Faced with the possibility of getting swept by Utah and likely seeing any postseason aspirations disappear into the thin Rocky Mountain air, Stanford softball (26-18, 3-12 Pac-12) staged its second remarkable comeback in Pac-12 play this year to knock off the Utes (20-20, 5-12 Pac-12) in Saturday’s series finale. After the tough series loss, though, the Card will certainly have a lot of work to do over the final 11 games of this regular season, starting when they welcome the No. 1 Oregon Ducks (40-5, 14-1 Pac-12) to the Farm this coming weekend.
For the first two games of the Utah series, a series crucial for both teams’ postseason hopes, the Cardinal did not pitch well enough to win, as Utah claimed victories on Thursday and Friday afternoon. On Thursday, the Card could not hold onto an early 7-0 lead, with the Utes scoring 12 unanswered runs to stun Stanford 12-7.
Utah’s fine form at the plate continued early in Friday afternoon’s matchup, as the Cardinal’s pitching could not keep up in the first inning with the explosive Utes offense. Utah scored seven runs in the bottom of the first before holding off Stanford’s bats long enough to pick up the 8-3 win. The Utes spoiled junior Tylyn Wells’s strong day in the circle, as the junior from Concord, Calif., nearly went the distance in relief of freshman starter Madi Schreyer. Wells gave up only three earned runs in 5.2 innings of work in the losing effort.
On Saturday morning, it appeared initially that the narrative from Thursday and Friday would repeat itself. Utah held a seemingly insurmountable lead of 10-3 entering the top of the sixth inning, as poor pitching and three costly errors that translated into eight unearned runs appeared to have doomed Stanford. However, the cardiac Cardinal had another comeback in store for its fans.
After junior Cassandra Roulund notched an infield single to lead off the sixth inning, freshman Bessie Noll began the rally in earnest with a double to right field. After junior Hanna Winter reached on an error by Utes second baseman Hannah Flippen to load the bases, sophomore Jessica Plaza drove home the first run of the inning on a fielder’s choice to cut the deficit to 10-4.
Prior to reaching the top of Stanford’s lineup, Wells provided yet another clutch hit for the Cardinal, tripling into the right-center-field gap to score Winter and Plaza. With the Utes’ lead cut to four, junior Leah White notched her second RBI on the day with a single up the middle into center field. Finally, after sophomore Kayla Bonstrom hit a single down the left field line, freshman Kylie Sorenson completed the comeback with a blast over the left field fence to tie the game at 10.
However, while the Card had tied the game in the sixth, the business of winning Saturday’s finale would have to be sealed in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on second and third, White would become the hero with a drive to left field, with the single scoring both Plaza from second and Winter from third.
Although the Utes would score a run in the bottom of the seventh, the margin would ultimately hold, and Stanford finally outlasted Utah 12-11 in a two hour and 52 minute marathon.
White’s game-winning single was not the only clutch piece of hitting for the Phoenix native, as the junior led the team this weekend with six RBIs. She also hit .500 with nine total bases and three runs scored. White even unleashed the long ball in her standout performance this weekend, with a leadoff solo shot in the top of the first inning on Thursday. In a sense, White’s play would provide both the opening and closing statements for the Cardinal in Salt Lake City.
Junior Erin Ashby once again had another outstanding series for Stanford, as the junior from La Crescenta, Calif., slugged .900 with a home run, a double and five RBIs in the three games this weekend. Ashby also managed to tie White for the team lead in total bases with nine, while matching White’s batting average with a .500 mark on five hits.
Ashby’s best showing in Salt Lake City came in the opener on Thursday, as she reached base safely in all four plate appearances with four RBIs, two walks and two extra base-hits. In her first time at the plate, Ashby followed up White’s homer in the top of the first with a blast of her own, as she absolutely unloaded on the 1-2 delivery from Utes starter Sammy Cordova. Subsequently, Ashby would lace a double in the top of the second inning to plate two more runs and set a new career high for RBIs in a single game.
Stanford returns to action on Tuesday evening against the Santa Clara Broncos (7-26, 2-4 WCC) before squaring off against No.1 Oregon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Smith Family Stadium.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.