Stanford softball (8-2, 0-0 Pac-12) had to shake off some jitters but ultimately took care of business against BYU (7-8, 0-0 WCC) with a 5-3 victory in their first game of the DeMarini Invitational, which is taking place on the Farm.
The game got off to a shaky start for the Cardinal with an errant throw to first when BYU’s leadoff hitter bunted on the first pitch. However, two outs by junior shortstop Emily Young, and a caught stealing by graduate catcher Montana Dixon, the Cardinal defense ensured the top of the first would remain scoreless. Unfortunately, Stanford couldn’t get anything started offensively, with only Young reaching base on a walk in the bottom of the inning.
The BYU’s cleanup hitter blasted one to center field to record the first hit of the night in the second. She would be put out on a fielder’s choice, however, with a quick play by graduate third baseman Kristina Inouye to get her at second. Sophomore pitcher Alana Vawter registered her first strikeout of the night for the second out and then threw out a runner to first for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the second, osphomore left fielder Sydney Steele was walked, and then a single by second baseman Sydnee Huff, in part allowed by two BYU players tripping over each other, brought up Dixon with only one out and two runners on base. Dixon singled a rocket into right field, bringing up Inouye with bases loaded. A wild pitch allowed all runners to advance a base, including Steele who crossed the plate to give the Cardinal a 1-0 lead. Inouye brought home Huff on a sacrifice bunt, increasing the Cardinal lead to 2-0. Graduate right fielder Teaghan Cowles promptly hit a single into right field on the first pitch of her at bat, scoring Dixon. Junior center fielder Taylor Gindlesperger walked, bringing up Young, who ranks 30th in the nation with a .519 batting average. That was bad news for the Cougars, as Young hit a double to bring home Cowles. BYU managed to end the inning after that, but the damage was already done, with Stanford leading 4-0.
Things didn’t get any better for the Cougars, who went three and out in the top of the third. Graduate designated hitter Eleni Spirakis blasted a double deep into left field to start the bottom of the inning and she stole third during Dixon’s at bat. Dixon walked but both runners were stranded on base when the inning came to a close.
A Stanford error allowed BYU a baserunner, but the Cardinal quickly got her out on a fielder’s choice out by Schultz. Sophomore first baseman Huntyr Ava, the only batter for the Cougars who had a hit going into the fourth, came dangerously close to a two-run homer, but the ball curved foul. While she ended up notching a single, significant damage was avoided. The rest of the half inning went smoothly with outs by Inouye and Steele. In the bottom of the inning, Gindlesperger hit a single into right field and then stole second and third, but it was an otherwise quiet inning offensively for the Cardinal.
Inouye made a beautiful leaping grab to get the first out of the fifth. Vawter secured her second strikeout of the day to get the second out. There was a scary moment where Dixon struggled to get up behind home plate, but she walked it off and the rest of the team rallied behind her with Cowles securing the third out. Steele continued her strong game with a deep double into left field and stole third. But she was left stranded at third, the Cardinal’s second consecutive inning of being unable to bring home a runner on third.
Schultz caught a bouncing ball and tagged first for an easy first out in the sixth, and Steele caught a foul ball deep in left field for the second out. This brought up BYU’s power hitter Ava, but this time, Vawter struck her out to make it a three and out for the Cougars. Inouye walked to start the bottom half of the sixth and junior pinch runner Hannah Matteson stole second and third. Cowles also walked, at which point the Cougars made a pitching change. The Cougars unsuccessfully attempted to throw out Cowles, who stole second, allowing Matteson to steal home and extend the lead to 5-0. The Cardinal made an error before securing two outs, but then allowed a BYU double to cut the lead to 5-2. A BYU single brought home the runner on second, making it a 5-3 game. Gindlesperger caught a fly ball in center field to end the two-out rally and seal a 5-3 Cardinal victory.
Stanford entered the game as one of the best teams in the country defensively, with their team ERA of 0.93 ranking sixth in the country. That ranking should improve after this strong defensive showing, as should Vawter’s personal ranking, which was 34th in the country with a 0.58 ERA going into the game. With momentum from this victory on their side, the Cardinal will face Nevada (9-5, 0-0 MW) tomorrow at 6 p.m. PT in its second game of the DeMarini Invitational.