By David Cohn
Although Stanford (25-16, 2-10 Pac-12) was able to win the middle game of its three-game series against No. 10 Washington (24-11, 4-7 Pac-12) this weekend to avoid a sweep, Washington senior pitcher Kaitlin Ingelsby won both of her starts to give Washington the other two wins and deny Stanford its first conference series win of the season in the series finale.
While the result continued the Cardinal’s conference woes, the 13-5 win over Washington in six innings on Saturday night nevertheless gave the Stanford its first victory over a top-25 RPI squad this season. Ultimately, the result of this weekend’s series places immense importance on the Cardinal’s trip to Salt Lake City next weekend to take on the Utah Utes (14-16, 3-11 Pac-12).
For most of the series, Stanford’s lineup had no answer for Ingelsby, a 2013 First Team All-American who was the 14th overall selection in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Draft to the Akron Racers. On Thursday night, Ingelsby pitched a complete game four-hit shutout, as the Huskies knocked off the Cardinal by a score of 7-0. And on Saturday night, after her offense provided her a big lead, Ingelsby held the Stanford offense to just two runs — one earned — over five innings en route to an 11-2 Husky win.
However, in the Cardinal’s 13-5 victory over the Huskies on Friday night, Stanford’s offense exploded in the fifth and sixth innings. After being held hitless during the first four innings, the Card jumped all over Husky starter Bryana Walker, putting up eight runs on six hits in the fifth against the Washington pitching staff.
Walker’s troubles began with a walk to sophomore Jessica Plaza, as the sophomore from Huntington Beach, Calif., was able to battle back from a 1-2 count to draw the free pass. From there, Walker became wild, including throwing first-pitch balls to three of the next four batters. The Husky senior from La Quinta, Calif., was unable to draw back from the early deficits in the count, as Stanford proceeded to tee off on her deliveries.
Freshman Bessie Noll followed Plaza’s walk with a single up the middle before junior Cassandra Roulund tied the score at two with a two-run single to right-center field. Afterwards, sophomore Kaitlin Schaberg gave the Cardinal its first lead with a single that managed to get over the glove of the Husky shortstop Ali Aguilar, scoring junior Hanna Winter. Finally, junior Leah White chased Walker from the circle with an RBI single, extending the Card’s lead to 4-2.
Walker’s exit from the game would not prove to be the end of Stanford’s momentum, as sophomore Kayla Bonstrom crushed the first pitch she saw from Ingelsby, who came on in relief of Walker. Bonstrom’s three-run homer gave the Cardinal a 7-2 advantage and from there, doubles by Plaza in the fifth and the sixth drove home three more runs and helped render a late Washington comeback meaningless.
In batting around in the fifth and sixth innings, the Cardinal sent a combined 22 batters to the plate, scoring their 13 runs on nine hits and seven walks. The offensive effort helped support a strong performance in the circle by freshman Kylie Sorenson, who picked up her third victory of the season after allowing two runs over 4.1 innings.
In just 67 pitches, Sorenson helped stabilize the Cardinal’s pitching situation while controlling Washington’s offense. In particular, the Huskies struggled to sustain any momentum against Sorenson when Washington was able to get runners on — they went 0-for-5 at the plate with runners on base against Sorenson.
While the win on Saturday night provided a much-needed spark for the Cardinal as they reached the halfway point in Pac-12 play, Stanford will need to do more over the final four series of the regular season in order to ensure that it makes the postseason. To that end, head coach John Rittman described Utah, the Cardinal’s next opponent, “a different team than they were last year.”
“[Utah is] scoring runs and are getting better pitching,” Rittman added. “They are also fighting for their postseason lives as we are, so we are going to have go in there with our ‘A-game’ by pitching better, continuing to hit and play defense if we want to win the series.”
Stanford and Utah will square off in a three-game set this coming weekend in Salt Lake City. Thursday and Friday’s games will be televised by Pac-12 Networks, and Saturday’s finale will be streamed online.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.