After a tough road series in Eugene, Ore., filled with numerous unfortunate breaks to begin Pac-12 play, Stanford responded in fine form on Thursday night against UCLA. In its Pac-12 home opener, the No. 15 Cardinal (23-8,1-3 Pac-12) scored five unanswered runs in the bottom of the first and second innings to pull away from the No. 12 Bruins (24-7, 1-3 Pac-12), 5-1.
While the Card struggled with errors and an inability to finish games last weekend against Oregon, there were no such struggles in Game 1 of the homestand against the Bruins. Apart from an early run by UCLA, Stanford was in control throughout Thursday’s contest.
Freshman Kayla Bonstrom continued her outstanding start to the season, as the Tucson, Ariz., product drove in two more runs in a 2-for-3 night at the plate. In particular, Bonstrom’s bases-clearing double into the gap in left-center field in the bottom of the second inning increased Stanford’s lead to four, resulting in the Cardinal’s final margin of victory. In turn, Bonstrom improved her already impressive batting average to .372, 42 points clear of the next closest Cardinal batter.
In addition to Bonstrom, the Card also got a significant contribution from another freshman in catcher Jessica Plaza. Plaza, a Huntington Beach, Calif., native, also plated two runs on a one-out double to left field in the bottom of the first inning.
Coming into this season, Plaza was given the difficult task of replacing an All-Conference selection in graduated senior Maya Burns. However, Plaza has handled her assignment with flying colors. A recent 2013 Junior Women’s National team selection to participate in the 2013 ISF Junior Women’s Softball World Championships in Canada, Plaza has hit .298 and driven in 13 RBI’s in only 47 plate appearances. Plaza’s insertion into the starting lineup has also provided the Cardinal with another power hitter, as she is third on the team in both home runs and slugging percentage.
In the circle, senior Teagan Gerhart frustrated Bruin batters all night, yielding only one run on five hits in picking up the complete-game victory, her twelfth on the season. The Norco, Calif., product was virtually unhittable after giving up the first run of the game in the top of the first inning, scattering two hits in her last six innings of work. In the process, Gerhart mitigated a potent UCLA lineup, which had entered Thursday night’s contest hitting .310 on the season.
The two teams’ contrasting styles should be on display, as the power-hitting and long-ball driven Bruins square off against the pitching-centric and run-manufacturing Cardinal.
Stanford and UCLA continue their three-game series in this matchup of Pac-12 heavyweights tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday at noon, with both contests played at the Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.