Stanford softball (5-1, 0-0 Pac-12) continued its strong start to the season with a tight 3-2 victory over Cal (2-2, 0-0 Pac-12) Friday evening.
The Cardinal started off the game strong defensively, with a three-and-out that featured two strikeouts by sophomore pitcher Alana Vawter. She struck out the first batter, before the second batter fouled off a ball on the left side of home plate which graduate student catcher Montana Dixon easily caught. The third batter was facing 2-2 when Vawter threw a third ball, but it was a questionable call whether the third ball actually was a ball or if the Cal batter swung. It didn’t end up mattering, as the batter struck out looking on a beautiful pitch by Vawter on the next pitch.
Graduate student right fielder Teaghan Cowles whacked a hard-bouncing ball right up the middle to lead off the bottom of the first, which the Cal second baseman fielded, but Cowles outran the throw to first, giving the Cardinal their first hit of the night. Junior center fielder Taylor Gindlesperger struck out for the first out of the inning, but then fellow junior shortstop Emily Young then hit a beautiful line drive to right field, advancing Cowles to third. Young then stole second and junior first baseman Emily Schultz hit a single to third, loading the bases for graduate second baseman Eleni Spirakis. Spirakis hit a high pop up to center field, deep enough for Cowles to tag up to put the Cardinal up, 1-0. Cal managed to get out of the inning before any more damage was done, but it was a positive start for the Cardinal.
The top of the second started out like the top of the first — with a Vawter strikeout. Vawter then struck out the Cal pitcher and Schultz caught a bouncing ball to make it another three-and-out for Cal. This was Vawter’s inning, as she then immediately went to bat after the two strikeouts and hit a home run to deep center field to give the Cardinal a 2-0 lead. The Cardinal didn’t record a hit the rest of the inning, but Vawter’s strong played would continue.
The third inning saw another two Cal batters attempt to record a hit and fail, as Spirakis threw out a hard ball to second and Gindlesperger caught a deep fly in center field, before Cal’s ninth batter finally registered a single into center field. Cal got another runner on base off a Stanford error before Vawter ended the inning with another strikeout. While Cal walked two batters in the bottom of the third and Schultz singled to right field, the Cardinal had their first scoreless frame of the evening, as the score remained at 2-0.
Junior left fielder Emily Klingaman made a nice catch deep in left field to start off the top of the fourth, but then Cal recorded their second hit of the night. Vawter rebounded by recording her sixth strikeout of the night, before another Cardinal error allowed a Golden Bear to reach first base. An overthrow to first base on a Cal hit allowed the Bears to bring in their first run of the game, making the score 2-1, but the Cardinal quickly ended their worst half inning of the night soon after. Two strikeouts looking for the Cardinal doomed their chances of making something happen in the bottom of the fourth, and suddenly, all the momentum the Cardinal had built up was vanishing.
Luckily, Vawter was there to save the day for Stanford, striking out the first and third Cal batters in the fifth while making life impossible for the second, who could only manage to hit a weak bouncing ball to first for an easy out by Schultz. The reeling Cardinal couldn’t quite manage a hit either, though, going three-and-out themselves in the bottom of the fifth.
The Bears started off the sixth with three straight singles, with the third one tying the game at two apiece. Luckily, the Cardinal turned a beautiful double play, as a Bears miscommunication had two girls close to third base, running back and forth between third and home and third and second. Stanford tagged out both players to end the top of the sixth before any more damage could be done.
As it has before, the bat of Schultz came in clutch, as she immediately put an end to the tie with a home run to deep center field as the Cardinal reclaimed the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the 6th. None of the other Cardinal managed a hit, bringing up a tension-filled top of the seventh against Stanford’s biggest rival. Vawter started the inning off with two strikeouts, to bring her to ten on the night, a career high for the sophomore. Cal managed to get a hit before Young caught the final out to secure the 3-2 Cardinal victory and complete game for Vawter.
Stanford is set to play two games Saturday as part of the Stanford Invitational, first facing California Baptist University (5-7, 0-0 WAC) at 2:30 p.m. PT and followed by a rematch against Cal at 5:30 p.m. PT.