By David Cohn
Stanford softball’s streak of 16 consecutive tournament appearances is over as a difficult season filled with injuries in the pitching rotation has come to a disappointing end. After starting the regular season 13-0, the Cardinal struggled through an immensely challenging conference slate filled with talented squads. However, the Card still had their opportunities to pick up victories against the Pac-12 elites. Stanford lost a pair of close contests at Arizona and Arizona State while also falling by 5-2 in the series finale at UCLA.
Nevertheless, after last week’s huge win over No. 2 UCLA in the series opener, Stanford softball (30-25, 5-19 Pac-12) still appeared to be poised to squeak into the postseason with a strong performance against a struggling Oregon State (18-31, 5-17 Pac-12) squad. For the first game of this weekend’s series, it appeared that the Cardinal would follow through on that task, routing the Beavers 8-2 in the first game of the three game set. From there, the Card simply collapsed, as Oregon State roared past the Cardinal to win the final two games of the three-game set.
Poor pitching was Stanford’s undoing this weekend at Smith Family Stadium, as the Cardinal rotation posted a 7.00 ERA. In one rather ignominious stretch on Saturday, the Card allowed eight runs on four hits while committing two errors, without even recording a single out. This stunning loss of form in the circle turned a 9-5 Cardinal lead into a 13-9 deficit. Stanford would not recover from this breakdown, and the Beavers took the game and the series with the 13-9 win.
The Card’s struggles in the circle, which are directly related to the loss of freshman Carley Hoover and junior Nyree White early on in the season, are all the more disappointing considering the strong offensive lineup that the Cardinal has fielded all year. Stanford will finish the 2014 season with a .316 batting average, good for second in program history behind the 2012 team’s .318 mark; in addition, the 2014 Cardinal set a record for the most RBIs in a single season with 302, breaking the previous high mark of 298 RBIs from Stanford’s 2012 campaign.
True to form all season, the Stanford offense had a strong series against Oregon State, posting a .308 team batting average while averaging seven runs per game. The Card’s offensive performance was very balanced this weekend, with seven players hitting at least .300 against the Beavers.
Junior Leah White led Stanford in slugging percentage and total bases against the Beavers, as the Phoenix, Arizona native was able to unleash the long ball for the second time in her 2014 campaign. White’s blast on Saturday in the bottom of the fourth to deep left center field helped cut the Beavers lead to 5-4, while also jumpstarting a massive 7-run outburst.
Sophomore Kayla Bonstrom turned in a standout performance for the Cardinal, with a .333 batting average and two extra-base hits. The Tucson, Arizona product also notched three walks to tie for the team lead in on-base percentage at .500 with junior Tylyn Wells. Bonstrom’s best showing came on Friday in the Card’s 12-4 loss to the Beavers, as the 2013 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year went 2-for-2 with an RBI double.
Finally, junior Cassandra Roulund closed the 2014 regular season with a strong showing against Oregon State, with all three of her hits going for extra bases in the series. On Friday, Roulund notched her team-leading fourth triple of the season for seventh all-time at Stanford in a single season. The 2013 Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection is now third all-time for triples in a career, passing Cardinal greats Kira Ching and Jenna Rich with her 11th triple during her time on the Farm.
“I am really proud of our team for fighting through the adversity. We never give up, and that is something that is really special about this year’s team,” said Roulund at the Senior Day dinner after Saturday’s loss. “You look at us at the beginning of the season: our pitching was definitely stronger, but with injuries it has gone down. We had it all, and it is just crazy to see how the season ended in such a different way from how it started.”
“I am very impressed with this team’s grit and determination throughout the year,” said head coach John Rittman in reflecting on the season. “They never gave up and they kept fighting. To be associated with a team that has had some adversity with injuries and continues to fight…that is impressive.”
Stanford’s 2015 season will begin in February, as the Card will begin a new quest toward returning to the postseason.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.