By Inyoung Choi
“We just [have to] get back to the drawing board and be better,” said head coach Jessica Allister after an 8-3 loss to Nevada on Sunday shattered her team’s chances of a weekend home sweep. “It’s got to be better on both sides of the ball.”
Stanford softball (13-3, 0-0 Pac-12) fell just one win short of perfection in a three-game series against Nevada (3-10, 0-0 Mountain West) over the weekend. The Cardinal began the two-day ordeal with back-to-back wins against the Wolfpack on Saturday, finishing with final scores of 7-0 and 2-1, respectively. The victories helped stretch Stanford’s win streak to eight before it was snapped by Sunday’s loss.
As demonstrated throughout the season so far, one of Stanford’s greatest strength as a team is its pitching. This weekend was no exception as freshman pitcher Alana Vawter dominated the circle with a powerful performance in the first of Saturday’s two games. Over an entire 6.1 innings, Vawter allowed just four hits and recorded four strikeouts.
“At the first game we really came out,” Vawter said. “We were all super excited for this weekend to face a really solid Nevada team.”
Freshman Tatum Boyd started pitching for the second game and finished with a total of four hits, one run and three strikeouts. Despite an overall strong performance, Boyd flopped a wild pitch that handed the Wolfpack their first point at the Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium. The same play also gave Nevada the lead at the beginning of the game, though Stanford was able to resurface from the one-point deficit and come out on top.
A strong start on Sunday made a strong weekend finale appear to be on the horizon for Stanford, but the Cardinal inevitably came up short. Junior Maddie Dwyer dealt the first several pitches of the team, but senior Kiana Pancino took over the circle at the top of the fourth inning. While Pancino was in the circle, the Wolfpack was able to edge the game to its advantage. In the top of the fourth inning, Pancino’s wild pitch permitted Nevada’s first score of the game. The game turned around in favor of the opponent in the top of the fifth, when Nevada ran away with junior Ashley Salausa’s double, scoring three points on the hit and earning a two-point lead over the home team. Vawter soon took the circle for the second time this weekend with a redeeming three strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, however, Vawter’s performance also proved short of her usual capability, as she allowed five hits and three runs. Of these five hits, Nevada senior Mele Tausinga accounted for two of them with a home run on top of a single that chased Salausa home.
“Today the tougher team came out on top, and it would have been Nevada,” Vawter said. “But I think that we’re just going to use this to move forward and to gain the knowledge on ourselves and to really come together as a team.”
While Stanford’s wins centered around pitching, the team witnessed exciting moments from within the batter’s box as well. On Saturday, senior Teaghan Cowles hit the 18th triple of her collegiate career, which ties a program record set eight years ago in 2012 by Ashley Church during her senior year. Sophomore Emily Young’s double and freshman Sydney Steele’s single seized Stanford’s walk-off win. On Sunday, sophomore Emily Schultz hit a home run at the bottom of the fourth.
While freshman Kaitlyn Lim successfully grounded out a ball to chase home Cowles, Stanford truly seized the game at the bottom of the fourth when it scored four times to reach a 5-0 lead. In the fourth inning, senior Hannah Howell’s successful single secured a run for the Cardinal when sophomore Hannah Matteson pinch ran home in lieu of senior Kristina Inouye. These final points, however, can be more appropriately attributed to a throwing error by Nevada’s Julia Jensen than the aptitude of Stanford’s batting: Jensen’s error led to three unearned scores for Stanford. Stanford’s dominance of the first game came from Vawter’s contribution to the team in securing a 7-0 shut-out victory over the Wolfpack. As the Cardinal continues their campaign, their success could easily be influenced by their ability to perform well under pressure in the circle.
“The hope is that you can learn from it,” Allister said. “You know, things happen. You can go back and look at it and learn from it.”
The Cardinal host the University of Pacific Tigers on Friday at 4 p.m. PT. The game is the first of five for Stanford in the Demarini Invitational.