By David Cohn
Stanford softball continued its torrid start to the 2014 season, going 5-0 against the competition at the Stanford Nike Invitational this weekend to maintain its unblemished record.
Although No. 17 Stanford’s performance from Friday to Sunday was not nearly as dominant as its showing last weekend in Tempe, Ariz., it was nevertheless an impressive display by the Cardinal (11-0). More specifically, on a weekend when No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 16 Baylor, among other highly ranked teams, all lost a least one game to squads from “weaker” one-bid conferences, Stanford succeeded where those other teams failed by maintaining its level of play and attention to detail throughout the Invitational.
Several Cardinal players really rose to the occasion when the team needed a boost. This was particularly true for junior Erin Ashby, who made winning play after winning play both in the field and at the plate for Stanford. Ashby especially shined on Sunday afternoon, when the Cardinal had to outslug the Pacific Tigers to win 11-9.
With her team leading 3-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Ashby provided an immediate spark when she blasted a leadoff home run to left-center field. While Ashby is normally known for her patience at the plate, she jumped on the first delivery from Tigers starter Danni Bonnet to hit a solo shot that left Smith Family Stadium in a hurry.
Later in the game, the Card had an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Ashby ultimately delivered the final margin with a two-out, two-RBI double that plated Kayla Bonstrom and Kylie Sorenson. Finally, Ashby took advantage of a miscommunication in the Pacific infield to score the final run of the game for Stanford. In the end, Ashby finished the Nike Invitational with a team-leading three extra base hits while sharing the high mark in RBI (six) with Sorenson; the Crescenta Valley High School graduate also had six runs, a stolen base and a .667 slugging percentage.
When asked to comment on something that stood out to her this weekend, Ashby pointed to her teammates.
“The biggest thing was us working together as a team [by] coming out, putting runs on the board, helping our pitchers out as much as we could and by collaborating as a whole to win each game,” she said.
Kylie Sorenson also had an outstanding weekend for the Cardinal. The Stevenson Ranch, Calif. native batted a team-best .455 in five games, while also drawing five walks to post a tremendous .588 on-base percentage. After jumping on opposing pitchers during the first day of the Stanford Nike Invitational, Stanford’s opponents became very wary of pitching to the talented freshman, as Sorenson drew a couple of four-pitch walks of the “unintentional-intentional” variety.
Sorenson made the most of her three plate appearances in the Friday-afternoon opener against Cal Poly. After drawing a one-out walk in the top of the first inning against the Mustangs, Sorenson hit an RBI sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second inning to give the Card a 4-2 lead. Sorenson also capped off the scoring in the 5-2 Cardinal victory with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the Friday nightcap, Sorenson went 2-for-3 overall, including a single and a triple in the bottom of the second inning against Bradley. Stanford scored seven runs in the second and sent 11 batters to plate to pace a 7-3 win over the Braves.
“One through nine [of the Stanford lineup] can drive the ball, hit the ball out of the park at any time, any day. It is super nice to have that,” Sorenson said. “If you do not get the job done…the girl behind me is going to get it done.”
Head coach John Rittman was very pleased with his team’s performance this weekend at the Stanford Nike Invitational, a showing that was rounded out by a 5-0 victory over Bradley and a 6-2 win over Cal Poly on Saturday afternoon.
“[The 11-0 start] says a lot about our team,” Rittman said. “We are fairly young. We have a lot of underclassmen that are playing, a lot of freshmen that are starting and a young pitching staff. Getting out to a great start is something that we talked about.”
“We know that it is a long season, and this is just two weekends into it, but we have done a great job coming out and getting ready to play,” he added.
Stanford travels on Tuesday to Davis, Calif. to take on UC-Davis before heading to Cathedral City, Calif. to participate in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic this Friday through Sunday. It will face three ranked opponents at that tournament, including No. 2 Tennessee.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.