekend. The tournament begins on Friday with games against Minnesota and Florida Gulf Coast at 12:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. respectively.
The Classic will continue on Saturday with two more contests against Minnesota and Florida Gulf Coast at 2:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Stanford’s tournament concludes on Sunday with a matchup against Pacific at 12:15 p.m. All games will be played at Smith Family Stadium.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.