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Rich leads softball to first ever sweep of Cal

Senior shortstop Jenna Rich (2)

In a crucial weekend series with Cal, about the only thing hotter than the Cardinal bats was the weather. No. 16 Stanford (35-17, 12-9 Pac-12) cruised to a three-game sweep of No. 12 Cal (35-15, 9-12 Pac-12) with 13-5, 17-2 and 7-5 victories on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively to record its first-ever season sweep of Cal. The Cardinal’s 37 runs on the weekend marked the most runs that the team has produced in a series on the year, easily eclipsing the previous high of 29 runs set last weekend against Utah.

“We made some switches to the lineup and those switches have paid dividends,” said head coach John Rittman. “The kids are swinging the bat well; they’re seeing the ball well… Hitting is contagious, I think that’s what’s happened over the last two weekends.”

Senior shortstop Jenna Rich (2)
Senior shortstop Jenna Rich (2) set the Stanford career RBI record in Friday’s win to propel the Cardinal to its first ever sweep of rival Cal. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

On a weekend of shattered offensive records, senior shortstop Jenna Rich made the most impressive one on Friday as she broke Stanford’s all-time RBI record, previously set by Sarah Beeson ’02 with 201 RBI. Other records taken down included the largest margin of victory ever over Cal (15), most hits in a single game on the season (17) and most runs in a single game on the season (17).

Rich was not only the star on Friday with her RBI record but also the most explosive player of the entire weekend. Rich collected seven hits, including two home runs and 10 RBI in the three-game sweep, raising her batting average to .327. Rich’s 44 career home runs rank second in school history. For her dominant performance at the plate, Rich was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday.

Freshman first baseman Kayla Bonstrom had four hits and four runs, both career highs, as well as four RBI in Saturday’s game to add to what has been a superb freshman campaign. Bonstrom’s seven home runs and 43 RBI rank second on the team behind only Rich, and her .396 batting average is by far the highest on the squad. She now has 15 hits in her last 22 at bats with three home runs in that span.

“[Bonstrom] has been on fire lately,” Rich said. “She has a really good eye, she gets on base, whether it’s a walk or getting a hit with two strikes… It’s setting the tone for the rest of us.”

On the other side of the ball, Kelsey Stevens threw a masterful one-hitter against Cal on Saturday, allowing only one hit, and tied her season-high with 12 strikeouts. She also picked up the win on Sunday with another complete game—her ninth on the season.

Stevens and senior Teagan Gerhart outpitched an overmatched Cal squad that was hurting with senior ace Jolene Henderson inactive due to injury. Freshman pitcher Nisa Ontiveros and sophomore pitcher Nikki Owens were unable to adequately fill her spot, surrendering most of the runs in the series.

Stanford now returns home to host Santa Clara on Tuesday before a three-game series against Arizona to wrap-up the regular season this weekend. Stanford and Santa Clara met back in February, when the Cardinal took down the Broncos (8-45, 5-19 WCC) in an 8-0 mercy-rule win.

In that first game, Gerhart dominated, giving up only one hit in five innings for her first shutout of the season. Senior centerfielder Sarah Hassman had a strong day at the plate, knocking in three runs on two hits, including an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to seal the lopsided victory.

After starting 6-9 in a brutal Pac-12 field filled with elite teams, Stanford has rebounded with six straight conference victories and proven itself to be a legitimate contender. After back-to-back series sweeps of Utah and California, Stanford could potentially secure the chance to host a postseason regional with a good performance against Arizona.

But during that impressive Pac-12 streak, Stanford suffered a string of midweek slides that could be its undoing, falling in three straight non-conference games to much weaker opponents. A fourth consecutive midweek loss to Santa Clara could very well shoot down the Cardinal’s hopes of hosting an NCAA Regional.

That’s why Rittman is so focused on the Broncos.

“[The biggest thing] for us is to come out mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to play against Santa Clara on Tuesday night,” Rittman said, “so we build some momentum going into the next weekend.”

First pitch Tuesday against Santa Clara is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Smith Family Stadium.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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