By Sally Egan
This weekend was a predictably tough one for the softball team (32-18, 8-13 Pac-12) as they were swept on the road against the No. 2 University of Washington (45-7, 20-4 Pac-12). The light at the end of the tunnel, however, was Sunday’s NCAA softball tournament announcement that Stanford had qualified for postseason play. If the Cardinal are going to advance to the Super Regionals, though, they will have to play better than they did this weekend.
On Thursday, Stanford started strong against the heavily-favored Huskies. While the Cardinal struggled offensively, their defense shined. Senior Carolyn Lee pitched beautifully, only allowing three hits through the first four innings for no runs. Even when two walks and an error gave Washington loaded bases with one out in the bottom of the second inning, the Cardinal remained composed and didn’t let any baserunners score. On the flip side, though, the first four innings were three and outs offensively for the Cardinal, putting a lot of pressure on Lee and the defense to remain flawless.
In the fifth inning, however, things unraveled for Stanford. The Cardinal finally got baserunners on after hits by junior Montana Dixon and freshman Emily Schultz, but they still couldn’t muster a run. This perhaps lit a fire under the Huskies as they promptly responded with four hits in the bottom of the fifth, including a triple and a three-run homer to give them a 5-0 lead.
Stanford made a late game push in the top of the seventh. Junior Kristina Inouye and freshman Emily Young both singled, while Dixon homered to bring in 2 runs. But it was too little too late, and the Cardinal eventually fell 5-2.
Friday did not go much better for Stanford. While the defense played well in the first four innings, leaving three runners on base in each of the first two innings and only allowing two runs over this time, offensively the Cardinal struggled again. Only Dixon and senior Whitney Burks managed to get hits. The fifth inning was once again disastrous. Two costly errors and five hits led to six runs for the Huskies, and the 8-0 score was enough for the game to end on a mercy rule.
Stanford had one final chance at redemption Saturday morning in their third game, which was also the Cardinal’s last chance to impress the NCAA selection committee before the postseason schedule was announced. The Cardinal finally got things going on offense with Inouye and Dixon each going 2 for 3 over the course of the game. Juniors Teaghan Cowles and Hannah Howell also contributed one hit each. Lee pitched well once again, but Washington’s two-run homer in the bottom of the third and another run off of a single in the bottom of the sixth created a 3-0 shutout, and the Huskies completed their sweep of the Cardinal.
The weekend wasn’t all bad for Stanford, though, as the NCAA tournament selection show last night revealed the Cardinal would head to Gainsville to compete in the regional level of the postseason. This is the first time Stanford has advanced to the postseason since 2013, showing just how far the team has come this year.
On Friday at 9 a.m. PST, Stanford will take on Boise State (34-14, 12-12 Mountain West) in the first postseason game. This round of the playoffs is double elimination — so even if the Cardinal loses, they will have a chance to redeem themselves against the loser of the Florida-Boston University game.
The University of Florida (44-15, 12-12 SEC) will be favored to win this region as they are ranked No. 5 overall in the tournament, but Stanford has shown potential to upset top-10 teams this season and should have hope for the tournament.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.