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Softball battles through tough weekend in Tucson

In spite of the significant adversity that the Stanford softball team has continued to deal with in the decimation of its pitching rotation, the No. 24 Cardinal have continued to fight against some of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately for Stanford (24-14, 1-8 Pac-12), it was not enough against a talented Arizona (32-8, 7-5 Pac-12) team that was buoyed by a vocal home crowd as the Wildcats swept the Cardinal this weekend in Tucson, Ariz.

For supporters of the Stanford softball program, the series against Arizona played out in an eerily similar fashion to the Cardinal’s three-game set against Arizona State in Tempe a few weeks ago. More specifically, while the Wildcats may have come away with the victories in all three games, the Card had its chances to pick up wins in all three contests. On Friday night, Stanford took a 12-8 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning, but an eight-run fifth for the Wildcats ultimately doomed the Cardinal, which fell by a final score of 18-12.

Freshman Kylie Sorenson (above) had a 2-run home run on Saturday to give the Cardinal a 2-0 lead, although they would eventually lose 12-3. (XXX/The Stanford Daily)

Freshman Kylie Sorenson (above) had a 2-run home run on Saturday to give the Cardinal a 2-0 lead, although they would eventually lose 12-3. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

On Saturday night, Stanford was able to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead on freshman Kylie Sorenson’s two-run blast to left-center field in the bottom of the first inning. However, once again, Arizona responded with another eight-run inning in the bottom of the third, as the Cats would run-rule the Card by a 12-3 margin.

Finally, in the Sunday matinee, the Cardinal nearly stunned the Wildcats late, as freshman Bessie Noll absolutely crushed the first delivery from Wildcat starter Estela Piñon for a home run to straightaway center field to give the Cardinal a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning. The lead would not last, however, as Arizona managed to first tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning on an RBI double, then walk off in the bottom of the eighth inning on a two-run home run to clinch a 5-3 win.

On offense, junior Erin Ashby once again had a very impressive weekend for the Cardinal. The La Crescenta, Calif. native was nearly unstoppable at the plate in all three games, as Ashby recorded only one out over the entire weekend while hitting .600 and posting an incredible .818 on-base percentage.

Ashby also blasted two home runs in the three games in Tucson. Her home run off of Arizona’s Estela Piñon helped the Cardinal regain momentum in the top of the second inning of Friday night’s game after the Wildcats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Katiyana Mauga grand slam.

“When you go up to the plate, you just have to be disciplined and look for good pitches…when you get those pitches, you have to take advantage of them,” Ashby said. “I think that was my — and a lot of other people’s — approaches this weekend.”

Ashby’s strong showing in Tucson continued an outstanding run of form for her over the last month, as the 2011 High School All-American is now hitting .347 on the season with a .455 on-base percentage and a .584 slugging percentage. Ashby has also continued to provide clutch hits with runners in scoring position, batting .357 in those situations.

Freshman Kylie Sorenson also had a fabulous series at the plate for the Cardinal, as the Stevenson Ranch, Calif. native led the team with 6 RBIs while finishing second to Ashby in on-base percentage with a .615 mark. In addition to her home run on Saturday, Sorenson had four more RBIs in Friday night’s offensive slugfest.

Posting a 3-for-5 performance against the Wildcats in Friday’s opener, Sorenson had a 2-RBI single in the top of the second and following up that hit with RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Sorenson’s single in the second to center field helped give the Cardinal a 5-4 lead, while the singles in the third and the fifth innings extended the Card’s advantage to 8-6 and 12-8, respectively.

“I think everyone is doing everything they can,” said Sorenson, describing the team’s start to Pac-12 play. “I think we are doing a really great job in trying to get that hit, walk, or putting the ball in play…We have gotten deep into games, with so many extra-inning games, so it’s not as though we are not challenging teams. It’s just that we’re not finishing games like the other teams are.”

“I think Madi [Schreyer] is growing up. She is maturing in every outing in the circle,” said Stanford head coach John Rittman about the pitching moving forward. “We are going to continue to work to improve in all areas of our game. That is what good teams do this time of year. Although we have had a tough go of it in conference, there is still the big picture of getting to the postseason…we have to work on the little things that are costing us games, and as long as we continue to improve, we are going to be okay.”

The Cardinal will return to action on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at home against Washington. First pitch on Thursday evening will be at 8:00 p.m., while both games on Friday and Saturday will start at 7:00 p.m.

Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About David Cohn

David Cohn '15 is currently the Summer Managing Editor of Sports. He began his tenure at the Daily by serving as a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, and then rose to the position of assistant editor of staff development. David is a Biology major from Poway, California. In addition to his duties at the Daily, he serves as the lead play-by-play football and softball announcer for KZSU Live Stanford Radio 90.1 FM.