By Sally Egan
After having last week’s series canceled due to COVID-19-related issues, Stanford softball (24-14, 5-7 Pac-12) came back looking like a deeper and stronger team than ever, splitting its series with No. 6 Oregon (30-10, 8-7 Pac-12) in the process.
Stanford actually outscored Oregon in the series 13 runs to 10 en route to its first victories over a top-ten ranked team this season, but could not quite score the needed runs in close games. The Cardinal’s two losses were suffered by just four combined runs.
The first game on Friday was a sign of both how close this weekend’s series would be as well as how critical graduate first baseman Eleni Spirakis would be to Stanford’s success. Spirakis was playing at first for the first time this season and hit a home run in the top of the first to give the Cardinal an early lead, but it wound up being their only run scored in the game. In the top of the fourth, Stanford seemingly put itself in a position to score more runs, as back-to-back singles by freshman designated hitter Aly Kaneshiro and junior shortstop Emily Young gave the Cardinal two runners on base with just one out. However, Stanford couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, which would later come back to haunt it.
For a while, Stanford’s lack of scoring looked like it would not matter, as it held Oregon scoreless for four innings while sophomore pitcher Alana Vawter allowed just two hits during this stretch. However, in the bottom of the fifth, an Oregon double brought in the game-tying run, and a heartbreaking double in the bottom of the seventh with two outs brought in the game-winning run as the Ducks defeated the Cardinal 2-1.
The back half of the Friday doubleheader brought more success for the Cardinal. Junior left fielder Kate Cressey started for the second time this season and promptly went two-for-three with one RBI in another close game for the Cardinal. Both teams played tight defense for the first four innings, as each team allowed only one hit in this time span. A double by Cressey in the top of the fifth followed by a single by sophomore second baseman Sydnee Huff brought in the first run of the game. However, Oregon responded with back-to-back hits to start the bottom of the fifth, tying the game at one run apiece.
A huge top of the sixth by Stanford ended up being the difference maker. A triple by junior center fielder Taylor Gindlesperger was followed by an RBI single by Spirakis to score what would be the game-winning run. The Cardinal’s bats kept going, as Cressey singled to bring in Spirakis and give Stanford a 3-1 lead, where the score would remain for the rest of the game.
Saturday’s game was sloppier all around for both teams, but particularly tough for the Cardinal. While Oregon committed three errors compared to Stanford’s two, the Ducks had an astonishing 14 hits compared to Stanford’s six. With the Cardinal being badly outhit, it was impressive that they only lost by three runs.
Still, early on it had seemed like the Cardinal might steal another victory from the Ducks. Stanford got out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the third, with sophomore pinch runner Kaitlyn Lim stealing home and Kaneshiro bringing in another run. However, Stanford then allowed the Ducks to score six runs in the bottom of the third, with just three of those runs being earned. Though the Cardinal scored one more and had the game-tying run up to bat in the top of the seventh, they could not complete the rally and fell 7-4.
Stanford was able to end the weekend on a high note, though, as it thoroughly outplayed Oregon on Sunday en route to a 5-0 shutout. Spirakis and graduate catcher Montana Dixon both homered as seven different players recorded a hit in the game. Meanwhile, Vawter pitched a three-hit, complete-game shutout.
The two wins provide the Cardinal with momentum heading into a treacherous final few weeks of Pac-12 play. They get Oregon State (15-20, 3-12 Pac-12) at home next weekend in what should be a few easier games before taking on No. 2 UCLA (28-3, 10-2 Pac-12) and No. 4 Washington (35-9, 13-4 Pac-12) in back to back weekends to end the regular season. After being swept by No. 10 Arizona (31-8, 9-5 Pac-12), taking one game against No. 12 Arizona State (28-11, 9-6 Pac-12) and now earning two wins against No. 6 Oregon, Stanford seems to be finding its footing against some of the top teams in the nation.