By Andrew Tan
Friday evening, Stanford softball (11-2, 0-0 PAC-12) hosts its first of six games in the Stanford Invitational against No. 23 Northwestern (11-3, 0-0 Big 10) before playing two against Montana, two against North Dakota State and one against Cal Poly through Sunday.
Like a drunk teenager egged on by his friends, Stanford is streaking, winning its past five as it swept through the LSU Invitational last weekend to romp its way to the program’s best start in recent years. For a team with few expectations, the Cardinal are challenging pundits who, during the preseason, so easily ignored Stanford’s chances to make noise in the PAC-12 and possibly the Softball World Series down the road.
Despite its early-season success, Stanford still sits behind powerful PAC-12 rivals such as No. 2 UCLA, No. 5 Washington and No. 25 Oregon State in the conference.
Though Montana and Cal Poly are weaker opponents, Stanford will have another chance to make a case for national ranking consideration against Northwestern. This game is undoubtedly the premier matchup in the weekend slate and eyes will be on the Cardinal to see if they can produce the result that Troy Bolton’s love for Gabriella Montez nearly did and derail the Wildcats.
To rack up some more wins, the Cardinal will look to replicate the formula from their torrid run through Baton Rouge: win in any way possible. Stanford’s calling card this season has been out-hustling, out-gritting and out-efforting opponents. When an opponent opens the door for the Cardinal, they take full advantage of the opportunity, letting other teams beat themselves, as was the case in the LSU game.
Stanford cannot control outstanding play from other teams but can control what it puts into the game on every day and so far the Cardinal have not yet turned down their effort settings from max. During this run, Stanford has been well-balanced on both sides of the ball, getting consistently quality performances from starters sophomore Maddy Dwyer (5-1, 1.43 ERA) and senior Carolyn Lee (2-1, 1.11 ERA) and offensive production from all its bats.
Among the many stats that convey Stanford’s offensive success: Junior Montana Dixon has drawn five hit-by-pitches, second in PAC-12; freshman Taylor Gindlesperger and junior Alyssa Horeczko are perfect in stolen-base attempts, with five and six respectively; and junior Kristina Inouye ranks seventh in PAC-12 with 14 RBIs. The Cardinal will hope to build on these numbers and the most important number, wins, starting Friday.
First pitch is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. on Friday at Smith Family Field against Northwestern.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu.