By Sally Egan
Tonight, softball (32-15, 8-10 Pac-12) begins its final regular season series at No. 2 Washington (42-7, 17-4 Pac-12) in yet another difficult conference rivalry matchup. This is the Cardinal’s second week in a row playing against the second-ranked team in the nation, as last weekend, UCLA (45-3, 19-2 Pac-12) held that ranking.
In last weekend’s series, Stanford ultimately fell 1-2, but its victory over the now Bruins was arguably the biggest of the season. For the second year in a row, the Cardinal entered the matchup unranked, and for the second year in a row, the Cardinal defeated UCLA in one of the three games. The Bruins moved down one spot in the latest rankings, to No. 3, after their 2-1 loss to Stanford. The win was the Cardinal’s second victory this season over a top ten opponent as they also defeated then No. 7 LSU on Feb. 21.
Key players for the Cardinal this weekend will be junior Hannah Howell, freshman Emily Schultz and freshman Taylor Gindlesperger as all three players look to continue improving after impressive performances last weekend. Howell hit .400 with a double and a triple for the whole weekend against one of the strongest pitching teams in the country. Schultz had the game-winning two-run homer on Friday in the Cardinal’s only victory of the weekend. Both players have had strong seasons overall, but Gindlesperger has truly taken off recently. While she didn’t receive much action in the beginning of the season, the outfielder has now hit .357 in her last five games, including the three against the Bruins. If all three players continue building off of these performances, and other consistently strong hitters such as junior Teaghan Cowles and freshman Emily Young play at the top of their game, Stanford will be in good shape offensively.
Despite an inferior record, however, the Huskies may be a tougher opponent than the Bruins. Washington has won 20 of its past 21 games including a sweep of No. 4 Arizona last weekend on the road. The key player that the Cardinal must watch out for on the Huskies is junior Sis Bates. Not only is she leading the team offensively with a .395 batting average, the shortstop also just earned her second consecutive Pac-12 Defensive player of the year after posting the lowest error percentage amongst middle infielders in the conference. If Stanford can avoid hitting to her or giving her any easy pitches, it will improve their chances at victory greatly.
Stanford’s first game against the Huskies is tonight at 7:00 p.m. PST in Seattle.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.