Stanford softball head coach John Rittman has achieved many milestones throughout his Hall-of-Fame worthy career on The Farm. On Friday night, Rittman added yet another accomplishment to his sterling record, as the longtime Cardinal head coach notched his 700th career victory at home in a 2-1 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
After reaching the 700-win plateau, Rittman was effusive in his praise of those who have been a part of his 17-year career at the helm of the Cardinal.
“It feels good,” Rittman said. “There has been a lot of hard work put in over the years with a great staff and being surrounded by great players at a great university.”
In turn, over the course of those 700 victories, Rittman has established the Cardinal as one the elite programs in the country, with 15 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and 13 40-win seasons in the last fifteen years.
Coach Rittman’s milestone coincided with an emphatic showing from his team, as the No. 18 Cardinal went a perfect 5-0 at the Louisville Slugger Classic to improve to 22-5 on the season. In the final non-conference tournament before the start of the Pac-12 schedule, Stanford looked ready for the challenge of conference play in the loaded Pac-12.
Senior Teagan Gerhart helped the Cardinal finish on a strong note before its two-week break for final exams, as the NFCA Second Team All-West Region selection did not allow an earned run in 20.1 innings of work on the weekend. In the process, Gerhart picked up three wins and her third save on the season, while lowering her ERA to a stingy 1.36.
The Norco, Calif., product started her weekend with a tense eight-inning outing against Minnesota. After the Cardinal and the Gophers could not manage a single run in regulation, extra innings were needed to settle the contest. Through it all, Gerhart keyed the 2-1 victory with her 126-pitch effort, as the senior conceded only one unearned run and four hits, striking out 12.
Gerhart followed up her marathon performance against Minnesota by shutting down Florida Gulf Coast and Pacific in her next two starts. Overall, Gerhart only yielded four hits and no runs in the two games combined. Gerhart feels that she is gaining confidence every day by working with assistant coach Danielle Henderson.
“It is really an honor to be a senior and to lead these girls,” Gerhart said. “I am not a vocal leader. I am just one of those [seniors] that lead by example.”
Gerhart was not the only pitcher to shine this weekend, as sophomore Nyree White also had two shutdown relief appearances to help seal Cardinal victories. In eight innings of work, White scattered five hits and struck out eight without allowing a single run, earning her first two victories of the season.
White’s effort on Saturday afternoon against Minnesota was particularly noteworthy. An All-Pac-12 Freshman Team Honorable Mention selection from last year, the sophomore from Eugene, Ore., was inserted into the game in the midst of a furious Gopher comeback from a nine-run deficit.
However, over the next 3.2 innings, White would shut the door on Minnesota’s upset bid, allowing only one hit while striking out six. White’s steady performance in the circle ensured that the Cardinal would hang on for a 9-7 win.
While Stanford’s offense struggled at times on Friday against Minnesota and FGCU, and again on Sunday during a 2-0 victory over Pacific, the bats came alive during Saturday’s action. In two games against Minnesota and Florida Gulf Coast, the Cardinal exploded for 17 runs on 22 hits.
Freshman Kayla Bonstrom was a standout contributor for the Card this weekend. The Tucson, Ariz., product hit .385 and drove in four runs during the five-game tournament.
Bonstrom’s best showing came on Saturday night against FGCU, when she went 2-2 at the plate with a walk. In particular, her towering grand slam to straightaway center field in the bottom of the first inning easily cleared the 220 ft. fence, evoking some gasps from the crowd at the distance of her home run.
“I was just trying to do my job and put the ball in play,” Bonstrom said. “It happened to go over the fence, which was a good thing.”
The grand slam gave the Cardinal a 6-0 lead, and Stanford would later add two more runs to rout the Eagles 8-0. Bonstrom now leads the team with a .358 batting average and is fourth on the squad with 16 RBI in 26 games.
Stanford returns to action after finals week with a three-game series in Eugene, Oreg., against the No. 9 Oregon Ducks beginning on March 23. The second game of the series, on Sunday, March 24, will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks at 3 p.m., the first of seven scheduled telecasts for Stanford this season.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn “at” stanford.edu.