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Softball: Home, sweet home

Sophomore Corey Hanewich and the Stanford women's softball team went 4-1 in their first home games of the season, good enough to win the Stanford Nike Invitational title. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

It didn’t take long for the Stanford softball team to wash away the bad taste of a walk-off loss to UC-Davis. The No. 8 Cardinal returned to the Farm for its first home games of the year and went 4-1 overall on the weekend, winning the Stanford Nike Invitational title.

 

Junior pitcher Teagan Gerhart lived up to her billing as one of the Pac-12’s best in the circle, throwing a complete-game shutout in the championship victory over Bradley (4-6) on Sunday afternoon. Appearing to be approaching midseason form just two weekends into the season, the Norco, Calif., native allowed just two hits and improved to 8-1 overall on the year for the Card (8-3).

 

Stanford’s offense gave Gerhart all the support she needed with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Junior second baseman Jenna Rich’s sharp single to left field brought in sophomore Corey Hanewich, and senior Jenna Becerra’s bases-loaded walk gave the Cardinal a bit of breathing room against a pesky Braves team that refused to go away.

 

But Gerhart was up to the challenge, allowing just one runner to reach as far as second base while striking out three in her 10th start. With the win, she lowered her ERA to 1.88–10 of the 14 earned runs she has allowed this season came in one game against Texas A&M.

 

What remains for Stanford to figure out, however, is how to ensure that Gerhart can stay fresh through Pac-12 and postseason play. With the graduation of Ashley Chinn–who went 16-4 in 20 starts last season–the Cardinal needs freshman Nyree White to step up and shoulder some of the load.

 

White got the call on Saturday, starting her first game in the circle after seven appearances in relief, but the freshman struggled mightily against a surprising Nevada team. In 3.1 innings, she gave up eight runs (six earned), as Stanford was run-ruled for the first time this season in an 11-3 loss.

 

The Wolfpack (3-7) scored seven runs in the top of the fourth inning, helped along by two Stanford errors. Despite RBI by junior designated player Tegan Schmidt and Rich in the bottom half of the fifth, the Cardinal suffered its third loss of the season.

 

There was little time to regroup, however, as the teams met in the second game of a doubleheader just hours later. In the semifinal matchup, it was all Stanford from the get-go.

 

Senior outfielder Sarah Hassman led off with a bunt single, stole second, took third on a single and scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Card a 1-0 lead. Gerhart escaped damage in the second inning, and Stanford broke through with three runs as Hassman tripled to right field and came home on Leah White’s second single of the game.

 

A late run from Nevada closed the deficit, but outfielder Caitlyn Pura’s two-run triple erased all doubt and pushed Stanford through to the championship game against Bradley, where the Cardinal finished a dominant weekend with a 3-0 victory.

 

It was the same kind of offensive production that Stanford received on day one of the tournament, as almost the entire lineup got in on the action during two victories over Pacific and Bradley. Becerra went 2-3 with a long home run against the Tigers, and Schmidt knocked in the game-winning run in the sixth inning of a 3-2 win over the Braves.

 

Nevertheless, Stanford will need to prove it can win without Gerhart in the circle, as the team travels to Southern California for next weekend’s Cathedral City Classic. With a matchup against No. 4 Oklahoma looming on Friday night, the Cardinal must gear up for an early preseason test ahead of conference play.

About Miles Bennett-Smith

Miles Bennett-Smith is Chief Operating Officer at The Daily. An avid sports fan from Penryn, Calif., Miles graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in American Studies. He has previously served as the Editor in Chief and President at The Daily. He has also worked as a reporter for The Sacramento Bee. Email him at eic@stanforddaily.com