The Stanford softball team (27-21, 3-15 Pac-12) will look to close out its regular-season non-conference slate with a strong showing tonight against the Saint Mary’s Gaels (22-22, 8-4 WCC) in Moraga, California. Saint Mary’s certainly enters Wednesday’s contest with the momentum, as the Gaels just capped off a road sweep of Bay Area rival Santa Clara. In contrast, the Cardinal will make the trip coming off a sweep at the hands of consensus No. 1 Oregon.
The Gaels present a dangerous matchup for the Card, as SMC has already knocked off one Pac-12 foe — the Gaels picked up their first-ever win over Cal in February when they stunned the then-No. 23 Golden Bears 4-1 as part of the Campbell/Cartier Classic. SMC then followed up that early season victory over Cal with another win over the Golden Bears on April 9.
The Gaels have a very young squad that continues to develop at the plate, with a decent team batting average of .260. However, SMC has struggled to consistently put runs on the scoreboard in 2014, as Saint Mary’s is only averaging slightly more than three runs per game. The Gaels have also lacked power hitting for most of the season, with only 14 home runs in 44 games this year.
Saint Mary’s is led on offense by sophomore Andrea Hazel. The Yuba City, California, native holds the high mark in several offensive categories for the Gaels, including batting average (.340), RBIs (19), home runs (5), and slugging percentage (.564). In short, Hazel has had a breakout year for Saint Mary’s in 2014 after only hitting .163 with 12 RBIs as a true freshman. However, in spite of her struggles last season, she did homer in the Gaels’ 5-2 upset of the Cardinal last April.
Stanford will also have to be mindful of sophomore Cassidy Szeredy when the Pittsburg, California, product steps to the plate. Szeredy, who was a high school teammate of Stanford designated player and pitcher Tylyn Wells, has hit .297 with five doubles, two home runs, and nine RBIs. She has also been very successful at drawing free passes, with a team-leading 17 walks to boost her on-base percentage to a .418 mark.
In the circle, the Gaels are anchored by sophomore ace Lujane Mussadi. Mussadi, a local of Los Gatos, California, has posted a solid 2.56 ERA in 17 starts and 25 appearances. Mussadi has failed to get very much run support from her offense, as the sophomore only has a 9-8 record on the season. However, she has been able to do the heavy lifting in the circle for the second straight season, having pitched 109.1 of the Gaels’ 222 total innings.
Saint Mary’s may also possibly turn to junior Sarah Lira against the Cardinal, as the Gilroy, California, native has done a solid job as a second starter for the Gaels. In 87.1 innings pitched, Lira has posted a strong 2.24 ERA in 20 appearances and seven starts. She is a very versatile player — she starts at first base during the games that she does not pitch. Finally, Lira has hit .291 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs in 86 total at-bats this season.
Stanford head coach John Rittman described the upcoming game against Saint Mary’s as an important test for his team, adding, “The Saint Mary’s game is a mid-week game against a team that has been very competitive. We have to bring our A-game against them, and we do not want to overlook them for UCLA.”
Stanford and Saint Mary’s will square off at Cottrell Field on Wednesday at 3 p.m. After the contest, the Cardinal will travel to Los Angeles to take on No. 2 UCLA in the second-to-last series of conference play.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.