For the Stanford softball team, there is certainly no place like home and nothing better than getting to play in front of its fans. After a tough series against Oregon, which saw the Card cough up late leads in two consecutive games, No. 15 Stanford (24-9, 2-4 Pac-12) recovered to take two of three games from No. 12 UCLA (25-8, 2-4 Pac-12). In the process, the Cardinal improved to an impressive 13-1 at home on the season.
Against a Bruins team that has relied on power hitting and the long ball all season, Stanford claimed two victories with outstanding starting pitching from senior Teagan Gerhart. In those two contests, the Norco, Calif. product allowed only one earned run in fourteen innings of work to earn two complete-game victories. Overall, Gerhart yielded only three runs over the course of the three game series, pitching 15.1 solid innings for the Cardinal while holding her ERA at 1.38.
Gerhart was particularly effective in limiting the damage from extra-base hits during the series. Though UCLA is second in the Pac-12 in home runs, the Bruins could manage only one solo shot off Gerhart in her 15-plus innings. Gerhart was at her best in the finale on Saturday afternoon, when the Bruins failed to manage a single extra-base hit; Gerhart scattered five singles in the complete-game shutout.
Scoring twelve runs in three games, Stanford’s offense was also productive against UCLA. The offensive output was very balanced, as six different Cardinal hitters knocked in runs during the series. Freshman Jessica Plaza led the way with three RBI, while fellow freshman Kayla Bonstrom added two RBI of her own.
Plaza, a Huntington Beach, Calif. native, has made the most of her limited plate appearances. A recent selection to participate with the United States U-19 National Team in the 2013 ISF Junior Women’s Softball World Championships this summer in Canada, Plaza has an astounding 14 RBI in only 53 at bats.
Plaza’s insertion into the starting lineup has given opportunities to other Cardinal batters. In response to her production, opposing pitchers have now been forced to pitch to sophomore Cassandra Roulund and senior Jenna Rich, two of the Cardinal’s best hitters, lest they give Plaza an opportunity to hit with multiple runners on base.
With the first two series of Pac-12 play now complete, the Cardinal will travel to Corvallis, Ore. for a rare midweek series against No. 23 Oregon State (23-9, 0-3 Pac-12). Though Oregon State is among the conference leaders in team batting average with a .312 mark, fielding and consistent pitching have been struggles for the Beavers. Oregon State has committed the second most errors per game in the Pac-12 while also holding a tie for the second worst fielding percentage in the conference with Arizona. With Stanford’s team speed on the base paths, Oregon State’s fielders will be under even more pressure to deliver on-time and accurate throws.
In addition to their fielding woes, the Beavers have also struggled on the mound; Oregon State holds the third worst ERA in the Pac-12 at 3.00. These pitching deficiencies were magnified in a recent series against national championship contender Arizona State, when the No. 2 Sun Devils pounded 21 runs against the Beavers in a three-game sweep. Oregon State’s pitching bottomed out in Saturday’s finale in an 11-0 shellacking at the hands of Sun Devils.
Stanford pitchers Gerhart, freshman Kelsey Stevens and sophomore Nyree White will have to be mindful in the circle when they match up against Oregon State’s Natalie Hampton, a star freshman from Antelope, Calif. Hampton has already emerged as one of the elite hitters in the Pac-12, batting .394 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 99 at bats.
Stanford will match up with Oregon State in a Tuesday doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. The teams will then meet at 12 p.m. Wednesday for the series finale.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn “at” stanford.edu.