The Stanford softball team sent an emphatic message with its impressive performance at the Stanford Nike Invitational: the Cardinal will be a contender in the Pac-12 this year.
Outscoring its opponents by a combined 44-0 margin, the No. 20 Cardinal won all five of its games during the three-day invitational, improving to 10-2 on the season. Although the invitational lacked the number of nationally ranked opponents that the Card faced during its last tournament, the Kajikawa Classic, Stanford’s all-around domination was a boost to its resume.
In the pitching circle, senior Teagan Gerhart, freshman Kelsey Stevens and sophomore Nyree White combined to give up only twelve hits during the entire tournament. At the invitational, Gerhart continued to build off of her NFCA Second Team All-West Region campaign from a year ago. The senior from Norco, Calif. shut down CSU-Bakersfield twice on consecutive days, scattering a total of seven hits over the course of 9 1/3 scoreless innings.
While Gerhart’s two victories were notable, the Nike Invitational also marked the definitive arrival of Stevens. The Albuquerque, N.M., product had a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings in the opener against CSU Northridge on Friday afternoon, ultimately finishing with a two-hit shutout.
“It’s a tough thing to do” Stephens said on throwing a perfect game. “No matter how good you pitch, they’re always going to get the bat on the ball… I am just glad I was able to hold them off for that long.”
Stevens followed up that outing with one-hit shutouts against CSU-Northridge and UC-Davis. In all, Stevens allowed only four hits in 16 and 2/3 innings this weekend, while striking out 20 and lowering her ERA to 1.50. Stevens’ ability to mix her off-speed pitches with a blazing fastball bodes well for Stanford when it enters the heart of Pac-12 play in late March.
In establishing itself as the class of the Nike Invitational, the Cardinal also dominated opposing pitching, hitting an impressive .342 at the plate. The Card’s patience in the box was evident, as Stanford was able to get ahead in a number of counts and prolong at-bats by managing to foul off some difficult pitches. In turn, the Cardinal converted these opportunities into favorable pitches to hit, as well as base runners in the form of 22 walks during the three-day tournament.
Sophomore Cassandra Roulund and freshman Kayla Bonstrom highlighted the offensive display for Stanford. An all Pac-12 Freshman Team Honorable Mention selection in 2012, Roulund hit .583 in the four games while driving in nine runs. In particular, her triples in the first and fourth innings of Saturday night’s contest against CSU-Bakersfield helped propel her team to a 12-0, five-inning mercy rule rout of the Roadrunners.
Bonstrom, the freshman from Tucson, Ariz., also had a solid tournament for the Cardinal, hitting .455 with seven RBI in splitting time between designated player and first base. Her one-out, two-RBI double in the fifth inning to left field helped break open what had been a relatively close contest between Stanford and CSU-Northridge on Saturday morning. After her double made the score 5-0, the Cardinal added three more runs to end game early with an 8-0 mercy rule victory.
In the field, the Cardinal played almost flawlessly, committing only one error in five games. Hanna Winter, a sophomore from Camarillo, Calif., and a first team All Pac-12 selection as a true freshman, capped off the defensive effort on Sunday afternoon with a highlight-worthy full extension vertical leap at third to rob UC-Davis shortstop Christa Costello of a sure base-hit. Up in the press box, a few amazed members of the Stanford Athletics Department serenaded Winter with the Sports Center Top 10 music “duh nuh-nuh, duh nuh-nuh.”
The Cardinal is next in action Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. Stanford will face two ranked opponents in its five-game slate: No. 13 Georgia to open the Classic Friday afternoon and No. 25 Florida State on Sunday morning.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn “at” stanford.edu.