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Softball looks to improve on shaky conference start against Washington

The road through Pac-12 conference play is often a daunting journey, filled with matchups against some of the most talented and experienced teams in the entire country. For the Stanford softball team, the path forward does not get any easier, as the Cardinal (24-14, 1-8 Pac-12) prepare to welcome the No. 10 Washington Huskies (22-10, 2-6 Pac-12) to the Farm this weekend. After squaring off against two top-10 squads, namely No. 6 Arizona State (35-6, 9-3 Pac-12) and No. 9 Arizona (32-8, 7-5 Pac-12), in their last two Pac-12 series, the Card will face a third-consecutive top-10 foe in the Huskies.

(SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Junior outfielder Leah White (above) leads her team with 14 stolen bases bases on the season. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford desperately needs to protect its home turf this weekend against Washington, as the Cardinal must boost a postseason profile that currently lacks a marquee win in conference. The upcoming series against the Huskies provides the perfect opportunity to mitigate this problem; wins over Washington would also raise the Card’s RPI, which currently stands at 51 after last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Arizona.

While Stanford has had its struggles on the road so far in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal have done a great job of protecting their home turf this season, posting an 11-3 record in 2014 within the friendly confines of Smith Family Stadium. The Card’s success at home, coupled with Washington’s poor start to its road conference slate, would seemingly give the Cardinal the chance they need to get back on track.

Washington, in facing off against the Cardinal, will also have to combat the potential effects of a long layoff; the Huskies have not played a game since April 1, and have not played a Pac-12 foe this month. Furthermore, in the Huskies’ last Pac-12 series against Oregon at the end of March, Washington turned in a very poor offensive performance, only scoring three combined runs in being swept by the Ducks. Washington will certainly have to score more runs this weekend to keep up with a Cardinal offense that is hitting .323 on the season and averaging nearly 6.5 runs per game.

While Washington may be struggling offensively since the start of Pac-12 play, senior Victoria Hayward has had an outstanding season for the Huskies at the plate. In taking on the Cardinal, Hayward is making another homecoming to the Bay Area, as the 2013 First Team All-Pac-12 selection went to Mountain View High School before matriculating to Washington. Hayward is currently hitting .439 on the season with 16 RBIs and a .517 on-base percentage. She is also very dangerous on the basepaths, having managed 14 steals this season in 15 attempts.

Washington will also turn to junior Kylee Lahners on offense to provide some power to the Husky lineup. Lahners, a Laguna Hills, Calif. product, is ninth in the Pac-12 in slugging percentage with a .713 mark. The 2013 Second Team All-Pac-12 selection has 10 home runs on the season with 35 RBIs while also posting a .340 batting average.

In the circle, the Huskies are led by senior Bryana Walker. In her final collegiate campaign, Walker is third in the Pac-12 in ERA with a 1.32 mark. In addition, the 2013 First Team Pac-12 All-Academic selection has earned the win in nearly 65 percent of the Huskies’ victories this season, managing a 14-6 record in 22 appearances and 18 starts.

The Cardinal are also likely to face another senior pitcher this weekend in 2013 NFCA First Team All-American Kaitlin Inglesby. While Inglesby has not been able to replicate the tremendous success from her junior campaign thus far this season, the Portland, Ore. native has still had a solid season in the circle for the Huskies. She currently sports a 2.09 ERA and a 6-3 record in 18 appearances, with 6 complete games in 11 starts.

Stanford and Washington will square off in a three-game series from Thursday through Saturday at Smith Family Stadium. The Cardinal and Huskies will open with a night game at 8 p.m. on Thursday, before playing on Friday night and Saturday night at 7 p.m.

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

About David Cohn

David Cohn is a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, as well as an assistant editor of staff development. David is a junior biology major from Poway, Calif. who also covers football and softball for KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM as the lead play-by-play announcer for both sports.