By David Cohn
Stanford softball had a disappointing start to its Pac-12 home schedule, as the Cardinal lost its series with Utah, with the Utes taking two of three at Smith Family Stadium. The story of the Cardinal’s first two series of Pac-12 play, against Oregon State and Utah, is that while the Card were competitive in all but one of its first six games to start its conference schedule, being competitive is not enough to earn victories in the Pac-12, which features six ranked teams and eight teams in the RPI top-50.
With the exception of sophomore Kylie Sorenson’s sensational complete game on Saturday, Stanford (15-19, 1-5 Pac-12) had a poor weekend at the plate; Stanford averaged only three runs per game, with a .208 team batting average against the Utes (22-13, 2-7 Pac-12). As such, the Cardinal simply could not keep pace with a potent Utes offense on Friday and Sunday, falling to Utah by scores of 6-3 and 7-2.
In particular, in their two losses, the Cardinal continued to struggle to hit with runners on base, as Utes pitcher Miranda Viramontes pitched back-to-back gems. On Friday, the Cardinal went 2-for-13 with runners on base, as they stranded four base runners in the three run loss. Subsequently, in the Sunday matinee, Stanford could only manage four hits, while going 2-for-12 with runners on base against Viramontes and Utes reliever Katie Donovan.
Senior Erin Ashby led Stanford offensively in the three game series against the Utes, hitting a team-leading .429 in seven at-bats against Utah. Ashby also led the Cardinal with 4 RBIs and extra-base hits (two doubles).
Ashby’s clutch hitting helped lead Stanford to its 4-2 victory over Utah on Saturday afternoon, as the 2014 NFCA All-West Region Third team selection cleared the bases with a 3-run double to the left-center field gap. Ashby’s shot to gap on a 1-1 pitch from Utah starter Katie Donovan help give Stanford a 4-0 lead, which Sorenson would protect on her way to the complete-game victory.
Junior Kayla Bonstrom continued to help carry the Stanford offense against Utah, as the Tucson, Arizona native remains Stanford’s offensive MVP through the first 34 games of the season. In the three games at home this weekend, Bonstrom hit .333 with a home run, 3 RBIs and a team-leading .833 slugging percentage. The 2014 Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection’s two-run blast in Friday’s contest helped tie the game at two, with Bonstrom taking Viramontes deep on a 2-1 pitch.
Bonstrom has continued to state her case for Pac-12 Player of the Year, with a .461 batting average, 21 extra base hits, nine home runs and an .853 slugging percentage. Entering Sunday’s action, Bonstrom was third in the Pac-12 in batting average, second in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage.
In the circle, Kylie Sorenson was simply outstanding for Stanford, posting a terrific 2.55 ERA in 11 innings of work for the Cardinal. Sorenson earned her third victory in the circle on Saturday, holding the Utes to two runs on eight hits, while also providing a solo home run to help her own cause in the 4-2 win. Utah stranded nine runners, as Sorenson induced 14 ground-ball outs, while holding the Utes to 3-for-13 hitting with runners on base.
Nevertheless, in spite of Sorenson’s strong performance, Stanford struggled in the circle against Utah, posting a team ERA of 4.67, with the Utes notching five doubles and hitting .333 as a team. Utah also blasted 29 hits in the three games at Smith Family Stadium.
In looking ahead to the team’s mid-week contest in Stockton, California against Pacific on Tuesday, as well as a three-game set in Seattle, Washington against No. 17 Washington, head coach Rachel Hanson said of her expectations for her team, “Same as what we have been talking about. It is just that competitive fire, the ability to compete regardless of circumstances. Another key for us is getting our bats hot again. We are going to take a closer look at that, and see if we can get a couple of things tweaked there, and be battling with our bats as well.”
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.