Softball (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12) took on Nevada (9-6, 0-0 Mountain West) under the lights on Friday, in what quickly turned into a battle of which pitcher could show the most composure on the mound in high pressure situations. A low scoring game coupled with tons of runners left on base meant that both teams needed to play near perfect defense, but luckily for Stanford, freshman pitcher Reagan Krause chose the perfect time for a breakout game. She played her best softball of the season, striking out a career-high 8 batters as she watched her ERA plummet from 1.11 to .87 as the Cardinal escaped with a 1-0 win.
Missed opportunities for both teams was the story of the night. After two innings, both teams had already left a combined eight runners on base, with both leaving three runners stranded in the first. This was a sign of how the rest of the game would go as well, as Stanford would go on to end the night with 11 runners left on base, averaging nearly two runners an inning, while Nevada wasn’t much better with 10 runners left on base.
The first inning was the most action packed for both teams. Nevada found themselves with bases loaded and only one out before Krause came in clutch and pitched back to back strikeouts to end the inning. In the bottom of the first, Stanford found themselves in the favorable position of bases loaded and no outs thanks to walks by graduate right fielder Teaghan Cowles and junior shortstop Emily Young and a single by junior center fielder Taylor Gindlesperger. A sacrifice fly by junior first baseman Emily Schultz to bring home Cowles put the Cardinal on the board with a 1-0 lead, and graduate designated hitter Eleni Spirakis singled to create a bases loaded situation again with only one, but Stanford couldn’t capitalize and left all three runners on base. That run was the sole score by either team all game.
In the top of the third, facing a full 3-2 count with 2 outs and a runner on third base, Krause again showed composure and poise beyond that of many freshmen, throwing a beautiful pitch that struck out the batter and caused the Wolfpack to leave their fourth runner of the game stranded.
In the top of the fifth, this time with two outs, a full count, and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Krause again delivered by forcing the batter to pop out to shortstop.
Inning after inning, the Cardinal found themselves in scoring situations but couldn’t execute on them. In the fourth, singles by graduate catcher Montana Dixon and Cowles led to runners on first and third but both were left on base. In the fifth, Stanford left runners on first and second, after reaching that position with only one out. In the bottom of the sixth, back to back hits by Cowles and Gindlesperger led to Stanford having runners on second and third, but both runners were stranded. It wasn’t that Stanford’s bats weren’t alive — Cowles, Gindlesperger and Spirakis all had multiple hits and three other hitters had one hit each, but the Cardinal couldn’t take advantage and string together enough back to back hits to bring in the runs they wanted.
Luckily, their defense held strong the whole game, including when it really mattered. Krause secured her eighth strikeout of the night for the first out of the seventh inning and Young had a nice quick play to second to get the second out. However, a walked batter stole second and then an untimely error allowed the Wolfpack to find themselves with runners on second and third. Fittingly, it was Krause who once again showed her calm decision making under pressure, fielding a grounder and tossing a quick flip to first to finalize the 1-0 Cardinal victory.
With Krause’s breakout game as well as sophomore pitcher Alana Vawter’s continued success, Stanford may have reason to claim the best starting pitcher duo in the country, as both pitchers now have ERAs that rank among the top 50 in the country.
The Cardinal takes on BYU (8-8, 0-0 WCC) tomorrow at 2 p.m. PT before playing a rematch against Nevada at 5 p.m. PT.