The Pac-12 Conference in softball is one of the toughest draws in collegiate athletics this season, featuring five top-15 teams, including the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the nation. Unfortunately for the Cardinal (28-21, 3-15 Pac-12), the gauntlet at the back end of their schedule matches them up against the toughest of their conference competition in consecutive series, as Stanford will take to the road and visit No. 2 UCLA (44-4, 15-3) just a week after suffering a sweep at the hands of No. 1 Oregon.
Stanford is still seeking its first conference series win of the season and sits in eighth place in the nine-team conference, ahead of just Oregon State. However, things are looking bleak this weekend for the Cardinal, which have only claimed one victory over teams ranked in the top 15 this season — in 13 tries. Meanwhile, the powerful Bruins have only lost this year to teams ranked in the top five.
The Cardinal are coming off of a hard-fought 2-1 non-conference win over St. Mary’s to kick off their final road trip of its season, while UCLA is fresh off of a sweep of Cal and is riding an 11-game winning streak coming into the matchup.
UCLA brings a remarkably balanced team to the table, with both its offense and pitching staff ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Bruins pitchers have combined for a 1.73 ERA this season and have held opposing hitters to a combined .202 batting average, and will look to stifle a Stanford offense that has struggled as of late, with only five runs scored in its last four contests.
The Bruins pitching staff is led by a two-pronged attack in junior Ally Carda and senior Jessica Hall, who both own sub-2.00 ERAs and have combined to strike out over 31 percent of the batters that they have faced this season. If Stanford will be looking to emerge from southern California with a series win, it will need its offense to step up in a big way to give a Cardinal pitching staff that has been shaky at times this season the run support that it will undoubtedly need.
The UCLA offense is hitting .337 as a unit and is ranked ninth in the country in that metric, giving freshman pitcher Madi Schreyer a lot to think about heading into this weekend. Schreyer has been a stalwart in the circle all season for the Cardinal to the tune of a 3.34 ERA and 161 strikeouts, but she’ll need to dig deep to quiet down the Bruins’ offense after struggling against Oregon in last weekend’s series.
UCLA boasts nine hitters on its roster with averages over .300 and is led by sophomore infielder Mysha Sataraka, who is hitting a tremendous .355 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs on the season. She is backed up in a deep lineup by junior Stephany LaRosa, who is hitting .398 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs. Six Bruins hitters have hit five or more home runs this season, while eight have driven in 20 or more runs.
After the tall order against UCLA over the weekend, Stanford will return home to face conference cellar-dweller Oregon State in its final series of the season.
Friday’s game against UCLA will start at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks, Saturday’s game will start at 3 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPNU and Sunday’s series finale will start at noon and will be televised on ESPN.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.