By David Cohn
Stanford softball’s season took a sad turn this weekend in Seattle, as the Cardinal were blasted in three consecutive games by No. 20 Washington. Desperately in need of healthy pitchers, the 2015 season is on a downward spiral for the Cardinal, as they have lost eight of their first nine games to start conference play.
With Stanford pitchers Madi Schreyer and Haley Snyder both out with injuries, the Cardinal (16-22, 1-8 Pac-12) turned to position players, sophomore Kylie Sorenson and senior Tylyn Wells, to pitch. The two ran up against a desperate Huskies squad (34-9, 6-5 Pac-12) that had not won a series in Pac-12 play until this weekend. Washington, with the conference’s leading offense in hits, home runs and runs batted in, mercilessly trounced the Cardinal in three consecutive games: 11-4, 13-2 (5) and 17-6 (5).
In Thursday’s opener, Sorenson kept Stanford in the contest, as the team was only trailing 6-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. She limited the Huskies to three extra-base hits and only six total hits. In turn, timely hitting from the Cardinal in the top of the sixth helped cut the deficit to two — an RBI double from senior Cassandra Roulund and an RBI single by junior Kaitlin Schaberg.
However, the Huskies responded in the bottom half of the frame with five runs on five hits to seal the game by an 11-4 margin.
On Friday, Stanford scored a run in the top of the first inning on an RBI from senior Erin Ashby, before Washington completely ran away with the game; the Huskies scored six runs on two hits in the bottom of the first to seize control, ultimately trouncing the Cardinal by a 13-2 margin.
Finally, in Saturday’s finale, Stanford’s offense came alive in the first two innings, as the Cardinal rocked Huskies starter Casey Stangel for six earned runs on seven hits in only 1.1 innings pitched. Once again on Saturday, Ashby got the Cardinal rolling with an RBI single on a 2-0 pitch in the top of the first, scoring senior Hanna Winter. Later, with Sorenson in complete command in the circle through the first two innings, Stanford added another five runs in the top of the second to seize a 6-0 lead.
This five-run, four-hit second was highlighted by junior Kayla Bonstrom’s two-run single down the right-field line, as she jumped on the first delivery of the at-bat from Stangel. Currently, Bonstrom remains among the leading candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year, with a .469 batting average and 44 RBI to go along with 25 extra-base hits (14 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs).
Nevertheless, despite the Cardinal’s strong offensive showing in the first two innings, Washington responded with 17 unanswered runs in the third and fourth innings; the Huskies tied the game at six in the bottom of the third with home runs from Ali Aguilar and Taylor Van Zee, as well as a two-run double from Krystal Aubert. After the rough third inning for Stanford, matters got much worse for the Card in the bottom of the fourth.
After Stanford went scoreless in the top half of the frame, Washington piled on 10 runs before the Cardinal could even record an out in the bottom of the fourth. In a difficult sequence of events for the fans of the program watching the game on TV on the Pac-12 Networks, Wells was left in the game to give up all 11 runs in the fourth inning, with her teammates playing behind her simply unable to do anything to stop the flurry of sharp hits to the outfield from the Huskies. Van Zee would add her second home run of the game, and Aubert would also go deep to cap her five RBI day.
Finally, Wells and her teammates were able to regroup to record three consecutive outs to get out of the fourth, but the emotional damage and 11-spot of the inning was done. From there, Stanford went scoreless to finish the five-inning decision.
“So much of it is staying focused on the process and knowing that you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,” head coach Rachel Hanson said. “You [have] just got to continue to attack, continue to compete and look for opportunities.”
Stanford will travel to San Jose on Tuesday to play an improved San Jose State squad (26-14), before hosting No. 8 UCLA at Smith Family Stadium next weekend.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.