After falling short of winning a crucial series in Salt Lake City against Utah, the Stanford softball team (26-18, 3-12 Pac-12) will welcome the Santa Clara Broncos (7-26, 2-4 WCC) to Smith Family Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Card have no room for error over the last 11 games of their season if they hope to extend their streak of consecutive postseason appearances to 17. This pressure certainly extends to the Cardinal’s matchup with the Broncos; with Santa Clara currently holding an RPI of 258, the Card must win this non-conference matchup to keep its weak postseason aspirations alive.
As evidenced by their record and RPI, the Broncos have had a rough 2014 campaign. Santa Clara lost 10 games in a row to begin its season, and since the start of conference play, Santa Clara has yet to win a series against a conference opponent. Furthermore, the Broncos have won consecutive games only once all season, with five run-rule losses on their record.
In a tough season for the Broncos, center fielder Stephanie Fisher has been a bright spot for Santa Clara’s offense. Fisher, a senior from Tracy, Calif., has hit .379 with nine doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs. Along with holding the team lead in batting average and doubles, she also leads her team in on-base percentage and total bases with a .393 mark and 58 bags respectively.
Against the Cardinal on Tuesday, the Broncos will also turn to Kelly Scribner to provide some power in the heart of the Santa Clara lineup. Scribner has slugged a team-best .570 while starting in all 33 games for the Broncos. The senior from Loveland, Colo. also holds the high mark in home runs for Santa Clara, with six homers in 93 at-bats.
Santa Clara has struggled mightily in getting runners on base, posting an anemic team on-base percentage of .294. Drawing walks has been a huge problem for the Broncos, as Santa Clara has only received 45 free passes as a team all season. Once the Broncos have gotten runners on base, they have been very poor on the basepaths, with a 53 percent stolen base success rate in 2014.
On top of the Broncos’ offensive difficulties, their rotation has also been a mess, with a team ERA of 4.49. Santa Clara pitchers have struggled to finish games for their team, as Santa Clara has only 10 complete games in its 33 contests this year. Finally, Santa Clara’s opponents have teed off on Bronco pitching to the tune of a .308 batting average and 85 extra-base hits, including 12 home runs, charged to Santa Clara pitchers.
As the top pitcher in the Santa Clara rotation, Ciara Gonzales has had a passable season for the Broncos. The sophomore from Chandler, Ariz. has posted a 3.39 ERA in 14 starts and 27 appearances for Santa Clara. Gonzales has logged the majority of innings in the circle for the Broncos, going the distance in half of her starts this season.
For the Cardinal, freshman Kylie Sorenson continues to help lead the Card’s potent offensive attack. Sorenson, a Stevenson Ranch, Calif. native, has had a sensational debut season on the Farm for Stanford. She leads the Cardinal in several offensive categories, including batting average (.371), on-base percentage (.506), slugging percentage (.629) and walks (33).
In recognition of her tremendous season, Sorenson was selected last week as one of 25 finalists for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year Award. Sorenson will also continue to be in contention to become the second consecutive Cardinal player to win the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award, after Kayla Bonstrom won the recognition last season.
Sorenson will certainly face strong competition for the honor from players around the Pac-12. Arizona freshman Katyiana Mauga, who leads the Pac-12 in slugging percentage (.938) by more than 100 points, and UCLA newcomer Delaney Spaulding, who is currently third in on-base percentage in the Pac-12 with a .526 mark, will also be in contention for the award.
Stanford and Santa Clara will square off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening, with a formidable series looming on the horizon in No. 1 Oregon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Smith Family Stadium.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.