By George Chen
After taking four of its six games at the Kajikawa Classic this past weekend, the Stanford softball team looks to secure its first home victory of the 2013 campaign against Santa Clara tonight.
The No. 20 Cardinal (4-2) took care of business against Bradley, Portland State, Cal Poly and Indiana in the season-opening tournament but could not muster enough offensive firepower to take down heavyweights No. 2 Oklahoma and Kentucky. But the Broncos (0-2) haven’t exactly seen their bats come alive either. They managed only one run in their losses to Pacific in last weekend’s doubleheader.
A First Team All-Pac-12 selection, senior shortstop Jenna Rich has headlined Stanford’s offensive production early this season. Six was the magic number for the steady shortstop this past weekend, as she accounted for six hits, including one home run and two doubles, along with six RBIs and six runs scored. Rich, who led the Pac-12 last season with 66 RBIs, showed no signs of rust from the offseason and currently boasts a .611 slugging percentage and a .478 on-base percentage.
Sophomore first baseman Erin Ashby had her coming-out party at the Classic, ripping two homers, including one that spoiled Cal Poly’s hopes by extending the game to nine innings. Sophomore outfielder Cassandra Roulund got in on the action too by hitting her first collegiate home run.
“[The home run] definitely felt like everything we worked on in the fall was coming together,” Roulund said. “It was a confidence booster. It felt thrilling to be able to contribute to the team.”
Besides giving up eight runs to the No. 2 team in the nation, the duo of senior Teagan Gerhart and freshman Kelsey Stevens carried a consistent presence on the mound. Gerhart shouldered a heavy load for the Cardinal last season, starting in 43 games while maintaining a 2.89 ERA, but the emergence of Stevens should take some pressure off her.
Gerhart started in four games at the Classic and came away with a record of 2-1 and one no-decision; her sole loss came against the Sooners’ bats that exploded for five runs in the first inning. Not to be outdone, Stevens also went 2-1 while fanning 29 batters over the course of 20.2 innings.
While the veterans on the team are in form, the immediate impact of the new freshman class has been arguably the biggest story of the season so far. Stevens was one of four Cardinal freshmen who impressed in their collegiate debuts. Joining Stevens, catcher Jessica Plaza started in all six games and blasted her first home run of her collegiate career against Indiana. Rounding out the solid rookie performances were second baseman Jessica Schaberg, who hit an efficient .400 in the five games that she played in, and designated hitter Kayla Bonstrom, who recorded four hits in 14 at-bats.
Stanford squares off against Santa Clara tonight at the Smith Family Stadium, with the contest slated for a 5 p.m. PT start time.