The Stanford softball team kicked off its fall schedule in style, riding plenty of bench support to a 6-1 victory over visiting St. Mary’s on Friday night.
Although last season ended with a tough defeat one win away from the Women’s College World Series—Stanford lost on the road at Alabama in the NCAA Super Regional—the Cardinal returns 17 players from a team that went 42-17, finished the season with a No. 10 national ranking and made its 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Among the returners is three-time All-American Ashley Hansen. The senior shortstop was the first Stanford player named USA Softball National Player of the Year after setting school records for batting average (.495), hits (95) and slugging percentage (.797) last year.
She didn’t show any rust on Friday, smoking a double in her first at-bat to score senior center fielder Sarah Hassman for the team’s first run of the year. Junior pitcher Teagan Gerhart also looked good, not allowing a run in the circle during her first action of the season. After her freshman campaign was cut short by an arm injury, the Norco, Calif. native went 26-13 with a 1.74 ERA and a whopping 250 strikeouts last year in her first full season on the Farm.
Although the team will likely suit up veterans at most positions, the game against the Gaels was a chance to see some of the Card’s young players in their college debuts. The class of 2015 has eight new players—Leah White, Cassandra Roulund, Hanna Winter, Lauren Donovan, Alyssa Lombardo, Erin Ashby, Tylyn Wells and Nyree White, who made her first trip to the circle at Smith Family Stadium on Friday, giving up just one run.
White, Gerhart and junior Jenna Rich are currently the only pitchers on the squad, and with Rich likely locked into her spot at second base, White will likely see the bulk of the action behind Gerhart as she picks up much of the slack left by the graduation of pitcher Ashley Chinn.
The Cardinal has five more exhibition games before a 2012 season that will provide a grueling gauntlet of 20 teams that finished last year in the top 25. Stanford will play host to San Jose State on Friday at 6 p.m. before playing a pair of doubleheaders against San Francisco State and Santa Clara in early November.
- Miles Bennett-Smith