Stanford softball (37-19, 11-13 Pac-12) won its opening round matchup in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Friday afternoon, defeating Murray State (48-17-1, 21-7 OVC) 3-1.
Head coach Jessica Allister unsurprisingly gave junior Alana Vawter the start on the mound. The first-team All-Pac-12 selection faced off against Murray State’s Hannah James, who boasted a 1.18 ERA over 184 innings entering the game.
Murray State got on the board first as Vawter struggled to settle into the ballgame. The junior hit two batters and gave up a single in the first frame, but she was able to limit the damage and hold the Racers to just one run.
After the first five Stanford batters failed to reach base, the Cardinal were able to open their offense against James in the second inning. A two-out rally featuring a walk by freshman utility player Dani Hayes, a double by senior utility player Emily Schultz and an RBI single by freshman infielder Johnna Schroeder knotted the score at one.
Despite the uncharacteristic start, Vawter found her footing, retiring nine in a row at one point. James held up her end of the bargain as well, keeping the Cardinal bats at bay until she was pulled after 3.1 innings of work. The Racers turned it over to Jenna Veber, and while she was able to escape the bottom of the fourth unscathed, it was a different story in the fifth frame.
After recording a leadoff out, Stanford got to work. Senior outfielder Taylor Gindlesperger notched a base hit, and junior infielder Sydnee Huff reached on a catcher’s interference. The decisive blow came from junior outfielder Kaitlyn Lim, who ripped a double into left-center field to score both runners and put the Cardinal up 3-1 after five innings.
It was the Alana Vawter show that sealed the game for the Cardinal. Although the Racers got to her early, Vawter shut the door and went the distance, retiring 17 of the last 18 batters she faced. She finished with a line of three hits, eight strikeouts, two hit batsmen and one earned run in seven innings pitched.
With the victory, Stanford slides into the winner’s bracket in the double-elimination Tuscaloosa Regional. They will face host No. 6 Alabama (42-11, 16-8 SEC) Saturday at 12 p.m. PT. A win would put them into the regional championship game on Sunday, while a loss would have them play in an elimination game on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT.