After an impressive upset victory in Seattle last weekend against the No. 7 Washington (40-11, 13-8), Stanford softball (19-29, 2-19) returns home to host their last conference weekend series of the regular season against No. 3 Oregon (44-6, 14-6), marking the first time the two teams will contest in the season.
Entering Seattle for last weekend’s series against the Huskies with only one conference victory under their belts, Stanford performed a heavy upset during Saturday’s second match of the series, dropping six runs.
However, the offensive momentum was just the cherry on top, as Cardinal freshman pitcher Kiana Pancino put together a career outing on the mound, holding Washington to only one hit for the night and pitching a perfect game through 4.1 innings.
Stanford will need another shutdown defensive performance in order to stop a streaking Oregon team that has won seven consecutive matches and has not allowed opponents more than one run in five matches.
The Ducks enter into Eugene on a high after toppling the then-No. 2 Florida State Seminoles in a shocking series sweep over the ACC giants, claiming an 11-0 victory to start the weekend before edging the Seminoles in the two successive games behind lockdown Oregon pitching. They held the seventh-best offense in the country (by team BA) to only one run in two successive outings.
Oregon’s success on the mound came from the Ducks’ leader in wins this season, freshman right-hander Maggie Balint, who recorded a complete seven-inning, seven-strikeout outing before coming on in relief in the top of the eighth win two runners on and in a tie game during Sunday’s nail-biter. The freshman showed no signs of shying away from the pressure, striking out four of the last six batters she faced and ultimately earning the win in the 2-1 Ducks late-inning victory.
After the weekend sweep, the Ducks climbed three spots, from No. 6 to No. 3, while also earning five first-place votes.
Despite Oregon’s strength, the Cardinal possess offensive talent of their own, as Kylie Sorenson extended her hitting streak to 13 games with a solo shot during Sunday’s defeat. The senior has led the team offensively throughout the season and boasts the 10th-best conference batting average at .360.
Even more critical for Stanford success in their final series of the season is the Cardinal pitching staff’s ability to quiet an Oregon trio of powerful hitters, senior Danica Mercado, sophomore Alexis Mack and senior Nikki Udria, often first, second and fourth batters in the Oregon lineup. The offensive generators all boast ridiculous batting averages, highlighted by Udria’s team-leading .415 average on the season.
The Cardinal will take on Oregon for the first time this season in a three-game series starting on Thursday and culminating in what’s likely to be the final match of the season for Stanford on Saturday at the Smith Family Stadium. Thursday’s match will have first pitch start at 4 p.m. and can be followed on gostanford.com.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.