By David Cohn
With her team in need of a run to stave off an upset bid from UC-Davis, Erin Ashby stepped up to the plate and with one swing of the bat, propelled No. 22 Stanford softball to a resilient 3-2 victory over the Aggies, while helping the Card finish with a 5-1 record in the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic.
Ashby’s walk-off triple down the right field line provided an exhilarating finish for the near sellout crowd on Youth Softball Day at Smith Family Stadium, as the junior blasted a lacing shot that powered past diving Aggie right fielder Alicia Paine, allowing junior Cassandra Roulund to come all the way around from first base to score the winning run. In the process, Ashby capped off one of the finest weekend performances at home in recent memory with the most memorable hit of her career on the Farm.
“It was a feeling of getting the job done when it needed to be done, and having a timely hit, while knowing that your teammates have your back, that you can [provide] a clutch hit for them as well,” Ashby said.
While Ashby may have saved her biggest heroics for Sunday against UC-Davis, she was extremely productive at the plate throughout the entire four-day tournament. Ashby opened the classic on Thursday night by drawing two walks, scoring a run and going 1-for-2 at the plate in the Cardinal’s 5-3 win over the BYU Cougars. Subsequently, she had 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored against Portland State as part of the Card’s 10-0 mercy-rule victory over the Vikings in the first half of a Friday doubleheader.
After driving home two more runs with a double in the fourth and single in the fifth in a Saturday afternoon re-match with the Vikings, Ashby saved her best for last on Sunday afternoon against the Aggies. Prior to her game-winning triple, Ashby also notched her fifth double of the season in the bottom of the fourth inning. In total, Ashby finished the classic with a .529 batting average, a .619 on-base percentage, a .765 slugging percentage and the team leader in total bases with 13, while tying with sophomore Kayla Bonstrom for the high-mark in RBIs with six.
Ashby certainly was not the only player to provide a standout performance, as Bonstrom also had an outstanding weekend for the Cardinal. Bonstrom’s best showing came on Saturday afternoon in the Card’s second meeting with Portland State; Bonstrom batted a perfect 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored, while helping to lift Stanford to a 9-1 rout of PSU.
The 2013 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year began her day against the Vikings with an RBI single in the first inning that plated Kylie Sorenson and gave the Cardinal a 1-0 lead. After three scoreless innings between the two teams, Bonstrom again drove home Sorenson to extend the Card’s lead to 2-0, as she teed off on the first delivery from Portland State starter Karyn Wright. Finally, Bonstrom helped catalyze a five-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth inning that ended the game, giving Stanford its second run-rule victory over Portland State. Bonstrom drove home the first of the five runs scored in the fifth when she launched a single down the left field line off of reliever Melissa Masters.
“I have been trying to keep it simple,” Bonstrom said. “I have been working through a few things, but it is really nice when the rest of your team really is hot with their bats…None of us have been feeling the pressure since all of us have been hitting so well.”
In the circle, Madi Schreyer received some support this weekend, as fellow freshman Kylie Sorenson and junior Tylyn Wells both helped lessen her innings burden. Sorenson picked up her first two career victories in the circle in her short time on the Farm; she started in three out of the six games at the Louisville Slugger Classic, notching her wins in the two matchups against Portland State, while pitching six solid innings on Sunday in a no-decision against Davis.
Instead, Wells would pick up the victory in the circle against the Aggies, as she was able to work the Cardinal out off a one-out jam in the top of the seventh inning by forcing UC-Davis to strand a runner at third base with an induced groundout and pop out to end the threat.
For the weekend, Sorenson finished with an outstanding 0.88 ERA, while Wells scattered a single hit in two innings of scoreless work. Their efforts complemented another strong series of starts by Schreyer, who notched a 2-1 record this weekend, picking up wins in 5-3 and 7-5 decisions over BYU. However, she suffered a loss against North Dakota State when the Stanford lineup failed to capitalize with several runners in scoring position; in turn, the Bison were able to shock the Cardinal by handing them their first home loss by a score of 4-0.
After the conclusion of Sunday’s game against Davis with Ashby’s walk-off triple, the entire Stanford softball team welcomed hundreds of Little Leaguers onto the field for photos and autographs as part of Youth Softball Day.
“It keeps things in perspective for you,” Ashby said. “It reminds you of where you came from, and reminds you of the little girl who could only dream of being at this school and playing in the Pac-12. It brings things home for you and makes you realize how much you love the game.”
With finals and a weekend series against Cal looming for the Cardinal, head coach John Rittman will try to help his players succeed on both fronts this week with a focused approach for taking on Dead Week.
“The bottom line is you have to manage your time wisely, and being student-athletes means that you have to take your schoolwork seriously and balance that with the practice in getting ready for a big weekend,” Rittman said. “We have to make sure as coaches that we give them time to study and do the things to prep [for exams], but also know that we have conference games, which are [also] important.”
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.