Every game there seems to be a different group that leads the Cardinal to victory, and today’s game was no different. After a superb performance in last night’s game by freshman pitcher Regan Krause, today’s victory against BYU (8-9, 0-0 WCC) came from the leadership, poise and experience of graduate students Kristina Inouye, Montana Dixon, Teaghan Cowles and Eleni Spirakis.
Down one run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying and winning runs on base, an experienced player like Inouye is exactly who the Cardinal needed to see at bat, and she delivered in storybook-ending fashion. It was not the easiest victory of the season, as it took Stanford (10-2, 0-0 Pac-12) all seven innings to secure the 3-2 win, but it was the game that best showcased the heart and fighting spirit of this team, and the reason they may find themselves ranked after this weekend.
Stanford started off the game strong with a strikeout from Krause and an offensively strong bottom of the first inning. Cowles walked on four pitches and junior center fielder Taylor Gindlesperger singled into center field, advancing Cowles to third. Gindlesperger stole herself to bring up team-leading hitter junior shortstop Emily Young, who was not safe herself at first, but allowed Cowles to score and Gindlesperger to advance to third. Stanford could not make anything else happen in the inning, but managed to grab a 1-0 lead.
BYU responded immediately, tying the game at one in the top of the second after two singles and a fielder’s choice. The score remained tied until the top of the fourth, when BYU hit a lead-off double to center field and bunted to advance that runner to third with only one out. After a walk and a stolen base, the Cardinal found itself in a jam with runners on second and third with only one out. The Cardinal threw out the next batter, but the runner on third scored. Stanford managed to get out of the inning after that, but BYU had taken the lead, 2-1.
It was at this point that it became apparent that Stanford was not going to let this victory slip away easily. Spirakis started off the Cardinal in the bottom of the fourth with a single to center field and then stole second to give Stanford a runner in scoring position. Sophomore left fielder Sydney Steele singled into right field and Spirakis attempted to score but was thrown out at the plate; the Cardinal could not get anything going after that.
Even after that missed opportunity, the Cardinal showed resilience. Steele had a beautiful diving catch in left field to get the first out of the fifth inning, and after letting the second batter advance to first on a single, sophomore pitcher Alana Vawter struck out the third batter to get the second out. Facing a full count with two outs, with BYU’s power hitter up to bat, Vawter showed poise and notched a strikeout to end the inning.
Stanford went 0-for-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but again, did not let that discourage it. Vawter struck out the first batter and walked the second, but sophomore second baseman Sydnee Huff flipped a grounder to second and Young threw the ball down to first for a nice double play to get the Cardinal hyped up entering the bottom of the sixth. Unfortunately, Stanford again couldn’t get the bats going and went three and out again.
Every time it seemed BYU had finally regained the momentum, Stanford refused to give in and responded with impressive plays of its own. The top of the seventh was no different.
BYU entered the seventh likely not feeling too comfortable with its one-run lead, while Stanford similarly entered knowing that if it could hold the lead to just one run, it’d have a chance at a comeback. Stanford secured the first two outs in relatively easy fashion before junior first basemen Kate Cressey made a beautiful diving play with her foot still somehow on first base to secure the final out. It was exactly this kind of play that had kept Stanford in the game.
In the bottom of the seventh, the success Stanford was having on defense finally came through on offense as well. Steele hit her second single of the day to put the game-tying run on base. Huff singled to give the Cardinal runners on first and second with just one out while three super seniors 𑁋 Dixon, Inouye and Cowles𑁋 with fifteen years of combined Stanford softball experience were on deck.
Dixon was first, and while she was thrown out at first, she advanced Steele and Huff to second and third base, respectively. This brought Inouye up to bat 𑁋 the perfect person for this pressure filled situation. Inouye calmly hit a walk-off double into center field, bringing home Steele and Huff to secure the comeback victory for the Cardinal.
Stanford plays its final two games of the DeMarini Invitational tomorrow at 11 a.m. PT and 2 p.m. PT, both against UC Santa Barbara (1-8, 0-0 Big West).