By David Cohn
Stanford softball (12-10) recovered from last week’s disappointing showing at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic to post a 3-2 record at the Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton Louisville Slugger Classic in Los Angeles this weekend. While the Cardinal picked up a dominant road win over host Long Beach State (10-10) to add to their non-conference resume, the Cardinal likely recorded their first RPI “bad loss” of the year when the Card fell to Missouri Valley Conference member Wichita State (10-9); Stanford also missed another opportunity to record a solid non-conference win over Northwestern (7-10).
In the end, the Cardinal unfortunately still have more ground to make up in their final non-conference games prior to the start of the Pac-12 play. The Cardinal will have to turn in a strong showing as host at the Louisville Slugger Classic next weekend, in order to avoid having a proverbial “mountain” to climb to earn an NCAA berth when Stanford faces the gauntlet of ranked teams that make up the Pac-12 Conference. Nevertheless, the Cardinal can certainly bring some confidence into their upcoming showdown with No. 11 Minnesota at the Louisville Slugger Classic, as Stanford’s offense has regained its form from the Kajikawa Classic and Nike Invitational.
As a team, Stanford batted a fantastic .327 at the Louisville Slugger Classic, while notching a .420 on-base percentage and averaging 8 runs per game. The Cardinal offense was led by senior Erin Ashby and junior Kayla Bonstrom, two stars for Stanford that were simply unstoppable this weekend. Ashby turned in a sensational performance in Southern California, as the 2014 NFCA All-West Region Third Team selection teed off on the opposition’s pitching to the tune of a .533 batting average, an .800 slugging percentage, a home run and 10 RBIs.
In particular, Ashby helped carry the Stanford lineup to its best win of the weekend, an 11-5 victory over Long Beach State in eight innings. After notching a sacrifice fly in the top of the first to give Stanford a 2-0 lead over the Niners, Ashby followed up with a two-run blast to left field, as the senior jumped on the 1-0 delivery from LBSU reliever Amanda Hansen. Ashby’s second home run of the season gave a 5-2 lead.
However, Ashby and the Stanford offense would once again be called upon to deliver, as Long Beach State battled back to score three unanswered runs to tie the score at 5 and send the game into extra innings. From there though, Ashby and the Stanford offense dominated the 49ers to the tune of six runs on four hits in the top of the eighth, including an RBI single by Ashby, to resoundingly put away LBSU.
Ashby was also outstanding in Stanford’s 12-7 loss to Northwestern on Saturday morning, giving Ashby four hits and 8 RBI during Saturday’s action alone. After driving home the game’s first run for Stanford in the top of the third, and cutting the Wildcat lead to 2-1, Ashby was able to notch an RBI single in the fourth, scoring sophomore Kylie Sorenson.
Ashby’s first two RBI helped the Cardinal trade runs with NU for 3 1/2 innings, with the game tied at 4 heading into the bottom of the fourth. However, after Northwestern scored 6 runs in the bottom of the fourth, Stanford was unable to catch the Wildcats. Nevertheless, Ashby notched her third and fourth RBIs of the game in the top of the fifth on a single through the left side. For the season, Ashby has the second best batting average at .417 behind Bonstrom, while also tied for second in RBIs at 15 with Sorenson.
Bonstrom continued her scorching start to the season, as Stanford’s offensive MVP through the first 22 games of the season. Bonstrom batted .474 with 5 RBIs this weekend, while notching a team-best .842 slugging percentage in the five games in Lakewood, California. The 2014 All Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection saved her best for last in the Cardinal’s 12-4 rout in five innings over Weber State (8-7), as Bonstrom went deep for two home runs in the Card’s win over the overmatched Wildcats.
Bonstrom got the offensive display going for Stanford right away in the top of the first, blasting the 3-1 pitch from Weber State starter MaCauley Flint to left center field to give Stanford an early 1-0 lead. After Weber State tied the game at 1 in the bottom half of the inning, Bonstrom helped the Cardinal regain the lead in the top of the third with a two-out RBI single to left field; Bonstrom’s second RBI of the game with two outs helped spark a massive two-out rally for the Card in the third, as Stanford would add four more runs to take a five run lead that it would never relinquish.
Finally, Bonstrom capped the day by sparking Stanford’s third and final offensive surge of the game in the top of the fourth, when she jumped on the 1-1 delivery from Weber State reliever Kirtlyn Bohling to record her second home run of the day; the Cardinal would add four more runs after Bonstrom’s two-run homer to complete the domination of the Wildcats. On the year, Bonstrom leads Stanford in several offensive categories, including batting average (.464), home runs (5), RBIs (19) and on-base percentage (.554).
Freshman Haley Snyder and Kylie Sorenson had bounce-back performances in the circle for the Card, as Stanford’s pitching staff posted a solid 3.18 ERA in the circle this weekend. However, Stanford’s rotation was not helped at all by the play of Stanford’s defense, which had a very poor weekend in Southern California.
Stanford’s defensive miscues were the culprit behind the Cardinal’s losses to Wichita State and Northwestern, as the Shockers and Wildcats turned a combined seven Stanford errors into nine unearned runs. In Stanford’s 6-4 loss to WSU, the Shockers notched three unearned runs on three Cardinal errors to pull the shocker. Later, in the Card’s 12-7 loss to Northwestern, four errors gave the Wildcats six unearned runs, which helped establish their five-run margin of victory.
“[T]he big thing we take away is we are starting to find our best style of play,” said head coach Rachel Hansen. “We really saw that in the last two games. We are playing a lot more loose and free, [while] enjoying playing the game… I think as they play more and more confidently and play more and more together, we will see good things happen.”
Stanford will travel to Davis, California for a rematch with the UC Davis Aggies before hosting the Louisville Slugger Classic next weekend to cap its non-conference schedule.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.