While many people travel to Los Angeles for the beautiful southern California weather, the Stanford Cardinal softball team traveled to Los Angeles for its last “business trip” of the regular season with the goal of silencing the barrage of doubts directed towards Stanford softball. With a win over UCLA on their competitor’s home turf in the first game of the series over the Bruins, the Cardinal at least quieted the onslaught of reservations.
Stanford (29-23, 4-17 Pac-12) notched its biggest win of the season this weekend, stunning No. 2 UCLA in Westwood on Friday night to give new life to its postseason hopes. Friday’s 12-9 victory over the Bruins gave the Cardinal their first road win over a top-five squad since 2011, while also providing a huge boost to the Card’s RPI. The Cardinal had an RPI of 49 entering this weekend’s series, but the victory over UCLA, with its RPI of 3, will likely vault the Cardinal past several fellow bubble teams when this week’s rankings are released today.
Although the Cardinal would lose their final two games in Los Angeles, it nevertheless was a very successful weekend for Stanford, given the quality of the opponent in UCLA. After Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Saint Mary’s, freshman Kylie Sorenson talked about how the Cardinal would be traveling to Los Angeles with the mindset of shocking people. On Friday night, the Card certainly stunned the fans in attendance at Easton Stadium, jumping all over Bruins starter Ally Carda in the first two innings to run out to an early 8-3 lead.
Carda, a 2013 First Team NFCA All-West Region selection, struggled mightily in locating her changeup, her marquee pitch, against the Cardinal. This inability to effectively utilize the changeup, coupled with the Card’s strikingly aggressive approach at the plate, ended Carda’s night after only 1.1 innings of work. In chasing Carda from the circle, Stanford recorded four of the seven hits charged to the Elk Grove, California native by teeing off on her first delivery.
The Cardinal’s success at the plate continued with Carda’s exit for reliever Jessica Hall. Hall was tagged for four more runs on five hits and six free passes, as the Card put the Bruins away with their offensive performance. Although freshman Madi Schreyer would yield five runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, UCLA was ultimately unable to recover from its eight-run deficit entering the bottom of the frame, with the Card prevailing in the 21-run slugfest.
Unfortunately for Stanford, the Cardinal were unable to sustain their form from Friday in the last two games, putting up a combined two runs on nine total hits. On Saturday afternoon, Carda bounced back from her disastrous Friday start to pitch a three-hit shutout, as the Bruins routed the Card 9-0 in five innings.
Sunday’s matinee was a tight pitcher’s duel for most of the game, as Stanford junior Tylyn Wells and Hall went toe-to-toe for most of the afternoon. Wells, who had not pitched in three years before being called into action this season after the losses of Carley Hoover and Nyree White, pitched the game of her life against the Bruins. The Concord, California, product tied a career-high for innings pitched in a single game with her 5.2 innings of work on Sunday in stifling a potent Bruins lineup.
While the Bruins entered this past week with the ninth-best batting average in the nation with a .337 mark, Wells was masterful at scattering the Bruins’ hits, inducing 11 flyouts and forcing UCLA to strand seven runners on base. However, after calling time in the middle of an at-bat against Carda while seemingly showing some signs of fatigue, Wells gave up three runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, breaking the 2-2 tie.
Although Wells would take an unfortunate loss in the 5-2 defeat on Sunday, the Carondelet High School graduate had a fantastic weekend both in the circle and at the plate. On offense, Wells led the Cardinal in batting average and slugging percentage with a .714 mark, while tying for the team lead in total bases with five. The first-year starter also scored a run and stole a base in helping to pace the Card’s effort this weekend.
Senior Erin Ashby also had an impressive weekend for Stanford, as the La Crescenta, California, product had an outstanding series in her southern California homecoming. Ashby hit .444 against the Bruins, while tying for the high mark in total bases with Wells and sophomore Kayla Bonstrom. She also slugged .556 with an extra-base hit and two runs scored.
Stanford returns to action on Thursday evening for the beginning of its final series of the regular season against Pac-12 bottom dweller Oregon State (16-29, 3-16 Pac-12). The Cardinal and Beavers will square off at 7 p.m. on Thursday before a Friday evening contest at 5:30 p.m. and the regular season finale at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. All three games will be aired on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.