The perfect game is every pitcher’s ultimate dream: 21 batters up, 21 batters down. The odds of throwing one is roughly 1 in 52,000 games pitched. It took Stanford softball’s Teagan Gerhart and Nyree White just five games, as they threw a combined “perfecto” against UC-Santa Barbara in Sunday’s finale of the season-opening Kajikawa Classic.
The pitching duo needed just 65 pitches to mow down Santa Barbara’s lineup in a game that was shortened to five innings after the No. 9 Cardinal (4-1) scored four runs in the top of the fifth and run-ruled the Gauchos.
The junior Gerhart opened with 2.2 perfect frames, including four strikeouts, before the freshman White took over and sealed the deal in a performance that was so dominant that the Gauchos failed to hit a single ball out of the infield.
It was a nice cap to Stanford’s season debut, which saw a mixture of the promise preseason pollsters saw in the team and the potential weaknesses exposed against top teams.
The Cardinal got the ball rolling in the first game of the season on Friday morning against Cal State-Northridge. Coach John Ritmann used 20 of his 21 players in a 13-1 rout of the Matadors, and all eight freshmen saw action at some point in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
Gerhart, Stanford’s ace in the circle, retired the first six batters in order and allowed just one batter to reach base in three innings of work. White took over next and allowed two hits and one earned run in her collegiate debut.
The Cardinal offense had its way with Northridge’s pitchers. Stanford scored 13 runs, paced by the usual suspects–junior shortstop Jenna Rich and senior Ashley Hansen. All-Pac-10 second baseman Rich went 2-2 with three runs scored, and Hansen, last season’s USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, hit a home run to back the pitching effort.
In the second game of the day’s doubleheader, however, the Card ran into some trouble. No. 15 Texas A&M locked in on Gerhart, scoring nine of the team’s 10 runs off of five home runs.
Stanford’s offense eventually responded, as Rich smashed a three-run homer to left-center, and the Cardinal took a brief lead in the fourth inning on Rich’s RBI triple.
But the Aggies kept taking Gerhart deep, as she gave up three home runs in the final three innings, allowing A&M to push past Stanford and take a narrow 10-9 victory.
The loss didn’t linger, however, particularly with Gerhart. She picked up two wins in the circle on Saturday, racking up 13 strikeouts over 11 innings in wins over Portland State and Texas Tech.
Against the Vikings, Gerhart escaped from a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the second inning with three consecutive strikeouts, and the offense picked her up from there with a steady smattering of runs.
It was more of the same against Texas Tech, as Gerhart moved to 3-1 on the season despite giving up another home run to the Red Raiders’ star centerfielder, Mikey Kenney.
Besides Rich, who has seven RBI and a .500 batting average after the first five games, Rittman can take away plenty of positives from the weekend tournament. Sophomores Corey Hanewich and Danielle Miller each had multiple extra-base hits, freshman Hanna Winter scored five runs and redshirt sophomore Tegan Schmidt recorded her first career at-bat and hit while driving in three runs over the weekend.
The defense was very solid as well, committing just one error in the Classic. And although Gerhart struggled against A&M, the home runs were the only real blemishes on her resume–in 23 innings she allowed just 13 hits and six walks while striking out 27 batters.
The Cardinal will get another chance to work out the early-season jitters in a matchup with UC-Davis on Wednesday, before hosting the Stanford Nike Invitational this weekend. The home opener is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday against Pacific.