SportsSoftball

Softball cruises en route to 4-0 start

Feb. 21, 2021, 10:58 p.m.

This year’s Pac-12 is loaded with talent: The conference boasts three of the top four teams in the first round of NCAA rankings. But if this weekend is a sign of things to come, the Cardinal could soon be ranked up there among No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Washington and No. 4 Arizona. 

Led by a strong pitching effort and a trio of juniors, each with batting averages of at least .500, the Cardinal finished their first weekend of play with a 4-0 record and high hopes for a season that could catapult Stanford into the discussion of elite softball programs on the West Coast.

On Friday, the Cardinal took on San Jose State (SJSU) for the first of three games in a 24-hour time period against the Trojans. While SJSU scored first on a single in the top of the first, Stanford showed it would not be walked over. With a triple from junior centerfielder Taylor Gindlesperger and a single from junior shortstop Emily Young, Stanford took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first that it would never lose. 

The game remained tight and scoreless for a few subsequent innings until Gindlesperger’s homer to center field that broke open the flood gates. RBI singles from junior first baseman Emily Schultz and graduate student catcher Montana Dixon brought the Cardinal to a 5-1 lead, effectively crushing all SJSU hopes of a comeback.

While the Trojans scored in the top of the sixth to make it a 3-run game, Stanford’s strong hitting was on display again in the bottom of the sixth with a 2-RBI single from Schultz, a triple from sophomore infielder Sydney Steele and a single from graduate student infielder Eleni Spirakis to bring the final score to 9-2. 

Altogether in the first game, nine different players registered at least one hit for the Cardinal, for a total of 15 overall. Meanwhile, sophomore Alana Vawter led a strong pitching effort: She allowed only five hits and one error while striking out nine batters in six innings pitched. 

On Saturday, the Cardinal showed twice that Friday’s game was no fluke. In the first game, Stanford led off the scoring with a single from Schultz bringing graduate student right fielder Teaghan Cowles home, but SJSU was determined not to get in a hole and tied the game 1-1 in the top of the 2nd. It was Schultz again who came in clutch with a two-run homer in the third followed by a RBI triple in the fifth that brought the score to 4-1.

In the bottom of the sixth, a triple by sophomore second baseman Sydnee Huff and a sacrifice fly from Cowles brought the score to 6-1, where it would remain. Senior pitcher Maddy Dwyer was on the mound the entire game and allowed only 4 hits while striking out eight. 

In the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, SJSU could not get on the scoreboard until the seventh inning thanks to freshman pitcher Regan Krause allowing only 6 hits across seven innings. Meanwhile, the Cardinal scored in every inning except the third, with an RBI single from Young in the first, two more RBI singles from Cowles in the second and fourth, a run brought in by graduate student third basemen Christina Inouye in the fifth and doubles from both Gindlesperger and Schultz in the sixth to seal the game. Overall, six Cardinal recorded hits in this game, and five brought in at least one RBI in the 7-1 victory. 

In Sunday’s game, the Cardinal took on a different opponent, the Santa Clara Broncos. The Broncos started off strong, with a single from Ashley Trierweiler to left field to start off the first, but Vawter subsequently struck out the next batter, the Cardinal threw out Trierweiler’s attempt to steal second and Vawter struck out the final hitter. Young recorded the first hit for the Cardinal with a beautiful floater that hit the gap between third and left field. She stole second and Schultz walked, but both runners were left on base. 

The second inning remained scoreless with both teams going three-and-out, including a nice strikeout by Vawter. The top of the third started off like the second, with Vawter striking out two. Things almost got interesting in the bottom of the third. Cowles had a beautiful line drive down the third base line that was barely called foul and scared off the Broncos, as they walked her following it. Gindlesperger bunted to advance Cowles and was almost safe herself, but the Cardinal ended the inning with a runner left on base.

Young threw a clutch out to Schultz to start the fourth, which was immediately followed by a bouncing ball to Schultz and another out. Cowles caught a foul ball in the right field to make it another three-and-out inning for the Broncos. 

After leaving runners on base in two of the three previous innings, the Cardinal was determined not to make the same mistake again in the bottom of the fourth. Schultz ended the hitting drought with a single between center and right field in the bottom of the fourth. Spirakis was walked to bring up Vawter, who hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to advance Schultz to third. Inouye hit a beautiful single right between center and left field to bring Schultz home and finally put the Card on the scoreboard, 1-0.

Dixon continued the hitting streak to bring up bases loaded with only one out for Steele. Steele hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Spirakis and bring up the top of the lineup again in Cowles, who promptly whacked the first pitch into center field to bring home Inouye. Gindlesperger singled into nearly the same spot as Cowles, bringing up Young with bases loaded again, in what was clearly a no-win situation for the Broncos.

Right on cue, Young doubled into center, bringing in Dixon and Cowles and bringing up hard hitting Schultz for a second time in the inning. The Broncos learned from their previous mistake of letting Young hit and made the smart decision to walk Schultz for the second time in the game. The Broncos finally caught a deep fly from Spirakis to end the inning but the damage was already done. The Cardinal led 5-0. 

The Broncos registered their second hit of the game to start off the fifth but once again, the strong arm of Dixon at catcher threw out an attempted steal from the runner on first, and neither of the other batters registered a hit, as the Broncos once again failed to get a runner past first base. Dixon was walked in the bottom of the fifth to bring up loaded bases and no outs for Steele, who singled to bring home sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Lim. Lim was pinch running for Vawter, and a Santa Clara error allowed all runners to remain safe. Junior Kate Cressey pinch hit for Cowles and hit down the first base line to bring in one run before freshman Chloe Doyle pinch hit for Gindlesperger, bringing home one to bring the score to 8-0. The lead resulted in a mercy rule victory for the Cardinal, who ended the game with 8 hits and no errors, while allowing only 2 hits. 

This Stanford team is loaded this year. Last year was supposed to be the year for Stanford softball, which was returning nearly every starter from 2019, boasted a strong senior class in Cowles, Inouye, Dixon and pitcher Nikki Bauer and had a highly recruited freshman class with several pitchers. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, all four of those contributors still have eligibility and are back, as is Spirakis, who graduated from Santa Clara last year with pandemic-related eligibility remaining, which she is using this year for the Cardinal.

Adding the powerful group to the hard-hitting junior class, which features Schultz, Young and Gindlesperger; the sophomores like Vawter and Lim who just barely got a chance to show their potential last year; and highly recruited freshmen such as Krause and Doyle, Stanford softball is going big places this year. The Cardinal next plays in the Stanford Invitational tournament next weekend against Cal and California Baptist University. 

Sally Egan '22 is a senior staff writer in the sports section. She is from Chevy Chase,MD and is double majoring in Mathematical and Computational Science and International Relations. In her free time, she enjoys schooling others in Seattle Seahawks trivia and playing rugby. Contact her at segan 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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