As often as the biblical tale has been invoked to tell tales of great heroics on the athletic fields, it’s still not every day that David beats Goliath. In a midweek matchup early in the season, however, it’s sometimes better to expect the unexpected. On Wednesday, the No. 8 Stanford softball team’s big bats were quieted and UC-Davis walked off with a 2-1 win, its first triumph in the annual series since 1995.
The loss dropped the Cardinal to 4-2 on the season and was shocking for more reasons than just the loss to the unranked Aggies (2-4). Stanford had been averaging over nine runs per game in the first five games of the year and boasts several players with explosive run-scoring capacity.
In addition, Davis had almost been swept while hosting its own tournament, losing its first four games at the Aggie Stampede before knocking off Nevada on the final day.
But UC-Davis pitcher Jessica Thweatt was a machine in the circle, holding the Cardinal scoreless for six innings before a timely hit and a wild pitch allowed Stanford to tie the score at 1-1.
The Cardinal held its own on defense, as junior pitcher Teagan Gerhart almost matched Thweatt’s zeroes with three innings of one-run ball. In addition, freshman Nyree White held the Aggies in check after taking over for Gerhart in the fourth inning.
But Stanford’s offense could not buy a base runner, putting only six runners on base the entire game.
Besides senior All-American Ashley Hansen’s two doubles, the Cardinal had little going for it on the offensive side of things, until a pinch-hit single by redshirt sophomore Tegan Schmidt put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning.
Thweatt’s only real error of the afternoon, a wild pitch, allowed junior Jenna Rich to score from second base and tie the game.
The run gave Stanford hope, but that hope was to be short-lived.
In the bottom of the seventh, White struck out the first batter and was ahead in the count against the No. 9 hitter in Davis’ lineup, catcher JJ Wagoner. But Wagoner got a hold of White’s next offering, tripling to deep right field. With the infield in, a clean single up the middle scored Wagoner, and the Aggies celebrated a walk-off victory.
The Cardinal will try and rinse the bad taste out of its mouth very soon, however. Stanford hosts the Stanford Nike Invitational this weekend, taking on Pacific in the team’s home opener Friday afternoon.
Games against Bradley and Nevada will follow, as semifinal, consolation and championship matchups, determined by the round-robin action, will take place on Sunday.
Pacific (0-2) has struggled out of the gate this year, losing its only two contests so far, but could make for an interesting game with the Cardinal. The Tigers showed some fight in scoring two runs off No. 12 UCLA and forcing the Bruins to play six innings.
And while Bradley (2-3) has a losing record, the Braves played very tough against No. 3 California in a 5-0 loss this year. The Cardinal has never faced the Braves, but did get a chance to see them play at last weekend’s season-opening Kajikawa Classic. A very patient team at the plate, Bradley drew 18 walks and gave up just nine runs in four games out of five—but also had a 16-1 defeat at the hands of Idaho State.
Madeline Lynch-Crumrine is the Braves’ ace, and she might give Stanford trouble if the Cardinal cannot shake the ill effects of Wednesday’s defeat.
Stanford’s final opponent this weekend will be Nevada (1-4), which once again might not be nearly as bad as its record suggests. The Wolf Pack sports a very unsightly .177 team batting average but has a dominant pitcher in senior Mallary Darby (1.42 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 19.2 innings) and beat UC-Davis 6-3 in the Aggie Stampede.
With plenty of teams that sport much more impressive resumes looming on the near horizon for the Cardinal, this weekend figures to be an important test to see how close Stanford really is to midseason form. The Card needs to hit its stride in order to take charge in the daunting Pac-12 and beyond.
First pitch against Pacific from Smith Family Stadium is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday.